Timothy Foth Sentenced to Multiple Life Sentences for Blanco County Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Sexual Assault and Aggravated Kidnapping.


January 30, 2018

Blanco—Timothy Wade Foth, 39, last known address of 625 Forest View Dr. Blanco, TX was sentenced by a Blanco County jury to 3 life sentences for Aggravated Sexual Assault plus 99 years for Aggravated Kidnapping along with 50 years and a $10,000 fine for Aggravated Robbery after a 3 day trial in Blanco County.

On the afternoon of August 16, 2016, Blanco County Sherriff’s Deputies responded to the report of an assault that had occurred that day. Upon arrival, deputies discovered an adult female who reported that she had just been released after having been held against her will while being sexually assaulted over several hours.

The victim told deputies that she had been invited into Foth’s residence for some water. Once inside, Foth struck her with an object then began choking her until she passed out. When she awoke she discovered that she had been bound first by duct tape and then later by electrical cords. While bound she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Foth. During the assaults, Foth took money from her purse and jewelry that she was wearing.

After an extensive investigation by the Blanco County Sheriff’s Department, evidence of the crime was recovered including items used to bind the victim during the assault. Analyst with the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory in Austin, Texas also discovered DNA linking Foth to the crime.

After the trial, prosecuted by the 33rd & 424th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Blanco jury returned a guilty verdict along with the prison sentences.

33rd District Judge Allan Garrett ordered that one of the life sentences be served after the 50 year sentence is completed followed by a life sentence after that. The rest of the sentences would be served with the last life sentence.

District Attorney Sonny McAfee said, “I am extremely pleased with the verdict rendered by the jury, and Judge Garrett’s stacking order which requires the defendant to serve sentences one after another. There is no greater sense of justice than stopping a dangerous sexual predator like this one, and it was a great cooperative effort between law enforcement at various levels to obtain this justice. I am very proud of my First Assistant District Attorney, Perry Thomas, and Assistant District Attorney Erin Toolan. I think Perry did a terrific job with Erin’s help in getting the facts to the jury in a fashion that truly aided the jury’s decision. Through these sentences, this predator should never see the light of day outside of prison.”





Jamie Petronella Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for the Offense of Injury to a Child Involving the Death of 15 Month old

Jamie Petronella, 24, last known address of 525 Jones Ave. in Blanco, TX was sentenced to 30 in Prison for the offense of Injury to a Child resulting in death for failing to seek medical attention for injuries received by a child that ultimately resulted in death. Petronella entered a plea of guilty on Wednesday May 17, 2017 in the 33rd District Court Judge Allan Garrett presiding, for her omission to seek medical help for her 15 month old daughter Sunny Bort. John Lawrence had previously pled guilty to the offense of Capital Murder of a Child for his part in the death and was sentenced to Life in Prison without the possibility of parole.

On May 3, 2016 Blanco police officers responded to a Blanco apartment after Petronella reported her child was not breathing. Officers found Sunny Bort on the living room floor unresponsive. The child was transported to University Medical Center in San Antonio where she later died.

Emergency responders noticed bruising and other injuries on the child. The child’s mother, Jamie Petronella, blamed the injuries on the actions of another child in the apartment. The Blanco Police Department and the 33rd & 424th Judicial District Attorney’s Office immediately called the Texas Rangers to assist in the investigation.

After an extensive investigation by law enforcement, Petronella was indicted for the offense of Injury to a Child for failing to seek medical attention for the child which ultimately resulted in the child’s death. Lawrence, who lived with Petronella, entered a guilty plea Capital Murder of a Child younger than 10 years of age for intentionally causing the death of Sunny Bort. During interviews with Lawrence, he took sole responsibility for the injuries and stated he caused the injuries while Petronella was at work.

33rd & 424th Judicial District Attorney Wiley B. “Sonny” McAfee stated “although Petronella did not cause the injuries to Sunny as revealed by the investigation, as a mother, if she didn’t protect her child from Lawrence, she should have at least tried to get help as quickly as she could and she failed. I am glad we were able to reach a disposition in which we did not have to put any of her other children through the trauma of a trial.”

John Lawrence Sentenced to Life in Prison for the Blanco County Capital Murder of 15 month old Child.

John Lawrence, 24, last known address of 525 Jones Ave. in Blanco, TX, was sentenced to Life in Prison without the possibility of parole for the offense of Capital Murder of a Child under 10 years of age. Lawrence entered a plea of guilty on Friday, February 3, 2017, in the 33rd District Court, Judge Allan Garrett presiding for the May 3, 2016 death of 15 month old Sunny Bort. Lawrence also pled guilty to four counts of assault on a public servant.

On May 3, 2016, Blanco police officers responded to a Blanco apartment after a mother reported her child was not breathing. Officers found Sunny Bort unresponsive on the living room floor. The child was transported to University Medical Center in San Antonio, where she later died.

Emergency responders noticed bruising and other injuries on the child. The child’s mother, Jamie Petronella, blamed the injuries on the actions of another child in the apartment. The Blanco Police Department and the 33rd & 424th Judicial District Attorney’s Office immediately called the Texas Rangers to assist in the investigation.

After an extensive investigation by law enforcement, Lawrence was indicted for the offense of Capital Murder of a Child younger than 10 years of age and Assault on Public Servant for an incident that occurred shortly after Lawrence’s arrest.

33rd & 424th Judicial District Attorney Wiley B. “Sonny” McAfee stated that “this was a horrific crime, it is one of the worst that I have ever seen.” “He agreed to life without the possibility of parole. He also waived his rights to an appeal, so he will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

“This was a very difficult case from the start“ McAfee said, “but it was a great team effort involving my office, the Blanco Police Department, the Blanco County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Rangers.”

Jamie Petronella faces multiple counts of Injury to a Child that are pending in Blanco County, Texas.

Man Convicted of Capital Murder Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole

On Monday, December 12, 2016, 33rd District Court Judge Allan Garrett sentenced Garrett James Ballard to life without the possibility of parole for the capital murders of Elijah Benson, 17, and Travis Fox, 26. Garrett Ballard was immediately remanded to the custody of the Burnet County Sheriff pending transfer to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The sentence was in accordance with a Burnet County Jury’s verdict of guilty to capital murder in the case.

The murders occurred August 19, 2014 at the home of Garrett Ballard at a remote residence on County Road 340, where the defendant lived with his parents, Linda and Robert James “Jimmy” Ballard. Jimmy Ballard is Constable for Precinct Three and he and his wife were attending a Texas Narcotic Officer Association Conference at South Padre Island at the time of the killings. Garrett Ballard invited Eli Benson and Travis Fox, to his house on August 18, 2014, so the three of them could play music together and take a drug Ballard referred to as “acid” while Ballard’s parents were away. Eli Benson turned 17 on that day, and the three planned to stay the night at Ballard’s house. Upon testing by the Department of Public Safety the “acid” was determined not to be LSD which is usually referred to as “acid” but a chemical compound referred to as 25N-NBOMe which is a hallucinogen with a different chemical structure than LSD. In fact, the analyst for the Department of Public Safety testified that Texas had not listed the compound as a controlled substance and it was her belief that possessing, using, or delivering the compound was not a crime at the time this capital murder occurred.

According to the Defendant’s confession, obtained by Texas Ranger Jason Bobo and Burnet County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Robert Clark, Garrett Ballard was in a confrontation with Travis Fox in the early morning hours of August 19 at approximately 5 am. During that confrontation, Travis Fox held Ballard against the wall with Fox’s forearm, and according to Ballard, Travis stared at him in a weird manner. Ballard did not explain why Fox held him against the wall or what caused the confrontation. He did explain, however, that following that confrontation, Ballard got the keys to his father’s law enforcement vehicle which was parked outside the residence, took a semi-automatic rifle, an AR-15, 5.56mm, and loaded the weapon by placing a loaded magazine into the rifle. He then operated the action of the weapon, placing a cartridge into the chamber making the rifle ready to fire. Eli Benson and Travis Fox were apparently still in the residence when Ballard was loading the rifle and Eli came out of the house first. When Travis Fox came out of the house and walked down the steps of the back deck, Garrett Ballard stated he began pulling the trigger of the rifle. None of Travis’ wounds was consistent with Travis Fox running or walking toward the defendant as he had claimed because none of the bullets entered the front of Travis Fox’s body. Instead the wounds were on the right side of Travis Fox in a right to left, upward path. At least one shot was analyzed to have been fired while Travis Fox was laying on the ground.

The defendant stated he then turned the gun on Eli Benson and ran toward Eli pulling the trigger. Ballard told Ranger Bobo and Investigator Clark that neither Fox nor Benson had hurt him or had any weapons. Garrett Ballard gave no specific reason for why the murders occurred and just said he “felt” threatened although neither person actually threatened him.

In Texas, intentionally or knowingly causing the death of more than one individual, in the same transaction, is capital murder. The only two possible punishments for capital murder are death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.   The State waived the death penalty in this case prior to trial. District Attorney Sonny McAfee stated that some family members of the victims preferred the District Attorney seek life without parole rather than death as punishment in this case. McAfee said it was after consulting with the surviving members of the families, his prosecutors and law enforcement officers involved in the investigation that he decided to waive the death penalty.

District Attorney Sonny McAfee, along with Assistant District Attorneys Kristen Sharpe and Peter Keim prosecuted the case. Garrett Ballard was represented by Lampasas attorneys Paul Harrell and Zachary Morris. After a week of testimony, the jury began deliberations at approximately 2:10 pm Monday afternoon, December 12, 2016, and returned a guilty verdict at approximately 2:45 pm.

Following the verdict and sentencing of the defendant, District Attorney McAfee said, “Justice was finally accomplished for Eli and Travis. The violence perpetrated by Garrett Ballard has caused tremendous harm to the families of Eli and Travis and to this community as well.   We will never have the benefit of knowing the man Eli would have grown up to be, or seeing the contributions Travis could have made to our community.

McAfee said the jury had a difficult task in listening to horrific facts and seeing evidence of a very violent crime. He said he was proud of the hard work the jury did and further said apparently they paid very close attention during the trial because the decision on guilt did not take very long.

McAfee thanked everyone that assisted in the investigation and prosecution of the case. Investigative agencies that assisted in this case include Burnet County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, The Texas Rangers, Burnet Police Department, and Investigators of the District Attorney’s Office.


Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Burglary of a Habitation

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, Judge Evan Stubbs of the 424th Judicial District Court sentenced Joe Canchola, 28, to 30 years in prison after a Burnet County jury convicted Canchola of Burglary of a Habitation. Canchola was charged with burglarizing a home near Inks Lake. The case was tried by Assistant District Attorneys Amber Shanafelt and Kristen Sharpe. Canchola was represented by Richard Davis and Barton Vana.

Evidence presented at trial showed the defendant and an associate were on the property under the guise of lawn care work. The home was unoccupied as the owners had recently inherited the property from their late grandfather who had recently passed away. When the homeowners returned, they were fortunate that neighbors had noticed an unfamiliar truck in the driveway a couple of weeks before. A couple of neighbors even spoke with the defendant’s associate at the time of the burglary. The associate appeared to be soliciting lawn care work while Canchola was burglarizing the residence, even going as far as giving one of the neighbors telephone contact information. Several small items were stolen from the home, including some of great sentimental value.

Investigator Robert Clark of the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office located a key piece of evidence in a pawn shop in Austin, Texas. The homeowner identified the pawned items as pins given to his deceased grandfather for his many years of service to the Midland Police Department. The pawn shop’s records showed the items to be pawned by the defendant.

In a criminal case, the defendant has the right to choose whether a jury or judge will assess his punishment after a jury has found him guilty. In this case the defendant chose to elect punishment by the judge. Judge Stubbs received evidence of the defendant’s eleven criminal convictions dating from 2007 which included a 5 year prison sentence in 2011. The defendant had been released from prison only four months prior to the offense date in this case.

In sentencing the defendant, Judge Stubbs remarked on the very short time Canchola had been out of prison before committing this burglary of a residence, also noted the extensive number of convictions for a man only 28 years old.

ADA Shanafelt expressed great appreciation for the jury’s work in finding the defendant guilty. She said, “The jurors carefully analyzed the evidence in the case and held the defendant accountable for his actions. Judge Stubbs continued that accountability by sentencing him to 30 years. I think the Judge was very deliberate in his decision and the decision was very appropriate under all the circumstances.” ADA Sharpe added to Shanafelt’s sentiments when she said, “We continue to see Burnet County juries gladly embrace their responsibilities in listening to facts that are sometimes difficult to hear, in this case and others. And those juries also continue to demonstrate their intolerance for criminals that victimize others in our community. They do a great job.”

District Attorney Sonny McAfee said he was proud of the job his assistants did in the trial. He said, “These diligent prosecutors were up against very good lawyers that make you work hard prior to and during trial. But that’s what is supposed to happen in the system. The jury reached a good verdict and Judge Stubbs did a great job in sentencing this criminal to prison for a long stay. Hopefully, Canchola will learn to conform his conduct before he gets out or go somewhere other than this district if he doesn’t learn to conform.”

Marble Falls Man Convicted in Intoxication Assault of Peace Officer with Boat

On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, Judge Allan Garrett sentenced James “Hank” Fry to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division but then suspended that sentenced for a 10 year period. Judge Garrett placed Fry on probation pursuant to an agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and Fry’s lawyer, Eddie Shell, and also ordered Fry to spend 120 days in Burnet County Jail as a condition of that probation.   Fry was sentenced for Intoxication Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury to a Peace Office caused during a boating collision on July 4, 2015 when his boat collided with the Marble Falls Police Department’s Patrol Boat which was piloted by Capt. Ted Young. Fry ran over the police boat with his boat, striking Capt. Young and eventually landing him into the water. The force of the collision broke Young’s shoulder, fractured a vertebra of his spine, broke several ribs, lacerated his spleen and caused bleeding in his brain.     Capt. Young’s life vest was also damaged during the collision and failed to inflate. Capt. Young’s wife, Patricia Young, was also on the boat with Capt. Young, and held Capt. Young above water while calling for help. Fry, along with his wife Kristena Fry, drove back around and Fry pulled Capt. Young from the water and helped get the boat back to the dock. Fry was found to be intoxicated and was charged with Aggravated Assault and Intoxication Assault stemming from that incident.

During the pendency of the trial, Capt. Young and Patricia Young advised District Attorney Sonny McAfee they would like to sit down and meet with the Defendant and his wife prior to trial. When McAfee asked the purpose of the meeting, Capt. Young said he and his wife first wanted to thank Fry and Kristena Fry for helping him after the collision. Young said he and Patricia wanted to discuss the case with Fry before going to trial on the matter. McAfee then contacted Fry’s attorney, Eddie Shell, who readily agreed to the meeting. At that meeting Young and his wife both expressed their appreciation for Fry and his wife’s assistance and further discussed Fry’s choices that lead to the collision. Fry apologized to both Ted Young and Patricia Young and he along with Kristena Fry expressed their gratitude that Young had survived and that Patricia escaped with minor injuries. The topic also arose about why Fry had failed to see the marked patrol boat prior to the collision. Early news reports had indicated that the police vehicle might not have had its lights on at the time of the collision but the boat’s lights were actually still lighted when Fry helped get the boat back to the dock. Fry said it was his poor decisions that caused him not to see the police boat, rather than a result of the boat not having lights. Following the meeting, both Capt. Young and his wife expressed their preference that the case be settled without a trial if possible and approved the suggested sentence that was submitted to Judge Garrett for his approval.

District Attorney McAfee said it is quite an unusual request from the victims of crime to meet with the defendant, and also unusual for a defense attorney to agree to the meeting. He added that in this case, Mr. Shell actually facilitated the meeting and his client and his client’s wife quickly agreed. McAfee did not go into all the details of the meeting but did say the meeting was very frank between all parties. He added, “The concerns by Capt. Young and his wife were obviously about the lack of judgment by the defendant in the collision and the injuries Capt. Young sustained as a result. Capt. Young has had several serious surgeries following the collision and has not yet been able to return to his full duties as Police Captain. However, those concerns were clearly secondary to their appreciation for assistance after the collision. It is a very odd circumstance when the defendant in a case causes the damage to a victim but then mitigates that damage by assisting after the harm. That was the driving force, I believe, in Capt. Young and his wife wanting to express their thanks, and to also explain their feelings. It was also due to Mr. Shell’s client’s response and acceptance of responsibility at that meeting that lead to the settlement of this case. I certainly appreciate Patricia and Ted Young thinking of this solution, and I appreciate Mr. Shell’s willingness to not only allow, but to encourage his client and his client’s wife to participate. I believe justice was served when Judge Garrett approved the proposed agreement.”



On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, Judge Evan Stubbs of the 424th District Court sentenced Misty Rae Hopkins to 5 life sentences for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and twenty years on each of 4 sentences for Indecency With a Child. Misty Hopkins and her late husband, John Hopkins, resided in Burnet where John Hopkins served as pastor at a local area church during the time of the offenses.

The trial began on Monday, October 17, with charges that stemmed from offenses committed in Burnet County between 1999 and 2005. The allegations involved numerous acts of sexual abuse perpetrated by both Misty and John Hopkins acting together as well as acts of abuse by each of the parents individually. The abuse inflicted in Burnet occurred repeatedly from the time the victim was 7. When the victim was 14, the family moved to Blanco County, and then eventually to Llano County. Evidence revealed the abuse continued until the victim was 21 years old when she able to leave the home with her younger siblings, once they were over 17. The evidence further showed that Hopkins and her husband kept the children out of school and even isolated them from other family members. Chief Paul Nelson of the Burnet Police Department did not learn of the offenses until 2014 when the victim came forward to a law enforcement agency in another county outside of the District which forwarded the information to Burnet authorities. At the time the information was learned, John Hopkins was deceased. The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning guilty verdicts for all counts charged.

During the punishment phase of the trial, the 4 children testified about the impact the years of silence, manipulation, and hiding had on them. The jury then returned the maximum prison sentences allowed on all counts, as well as the maximum fine of $10,000 for each offense. As he sentenced Hopkins, Judge Evan Stubbs read the jury’s sentences of confinement, and told Hopkins he had nothing good to say about her and that this was the worst case of abuse he has seen in his 14 years of practicing law. Judge Stubbs further stated to Hopkins, “Yesterday you said that your husband was the head of the house and God will hold him responsible. And I’ll simply tell you I hope he does and I hope he does you as well. And that’s for another day.” He said the acts of abuse were unimaginable and then ordered each of the jury’s sentences “stacked” in that each was to be served consecutively with the previous sentence.

The case was tried by Assistant District Attorneys Stacy Burke and Kristen Sharpe. Hopkins was represented by Burnet County Public Defender, Michelle Moore, and Kama Lawrence. ADA Burke echoed Judge Stubbs in stating Hopkins was the worst pedophile she had encountered in her career. Burke also stated Misty Hopkins is a truly evil person who tortured her children, and the rapid verdict indicated the jury found her guilt overwhelming. Burke and Sharpe thanked the jury and expressed appreciation for the difficult task of listening to the horrific events described during testimony in the case. Sharpe added it was a rewarding outcome for all involved, and hoped all the children can start to close this chapter and go forward with their lives. District Attorney Sonny McAfee said he knows ADA’s Burke and Sharpe put many hours of hard work into prosecuting this case. “They are both very dedicated prosecutors, and I am proud to have them on my team.   I am also proud of the work done by the Burnet Chief of Police and officers of the Department. They put together an investigation that enabled justice to finally be served in this case.”  McAfee further added his greatest appreciation was for the jurors who had to listen to the terrible facts throughout the trial. He said, “Once more, a Burnet County Jury has demonstrated that the people of our District have no tolerance for the abuse of children whether it occurs today or occurred a decade ago. The citizens on this Jury did a tremendous job.”

Drug Dealer Receives Maximum Sentence

On Friday, August 5, 2016, Judge Evan Stubbs sentenced Clifford Neal Derryberry, 49 of Marble Falls to the maximum sentence of 10 years for possession of a controlled substance in an amount of one or more grams but less than four grams of methamphetamine. The sentence followed a hearing by Judge Stubbs on the State’s Motion to Adjudicate Derryberry’s guilt and to revoke his community supervision for that offense.

On May 30, 2014, Derryberry pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was placed on community supervision for five years with a deferred adjudication of guilt. If Derryberry had successfully completed the community supervision, the indictment would have been dismissed and Derryberry would not have had a felony conviction for the crime. However, Derryberry was found to have violated his conditions of supervision and Judge Stubbs found him guilty of the offense and gave him the maximum sentence.

One of the conditions was that Derryberry not commit any other offenses in this state or any other state. Travis County Deputies testified during the hearing that on November 17, 2015, Derryberry along with Michael Calhoun of Austin possessed more than 400 grams of methamphetamine. Evidence at the hearing showed Derryberry actually possessed more than twice that much by having over 900 grams with him at the time of his arrest in 2015. Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Kristen Sharpe for the 424th Judicial District prosecuted the Motion to Adjudicate, assisted by District Attorney Sonny McAfee. Sharpe asked the judge to sentence Derryberry to the maximum sentence he could receive based on the offense in Burnet County because he committed the other possession case while he was on probation here.

Derryberry’s defense attorney told Judge Stubbs there was no evidence to show that Derryberry had any knowledge there were drugs in his car when Travis County Deputies arrested him with over 900 grams and that we shouldn’t just put people in prison that have drug problems. Judge Stubbs told Derryberry that he had never heard of anyone being in a vehicle with someone else with 900-plus grams of methamphetamine that wasn’t involved. He further stated there was more than enough evidence that Mr. Derryberry was facilitating the transport of over 900 grams of methamphetamine which says he’s a drug dealer.   Judge Stubbs added that if Derryberry had needed help during his probation all he had to do was ask and as far as the Judge could tell that never happened. In fact, the judge added, “To say he’s accepting responsibility is exactly the opposite of what I’ve been sitting through all afternoon.” Judge Stubbs then found the allegations by the State true and found Derryberry guilty of the offense for which he was on probation.

The possession case in Travis County is still pending on Derryberry. The punishment range if he is found guilty of that offense is 15 to 99 years or life with a possible fine of $250,000. However, Derryberry’s case in Travis County has not yet been set for trial.   Derryberry’s codefendant, Michael Calhoun has pleaded guilty in federal court for his part in the possession of the 990 grams of methamphetamine with sentencing at a future date.

ADA Sharpe expressed satisfaction with Judge Stubbs’ sentence and explained that by Judge Stubbs sentencing Derryberry to the maximum sentence, Derryberry is not eligible to get a bond on appeal and must begin his prison sentence immediately. Sharpe added, “Derryberry’s offense in Burnet may not have been as significant as the 990 gram possession case in Travis County but the message from this sentencing is clear. Although our courts have demonstrated they will work with those people that identify drug use as a problem, there is no sympathy for those that squander an opportunity to get help by dealing drugs in this or any other community.”


Kingsland Woman Convicted of Murder

On Monday, July 26, 2016, Judge Evan Stubbs sentenced Kathryn Preston, of Kingsland to 45 years in prison for the murder of Jose “Joe” Hernandez, Jr. The trial began with jury selection on Monday, July 18, 2016 and was completed on Monday with the sentencing of Preston at approximately 11:00pm that evening. Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Anthony Dodson prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office. Dodson was joined by First Assistant District Attorney Perry Thomas during the guilt/innocence phase of trial and District Attorney Sonny McAfee during the punishment phase. Austin Shell of Shell and Shell law firm represented Preston and was assisted during trial by attorney Kirby Crow Stermer.

Preston was charged with the murder of Joe Hernandez whom she referred to as her husband. At the time of the crime Preston was 46 and Hernandez was 23. The evidence at trial was that in August of 2014, Preston struck Hernandez in the head with a broken paving brick when he was in bed at the residence Hernandez and Preston shared with her three sons. Various accounts of the murder were provided during trial with Preston claiming the killing was in self-defense. However, her own son testified that Preston said she struck Hernandez while he slept and then smothered him with a pillow. The Travis County Medical Examiner testified the strike on Hernandez’ head was unlikely to be the sole cause of death while asphyxiation was more likely the actual cause. Investigating Texas Rangers Jason Bobo and Patrick Pena testified the physical evidence including blood stain analysis was consistent with Hernandez being killed in bed while he slept. The evidence further revealed that following the murder of Hernandez, Preston tampered with the crime scene by removing the bed covering and hiding it, washing pillows, moving the victim’s body, and even attempting to burn the victim’s body while he was in the house. Although the murder occurred on August 26, 2014, Preston did not call 911 to report the death until the following morning of August 27 at approximately 9 am. When she did finally call 911, she told the dispatcher that Hernandez had hit his head on a rock instead of admitting that she had struck the victim.

Preston, who was a court reporter for 18 years, testified at trial that Hernandez struck her with a metal rod used to sharpen knives, which she also moved from the crime scene. Department of Public Safety Lab Analysts testified there was no evidence of Preston’s DNA on the metal rod which she claimed struck her although there was DNA of the victim on the handle of the sharpener. Preston answered Austin Shell’s questions about the event in a fashion which allowed her to present the question of self-defense to the jury. While she remembered all of the details of her version of the murder, when ADA Dodson cross examined Preston regarding details of the murder she repeatedly stated she couldn’t remember or did not know how to answer. The evidence presentation began Tuesday, July 19, 2016 and concluded Friday afternoon, July 24, 2016. Closing arguments were heard at approximately 9am on the morning of Monday, July 26, 2016, and jury deliberations began at approximately 10:35am. After several hours of deliberation, the jury disregarded Preston’s claim of self-defense and found her guilty of murder.

Following the guilty verdict jurors, requested to proceed with the case by resuming trial for the punishment portion of the trial and all parties agreed with that request. The evidence on punishment concluded late in the evening, and the jury assessed punishment at 45 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division with a maximum $10,000 fine. The judge then proceeded immediately with sentencing following the verdict at approximately 11:00pm.

ADA Dodson stated that he was satisfied with the verdict of the jury and said, “This was a horrific murder and justice in the case demanded that Preston spend a very long time in prison for what she did to Joe Hernandez, Jr., and the tremendous pain she has caused Joe’s mother, father, sisters and brothers and other family; and to our community as well. The jury’s verdict accomplishes that justice.”

District Attorney McAfee said he was also well satisfied with the verdict and commented on the work of the jurors in this particular case. “These jurors carefully listened to the evidence in this trial and then evaluated various pieces of that evidence during their deliberations. They carefully analyzed everything and worked diligently in reaching a verdict during the guilt/innocence phase of trial. Then the jury demonstrated a tremendous work ethic in wanting to proceed with the case after having worked so hard all day. I applaud them for the work they did, and the way in which they approached their responsibility as a jury.” McAfee added that Preston could not be considered for parole for the murder until 2039.


David Johnson Sentenced to 40 Years Prison

San Saba, Texas–Judge Evan Stubbs sentenced David Lynn Johnson, 53, to 40 years in prison for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Johnson was also accused of bribing the child victim to take back her statement and testify falsely in Court. Judge Stubbs handed down an additional 25 year sentence for a Tampering with a Witness charge in the same indictment. The sentences will run concurrently.

In a criminal case, both the State of Texas and the accused have a right to a jury trial. Johnson elected to waive this right and instead elect for a trial before the Court. The State consented in the waiver of a jury trial and presented its evidence to Judge Stubbs after Johnson pled not guilty to both charges. The case was tried by Assistant District Attorney Stacy Burke and Kristen Sharpe. Johnson was represented by Tommy Adams.

The charges in the indictment stemmed from offenses committed in 2012 against a 12 year old child known to Johnson. At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence of an Aggravated Assault with a shotgun committed against the child’s mother, a Prohibited Weapons charge in which the Defendant manufactured an explosive device, an Assault against a girl in which the Defendant had a dating relationship, as well as another Sexual Assault committed against a female acquaintance. The State also presented evidence of Johnson’s efforts to intimidate some of the State’s witnesses in an attempt to prevent them from coming to Court to testify against him.

The two sentences will run concurrently, however, Johnson will have to serve 20 years before becoming eligible for parole.

ADA Burke said Johnson “is an extremely violent person who used his anger and rage to intimidate, manipulate and hurt many people in the San Saba community.” Burke further stated that she believes the sentence handed down by Judge Stubbs sends a strong message that preying on children and using violence against others will not be tolerated in our district.