County gets $185,000 grant to prosecute murder case
Dec 15, 2013 | 2091 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office on Monday approved Upshur County’s request for a $185,000 grant to help prosecute two defendants in a capital murder case involving a third defendant who already pled guilty, District Attorney Billy Byrd announced Tuesday.

Sarah Haslam, 21, of Longview, and Andrew Conrad Norwine, 22, of Ft. Polk, La., will be prosecuted in the Dec. 5, 2012, slaying of Ronnie Joe Gammage. Byrd said Wednesday the grant will be used only for prosecutorial purposes—not the defendants’ expenses—and that no matching funds from the county are required to receive it, so it “won’t affect our local county’s budget at all.”

The other defendant, 20-year-old Daniel Paul Jones of Longview, was recently sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He turns 21 Jan. 16.

Ms. Haslam and Norwine were separately arrested last December. Gammage, 27, of Longview, had been kidnapped in Gregg County before his throat was slit and his body set afire, and his remains were found in a pasture at the intersection of Martin Lane and Mockingbird Road in rural southeast Upshur County, Byrd said.

Both defendants remain in Upshur County Jail under bonds totalling $1.3 million—$1 million on the capital murder charge, and $300,000 on a charge of aggravated kidnapping filed in Gregg County. Court-appointed attorneys Mac Cobb of Mt. Pleasant and Lance Larison of Longview represent Ms. Haslam, while court-appointed lawyers Doug Parks of Dallas and John W. Moore of Longview represent Norwine.

Byrd said Wednesday he hasn’t yet decided whether to seek the death penalty for Ms. Haslam and Norwine. (Under Texas law, capital murder is punishable only by lethal injection or life imprisonment without parole.)

The pair will be tried separately, but completing the initial round of DNA testing for evidentiary purposes is at least 4-5 months away, and the trials are somewhat longer off than that, the district attorney said.

Byrd said he could not discuss the motive for Gammage’s murder, nor further details of the case.

He said the grant, which is offered only to rural counties of under 50,000 population, will be used for investigative expenses, paying expert witnesses, and scientific testing.

The witnesses include experts in tool marks and blood spatter, while the testing would include DNA and fingerprints, Byrd said.

Byrd said the state will reimburse the county for expenses covered by the grant, and that the state and county will audit the expenditures. He said he had to devise a “time-consuming” proposed budget, and expressed appreciation to a former Upshur County Assistant District Attorney, Angela Norton, for major help in developing it.

Ms. Norton had dealt with grants when she worked for the East Texas Council of Governments in Kilgore, he said.
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