One of two men charged in the May 2014 drug-related shooting deaths of two cousins at a North Waco apartment complex was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday.
A 19th State District Court jury of 10 women and two men deliberated about 2½ hours before convicting 32-year-old Todric Deon McDonald of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Justin Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grim Ave.
Because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against McDonald, Judge Ralph Strother sentenced him to an automatic life prison term without the possibility of parole.
McDonald, who has been in jail almost five years waiting for trial, showed no emotion as Strother read the verdict. About 20 family members and friends of the victims cried and hugged each other at the end of the four-day trial.
McDonald did not testify, and his attorneys, John Donahue and Jon Evans, called no witnesses. Evans said after the trial that McDonald is disappointed in the verdict and will appeal.
After the verdict, five of the cousins’ family members gave emotional victim-impact statements, with all telling McDonald they forgive him. They also said they are grateful to prosecutors Robert Moody, Hilary LaBorde and Evan O’Donnell and the judge for bringing justice to their family after so long.
“We are very thankful for the jury’s hard work this week as it brings some justice, finally, for a long-grieving and loving family,” LaBorde said after the trial. “We were again reminded this week of how privileged we are to work here in Waco alongside officers and employees of the Waco Police Department, who did their very best to keep this defendant from ever being free again.”
Two eyewitnesses, who said they were using drugs with the cousins at the apartment when they were shot, testified that McDonald and another man killed the men. Also, two prisoners housed near McDonald and another man who befriended him in Waco testified that McDonald admitted to them his role in the double slaying.
Tony Olivarez, 34, is charged with capital murder as McDonald’s co-defendant. His case is pending in 54th State District Court.
Testimony showed that McDonald carjacked a Waco man outside a North Waco convenience store to get the blue GMC Yukon he was driving on the night of the murders and that he tried to rob a man of a firearm and exchanged gunfire with him on Morrow Avenue four hours before the Gonzalez cousins were killed.
Days later, McDonald led local and federal authorities on a high-speed chase down Bosque Boulevard with a woman and a 3-year-old child in his car before his car was incapacitated and he was arrested.
In jury summations Thursday afternoon, Moody called the killings “plain and simple brutal executions.”
“At some point, I don’t know when, Todric put a price on those two boys because they didn’t pay him,” Moody said. “That’s what this was. He put himself in God’s place and decided when they would die. To him they weren’t children of God anymore. They weren’t people. He took them away. He stole them from their families. Don’t lose sight of that. What kind of person does that sort of thing?”
Trial testimony showed Justin Gonzalez was dealing methamphetamine out of the Grim Avenue apartment and owed McDonald money for drugs.
One woman who was there when McDonald and the other man came in said she jumped from a two-story balcony to escape after the gunmen returned to the apartment in what prosecutors said was an attempt to eliminate the two women who witnessed the killings.
The other woman said she hid beneath a futon on the balcony until she heard police outside her window. She said McDonald and the other man tried to kick open the door and then shot it several times in an attempt to get back in the apartment. Their efforts failed, and they fled the area.
Donahue told the jury in summations that many of the state’s witnesses against McDonald could not be believed because they were high on drugs or were jailhouse witnesses trying to gain a reduction in their sentences by testifying for the state.