WACO (April 21, 2014) Jurors returned a guilty verdict Monday evening in the capital murder trial of Us Carnell Petetan, who was accused of gunning down his estranged wife, Gatesville native Kimberly Farr Petetan, 44, and abducting her daughter.
Jurors started deliberations at around 3:30 p.m. and returned the verdict at around 5:15 p.m.
The Sept. 23, 2012 shooting occurred during what authorities say was a heated argument at the Landing Apartments, in the 2500 block of East Lake Shore Drive in Waco.
Jurors must next decide whether to sentence Petetan to death by lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Petetan took the stand in his own defense Monday morning, against the advice of his attorneys and denied shooting the victim, blaming a companion instead.
During closing arguments Monday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis pointed to Petetan and called him a “bald faced liar.”
"We have brought you overwhelming evidence that he is guilty as charged,” Davis told the jury.
He told jurors that if they wanted to conclude that Petetan didn’t kill his estranged wife they would have to believe that all of the prosecution’s witnesses were liars including the victim’s daughter.
Defense attorney Russ Hunt countered that prosecutors didn’t prove that Petetan forced his way into the apartment and told jurors that if they believed anything Petetan said in his testimony Monday morning then there’s reasonable doubt.
But Assistant District Attorney Michael Jarrett said Petetan is the only suspect in the murder.
He described Petetan as a killer, a coward and a thug, “calling him “our worst nightmare (and) Kimberly Petetan’s worst nightmare.”
During his testimony Monday morning, Petetan denied forcing his way into the victim’s apartment, denied waving a gun around once he was inside and denied arguing with his estranged wife.
He testified Monday he came to Waco from his home in Port Arthur on Sept. 3, 2012, accompanied by two other men, to pick up a computer, some clothes and to give Kimberly $300.
He said he asked two other men to accompany him because he didn’t know the way from Port Arthur to Waco and in his testimony Monday he blamed one of them, Adrian Miller, for the shooting.
Petetan denied having a gun, but said Miller had one.
He said Miller and Kimberly began to argue and said he stepped in to protect her.
Afterward, he said, he went outside to smoke a cigarette and as he did he heard the two arguing again.
He said by the time he got to them Miller had shot Kimberly “like three times.”
He said Miller then pointed the gun at him.
The three men, along with the girl, got into their truck and then Petetan said Miller pointed the gun at him and told him to drive down Highway 6.
Petetan said he was trying to calm the girl as they drove.
When they arrived in Bryan, Petetan testified that Miller said he wanted to kill the girl.
He testified that we went into a store in Bryan, called 911, and reported that his wife had been shot in Waco and that his daughter was being kidnapped.
After the call, Bryan police pulled them over, questioned them separately, and then told him he was charged with Miller.
Under cross-examination, Petetan said previous witnesses including Kimberly’s daughter lied when they testified he fired the fatal shots.
Jarrett asked Petetan if Miller had any reason to kill Kimberly, and suggested he brought Miller with him because “you needed a fall guy.”
When Jarrett told Petetan, “I give you one more chance to admit you shot your wife,” the defendant responded that he did not and that Adrian Miller did.
Prosecutors called a single rebuttal witness after Petetan left the stand, a jail inmate who was handcuffed and chained.
The witness, whom reporters were instructed not to identify, said he’s been jailed for 25 months.
He testified about conservations he had with Petetan while in the “tank.”
The inmate testified that Petetan told him that on the day of the murder he was arguing with his wife and without even thinking about it he shot her “boom, boom, boom.”
Under cross-examination he admitted he’s facing the possibility of a long prison sentence and said he was locked up with Petetan for only about two weeks.
After the inmate left the stand, both the state and the defense rested.
Jurors returned to court Monday after the three-day Easter weekend.
The state rested its case late Thursday afternoon after emotional and dramatic testimony from the murdered woman's daughter.
The now 11-year-old girl broke into sobs several times as she testified Thursday and what she had to say left courtroom spectators in tears, too.
The girl testified that the morning her mother died the two had gone to church and her mother talked about heaven.
Afterward they picked up lunch at McDonald's and rented some movies before going home, she said.
She said she and her mother were watching one of the rented movies when someone knocked on the door.
She said she looked through the blinds and saw a skinny man standing outside, but said when they opened the door, Petetan pushed his way into the apartment, pulled out a gun and started waving it around.
She said he told her mother, who had changed into her pajamas after returning from church, that they were returning to Port Arthur and ordered her to get dressed.
Then, she said, the three of them got into a truck, drove to a motel and picked up two other men, who rode in the bed, as they returned to the apartment.
Once inside, she said, Petetan went upstairs with her and her mother and then ordered her to go to her bedroom.
She said she complied and then said she started drawing pictures, writing over and over, “I hate Carnell.”
Later all three went back downstairs, she said, and then her mother pretended that she was going to take her back upstairs to use the bathroom.
Then, the girl said, her mother grabbed her by the wrist and then opened the front door in an attempt to escape.
Petetan, she said, ran toward them, grabbed her mother, shut the door, and then pushed her mother against a wall.
Then, the girl testified, Petetan said “Time to dust away,” and shot her mother three times as she watched.
“I see blood and my mom was not moving,” she said.
After the shooting, she said, she, Petetan and the other two men got into her mother’s vehicle and drove off, stopping along a roadside, where Petetan wrapped his gun in a sheet and then appeared to throw it over a fence into some woods.
She was rescued after a Bryan police officer pulled the vehicle over.