By Sara Talbert
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON Three years to the day after his wedding to Terri House, Edmond Demond Waites was sentenced Tuesday to 60 years in prison for the Oct. 21, 2001, murder of his wife.
Waites, 22, a former Fort Hood soldier, will be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division. No fine was issued, although Waites will be obligated to pay for court and attorneys fees.
Upon sentencing by the jury of six men and six women Tuesday, Waites was handcuffed and taken to the Bell County Jail, where he will be held until a motion for appeal can be filed by defense attorney, Catherine Shelton of Dallas. Shelton will have 30 days to file an appeal.
Waites was found guilty Friday by the same jury of murdering his wife at their Killeen apartment.
Testimony in the trial began last Monday.
Waites, his family, Killeen police and detectives, a medical examiner and the family of Terri House all testified about their knowledge of the incident.
Waites called 9-1-1, confessing to "killing my wife," asking the dispatcher to send police to "pick him up," records show.
According to Karl Ortiz, Killeen Police detective, the body of Terri Waites was found in the doorway of the couple's Killeen apartment on the evening of Oct. 21, 2001, with a plastic trash bag around her head and feet. She was face down, clad in only underwear.
Dr. Lynn Sallberger, pathologist and medical examiner with Southwest Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas, testified last week, that the body of Terri Waites had been strangled, drowned, stabbed and cut.
"There are many reasons for her to be dead. It's a constellation of all of her injuries," Sallberger said.
The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict Friday, after being moved from the Bell County District Courts building to the County Commissions Courtroom across the street due to a fire in the District Courts building.
Sentencing was scheduled to begin Monday at 9 a.m. but didn't begin until 10 a.m., due to an hour-late arrival by defense attorney Catherine Shelton.
Presiding Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court found Shelton in contempt.
Shelton asked the jury to consider that Waites was "defending himself" and that he murdered his wife in an "act of sudden passion."
According to testimony by Waites, added pressure from 9/11 and the fear of losing his job in the Army put him under stress.
Evidence of severe psychiatric problems was also presented by the defense. Both Waites and his wife tried to commit suicide during their two-month marriage.
Both defense and prosecution, led by First Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe, rested Monday evening.
Closing arguments began at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, due to another late arrival by Shelton. Again, Trudo found Shelton in contempt.
Prosecutor Rebecca Depew began closing arguments by stating, "We feel like we've been living in our world versus the defendant's world.
"In our world, a murder trial is not about trashing the victim. What she (Shelton) had you concentrate on is 'Terri is bad.' She was 19 years old. She had a right to live and was murdered."
Shelton began her closing argument by expressing her thanks to the jury. "It's a real tough job, tougher than what I do," Shelton said. "Thank you jury for being good citizens."
She discussed the concept of sudden passion with the jury, asking them to consider all the evidence.
"When he saw what he had done, he went out there. He wasn't thinking clearly at that point," Shelton said. "Sudden passion doesn't explain away guilt; it explains guilt."
She closed her argument by discussing the effects the murder will have on Waites' emotional future.
"Look at the evidence; who he was before this. His life has never been the same. His life will never be the same. He will always carry Terri with him. Forever, he will carry the weight of Terri House Waites with him," Shelton said.
Bledsoe argued against sudden passion, stating, "When she's alive after choking, stabbing and drowning, he's not acting under sudden passion. He's murdering."
Bledsoe also argued, "Nobody in our society deserves to be treated like that, either dead or alive. He has wrapped himself in the flag of 9/11, which is offensive to everyone involved in 9/11."
Bledsoe challenged the jury to "speak as one voice, as the conscience of the community." He closed by stating, "This has been a strange trial and has been an ordeal. I do not apologize for the vigorous prosecution of this case. He (Waites) created the monster. He's the reason we're here; for the murder of Terri Waites."
The jury deliberated for approximately 50 minutes, coming back with the 60-year sentence. The court was then cleared, except for Shelton.
Judge Trudo then handed down a sentence of a total of 21 days confinement in jail and a $1,000 fine to Shelton for her tardiness to court Monday and Tuesday.
"I told everyone to be present Monday at 9 a.m. at this location. You didn't arrive until after 10. We had no alternative but to wait," Trudo said. "I found you in contempt."
Shelton was also late Tuesday to the trial by 13 minutes.
"You appeared late again for court," Trudo said. At that time, Shelton was found in contempt again on Tuesday.
After her sentence was handed down, Shelton asked to be released on a personal recognizance bond, to which time, Trudo agreed.
Shelton's case will be sent to Judge B.B. Schraub of Seguin for a hearing. Schraub is the Presiding Judge of the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region.