A McLennan County jury rejected Rickey Donnell Cummings’ alibi that he was selling marijuana six blocks away when two men were gunned down in 2011 at the Lakewood Villas apartments, convicting him Friday of capital murder.
Cummings, 23, who told jurors Thursday he was not involved in the deaths, showed no reaction when 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother read the verdict.
The crowded courtroom heeded Strother’s instructions prohibiting displays of emotion or other outbursts.
Security has been tight throughout the nine-day trial, but officials ramped it up even more Friday. At least 14 law enforcement officers were present in the courtroom when the verdict was returned, including deputies standing in the aisle to separate the victims’ families and friends from Cummings’ family.
Seventeen officers were stationed in the courthouse rotunda and almost two dozen more from various agencies watched over the courthouse parking lot as the crowd poured into the street after the verdict.
Cummings is one of four men charged in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, as they sat in the back seat of a car at the Spring Street apartments.
Two others, Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat, were wounded in the ambush but managed to escape the car and flee.
The punishment phase of the trial begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Cummings faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
The jury deliberated about three hours before convicting Cummings, whom prosecutors called a “cold-blooded, ruthless killer.”
Hubert’s father, Artie Matthews, called Friday a “good day,” and said Cummings deserves the death penalty.
“We’ve got one down, three to go,” he said, referring to Cummings’ co-defendants. “I want death, nothing but. He deserves to die. He’s a coward.”
Russ Hunt Sr., who represents Cummings with Walter M. Reaves Jr. and Michelle Tuegel, said they are disappointed with the verdict.
“We feel terrible about it,” Hunt said. “We’ve gotten to know and like Rickey and we feel terrible about the verdict.”
Hunt said Cummings wanted to testify and he didn’t try to dissuade him.
“He wanted to tell his story. It was his story to tell,” Hunt said.
“Who wouldn’t want to tell their side of the story when their life is on the line?” Tuegel asked.
District Attorney Abel Reyna, who prosecuted the case with his two top assistants, Michael Jarrett and Greg Davis, declined comment after court recessed Friday afternoon.
Robert Earl Sneed, the father of Tyus Sneed, was visibly emotional as he made his way across Washington Avenue, wiping his eyes and taking several minutes to collect himself before speaking.
He described feeling disoriented and has said he suffers from depression and insomnia since his son’s death.
“I’m just sorry for everybody that’s involved,” he said. “It’s not going to bring him back . . . I’m just shook up right now.”
Sneed tightly hugged Bible, who testified last week about his narrow escape from the car where Hubert and Sneed were killed.
Cetha Sneed, Tyus’ 21-year-old sister, said the family was pleased with the verdict, but would be “more happy on Monday.”
“We’re halfway there to getting justice,” she said. “We really miss Tyus and Keenan.”
A somber group of Cummings’ family and friends did not linger in the parking lot after leaving the courthouse, and declined comment.
In closing summations, Jarrett told jurors that Cummings was a gang member and a remorseless killer who wanted Hubert dead but didn’t care who else got hurt or killed in the course of his mission.
Prosecutors said Cummings killed Hubert because he and others suspected that Hubert was involved in the April 2010 death of Emuel “Man Man” Bowers III, whom Cummings described as being as close to him as his brothers.
Jarrett likened Cummings to a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, leaving crumbs behind and then trying to wash the evidence from his hands.
He said he tried to cover up his crimes by establishing a “BS” alibi and then intimidated witnesses in an effort to scare them from testifying against them.
“We are one community,” Jarrett told the jury. “We are not East Waco. We are not North Waco and we are not West or South Waco. We are one community, and I ask you to stand up with the community and tell Rickey Cummings exactly what he is. He is a murderer.”
Reaves told jurors that the state’s case is built on speculation, insinuation and misrepresentation. He disputed state contentions that Cummings was in a gang.
“The prosecution wants you to believe that young men who hang out together, have some signs and wear the same colors are a gang,” Reaves said. “That is not true. In another part of town, they call that a fraternity.”
Hunt said if symbols, signs, markings and Cummings’ tattoos, such as a five-sided star, are gang images, the Dallas Cowboys must be the Bloods gang.
Hunt attacked the credibility of the state’s witnesses, including a woman with a history of mental problems who said she saw Cummings with a jammed pistol in his hand seconds after the shooting at the apartment complex.
Tribune-Herald staff writer Kirsten Crow contributed to this story.