An eight-time felon who almost killed his former girlfriend by choking her last year was sentenced to 75 years in prison Tuesday.

Jurors in Waco’s 54th State District Court deliberated about an hour before deciding punishment for Gary Anderson Gillis, who changed his plea in the middle of the victim’s testimony from not guilty to guilty of assault-family violence by occlusion.

Gillis, 50, who now has nine felony convictions and nine misdemeanor convictions, must serve at least 15 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. He rejected a 40-year plea offer before trial.

Prosecutors Robert Moody and Danielle London introduced evidence that showed Gillis, who has been in and out of prison for years, has been a member of the Bloods street and prison gang since 1989. Trial evidence showed Gillis was in total control of the woman, including her finances, was physically abusive toward her and sent her out at times to work as a prostitute.

The woman testified that she was living with Gillis and two roommates in Beverly Hills in April 2017 when Gillis accused her of taking pills. She said she merely was taking a pain reliever for back pain, but he struck her in the face with his fist, knocked her to the ground, jumped on top of her and started choking her.

She said he choked her so hard, it made her defecate. She said foam was coming out of her mouth and she blacked out. One of the roommates pulled Gillis off of her and called police.

Once an officer arrived, he cuffed Gillis, who was clad only in his underwear, and told him to sit on the curb. Later, he put Gillis in a patrol car, but Gillis started kicking the door so hard that it broke. The officer opened the door, and Gillis jumped out and ran back toward the house and crashed his head through a window of the home.

While the victim was testifying, Gillis leaned over to his attorney, Brian Howell, and said he wanted to change his plea after hearing what the woman told the jury.

Judge Matt Johnson stopped the trial, sent the jury out, and admonished Gillis, who worked at an auto detailing shop, about the ramifications of his guilty plea.

Later, with the jury back, Gillis testified that he was high on a mixture of methamphetamine and crack cocaine and does not remember choking the woman that night. He said she did not want the case prosecuted and wants to be with him. However, he changed his plea after hearing her testimony, saying he knows she would not lie about it.

“It made me feel like dirt,” Gillis said, sobbing from the stand. “I can’t ever remember doing anything like that.”

Gillis asked the jury for mercy.

“I am a redeemable human being,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot and I have put a lot of people through a lot. Please don’t take the rest of my life away from me.”

London told jurors in summations that Gillis, with his long criminal record, has earned every day of a life prison term.

Howell countered that Gillis is truly remorseful and took responsibility for his actions after hearing the woman’s testimony. He asked the jury for a sentence in the 25-year range, the minimum Gillis faced as a habitual criminal.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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