BELTON — Without a murder weapon or ballistics evidence, the state’s prosecutors have presented testimony and evidence that they hope will show the “consciousness of guilt” of the man accused of fatally shooting his wife last year in Harker Heights.
Willis Everett Washington II, 50, is accused of shooting Latonya Bates Washington, 47, at their home in the 800 block of Trail Crest in Heights on April 7, 2020. A police detective testified on Tuesday that neither the handgun used to commit the crime nor the spent shell casing from the one shot that was fired, have ever been located.
After a jury was seated on Monday, testimony began in the 426th Judicial District Court, with Judge Steve Duskie presiding. Washington was being held in jail on Tuesday in lieu of bonds totaling $1.5 million, according to jail records.
He was indicted on July 8, 2020, on a first-degree felony charge of murder and a third-degree felony charge of tampering or fabricating physical evidence.
‘Consciousness of guilt’?
Throughout testimony on Tuesday morning, projected in front of the jury was a photo of Latonya Washington — smiling and standing tall.
According to testimony from one of the couple’s five daughters, there had been a divorce on the horizon for a relationship that had been affected by domestic violence and substance abuse. Latonya Washington had left her husband and moved out, but then returned and was murdered around a week later, officials said.
On Tuesday, the state called four of the responding officers from the Harker Heights Police Department, including the lead detective on the case, to delineate some of the evidence for the jury.
Detective Lt. Jack Wallace said that the .32-caliber murder weapon has never been located, but a live round was located near where Latonya Washington’s body was found in the master bathroom.
“It’s not uncommon for a murder weapon to not be found at the scene because people try to get rid of evidence that they think could scientifically link them to a crime,” Wallace said. “Taking the ejected casing would keep us from matching the bullet to a specific firearm.”
However, an open gun case and holster were found in the master bedroom area, along with Latonya Washington’s broken phone and other signs indicative of an assault, he said. Many open containers of alcohol were located in the kitchen and master bedroom, along with drug paraphernalia.
Wallace said that substance abuse “oftentimes” exacerbates a domestic violence situation.
The suspicion of police was raised when Willis Washington was not at the scene and seemingly had his phone turned off because officials were unable to trace its location, according to testimony on Tuesday.
Willis Washington later was located in Coryell County, where he was arrested.
His defense attorney will present his case to the jury after the state has finished calling its witnesses.
April 7, 2020
Heights police went to the home at around 3 a.m. on April 7, 2020, after a call about a gunshot victim. When they arrived, they found Latonya Washington dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
A woman told police that she had heard Willis Washington and Latonya Washington arguing, according to the arrest affidavit. Police said the woman told them that she heard Latonya Washington yell “please stop,” and not long after, she heard what she thought was a gunshot.
The woman said Willis Washington told her Latonya Washington was dead. He gave her more than one explanation for how it happened and left the residence with a firearm, according to the affidavit.
Police said the woman told her that Willis Washington was afraid of being blamed, so he told her “‘no gun, no evidence.’”
After he was arrested, Willis Washington allegedly admitted that he and Latonya Washington were arguing and that the gun in his hand discharged, police said.