Prosecutors Kelly Bazie & Bill Parham, Brewster County Courthouse, Alpine TX, February 1, 2016 (Steve Anderson/KRTS).
UPDATED February 2, 2015, 12:15 PM: McWilliams is sentenced to life in prison.
A guilty verdict has been reached in the murder trial in Alpine. Keith Alan McWilliams has been convicted of murdering Walter “Trey” Sands on October 30, 2014.
On Monday afternoon, it took the jury a little more than an hour to find McWilliams guilty of murder.
In his closing statement, the defendant’s lawyer, Bart Medley, asked the jury to acquit on all charges. He spent most his time arguing the state had failed to prove his client had acted intentionally or knowingly. Medley claimed that if McWilliams was guilty of anything, it was only of manslaughter, which requires a finding of reckless conduct.
Medley told the jury that while Trey’s death was a “tragedy,” it was the result of a “stupid, drunken fight that got way, way, way out of hand.” The jury clearly rejected that characterization.
Early that day, in a move that surprised most observers, McWilliams took the stand in his own defense. In previous statements to authorities, McWilliams claimed he shot Trey in self defense, but on the stand, he testified that his pistol went off accidentally as he tried to prevent his co-defendant, Charles Morrow, from continuing to beat the victim with a two by-four. He told the jury that his earlier, inconsistent stories were due to his chronic drinking and that his time in jail had sobered him up and “made his thoughts much clearer.”
McWilliams cried several times during his testimony and said more than once that Trey was his friend.
In his closing, prosecutor Bill Parham, for the first time in the trial, asserted a motive for the killing, that Trey had “embarrassed” the defendant during an incident at Terlingua in September. Parham told the jury that McWilliams had plotted for several weeks and that it was a “cold-blooded killing” and “just pure evil.”
He also replayed a video of McWilliams saying to Texas Ranger Jeff Vajdos in December of 2014 that “they just couldn’t let him go, it was too late for that.”
McWilliams showed no reaction to the verdict, but kept his head bowed as Brewster Sheriff Ronnie Dodson lead him away in handcuffs.
Trey’s sister, Kara, reacted to the verdict with tears, saying that while justice was done, it wouldn’t bring Trey back.
Decisions on punishment will be made on Tuesday. McWilliams faces 5 years to life in prison.
– Reporting by Steve Anderson