The Galveston County Daily News
Copyright © 2005 The Galveston County Daily News
Teen’s Murder Trial Begins
By Scott E. Williams
Published December 8, 2005
TEXAS CITY — Family members packed the 122nd State District Court
in Galveston on Wednesday to hear prosecutors describe the savage
beating that killed an elderly couple on Feb. 11, 2004.
More than two dozen sat behind the defense table where Thomas
Justin Thomas sat, while prosecutor Stacey Jones accused him of
beating his grandparents, William and Lorena Pearl Clement, to death
with a tire iron.
Jones detailed a plot hatched by Thomas, 19, and three other teens to
burglarize his grandparents’ home in the 1200 block of Third Avenue
South.
She said that shortly after midnight, William Clement came downstairs
after hearing Thomas kick in the back door. When Clement reached the
kitchen, Jones said he saw the grandson who had spent a great deal of
time in their home. This visit was different, she said.
“He wasn’t met with hugs or kisses,” she told jurors in her opening
statement. “He was met with a tire iron.”
Jones said Thomas left the house after beating both grandparents to
death and went to the van containing his associates. It was parked in
the alley behind the house.
As they pulled onto a nearby street, they were spotted by police officers
in what proved to be a grisly coincidence. Minutes earlier, police had
received a call that a suspect in a stabbing at the Texas City Dike was in
a van resembling the one pulling onto 12th Street South. Officers
stopped the van and found the tire iron, as well as a woman’s purse, a
man’s wallet and a rifle.
While police made their discovery, Thomas’ mother, the victims’
daughter, was making a discovery of her own. Officers still had the four
van occupants detained when a call came over the radio that a woman
had discovered her parents, beaten and bloody, in their burglarized
home less than a block away.
Defense attorney Tad A. Nelson declined to give an opening statement.
Under state law, defense attorneys can opt to give their statement at
the conclusion of the prosecution’s case and before defense evidence
begins.
However, while cross-examining Wayne Clement, Thomas’ uncle and
the victims’ son, Nelson asked about the closeness of the relationship
between the teen and the couple.
Nelson, who frequently objected to Jones making arguments in her
opening statement, also established that Thomas was “not so bright a
kid.”
Because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, a guilty verdict
in this case would mean an automatic life sentence for Thomas.
Daniel Robert Northrup, 17; Eric Lee Kilman, 19; and Christine Marie
Cox, 19; also face capital murder charges in the case. Thomas is the
first to go to trial.