A man convicted in the 1995 murder of his former girlfriend was taken back to McLennan County Jail on a felony assault charge Thursday after police said he choked his sister at a South Waco home Monday.
Roy Dale Griffith, 58, was arrested on a parole violation stemming from the assault charge. He had been released on parole since September 2017 after his stint in prison. McLennan County prosecutor Mark Parker, who handled the murder case, said it was one of the county's most unusual cases because of communication hurdles that delayed it for years.
Griffith is unable to speak or hear, and he had to learn American Sign Language while in jail before he could be ruled competent to stand trial. He pleaded no contest to the murder charge in 1999 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
His sister told police Tuesday that he had attacked her the day before, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
"He grabbed her around the throat and began strangling her," Swanton said. "She was able to get away from him and was so scared she got her gun and called police."
She later asked police not to come because there were children in the home and she said she was scared of what Griffith may do, Swanton said. She went to the police department the next day and reported the incident.
Griffith pleaded no contest in 1999 to shooting and killing his former girlfriend, Dede Holden Davis, 28, at a Bellmead bar. After his arrest, authorities had difficulty communicating with Griffith because he did not know American Sign Language, but could communicate with his mother through an "unorthodox sign system," according to Tribune-Herald reports at the time.
Initially, jurors found Griffith incompetent to stand trial in 1996 because his limited communication skills restricted his ability to prepare his defense and understand legal proceedings. After spending 98 days at a state hospital, psychologists and sign language consultants worked to teach him the skills to be competent for trial by 1999.
"He only home signed," Parker, the prosecutor who handled the case, said. "We ended up pleading him for 23 years for killing his then girlfriend."
Griffith was able to communicate with the aid of deaf interpreters by the time he was sentenced to prison.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said Griffith was placed on parole until June 2020.
Griffith remained in McLennan County Jail on Thursday. Bond is listed at $5,000 on the third-degree felony assault charge, but he also has a hold on the parole violation.