Yeager announced the sentence to Billy Dean “Wedo” Butler shortly after a seven-man, five-woman jury found him guilty of aggravated kidnapping that morning. The jury was out less than an hour before returning with the verdict.
Yeager presided over the trial after District Judge Janna Whatley picked the jury Monday. Whatley asked the jury to return Tuesday morning to begin hearing testimony.
That was when Assistant District Attorney Juan Garcia sprang into action with his boss, District Attorney Martha Warner, by his side.
Some of the most damning testimony to come out during the two-day hearing came when the prosecution presented photo evidence of the injuries that the victim suffered during an incident on Aug. 19, 2011.
Garcia had the investigating officer, Beeville Police Department Detective Sgt. Art Gamez, take the stand to testify to the extent of the injuries.
Garcia told the jury that Butler had deceived his victim into going to the house they had been sharing that night. He then began to assault her, hitting her on almost every part of her body for the next five to seven hours.
“He was smoking crack and drinking Crown Royal,” Warner said. In the early minutes of the attack, Butler allegedly stripped the victim of her clothes so she would not try to escape and prevented her from getting to a telephone.
Gamez said the victim had bruises on her face, back, legs, chest, head, feet and serious bruises and swelling to her arms. Gamez called the injuries to the victim’s arms and hands (including her fingers) “defensive injuries,” sustained as she tried to deflect the blows to her face and body.
“Her eyes were swollen shut,” Gamez said. The victim’s lips were also seriously swollen.
During the beating, Butler reportedly threatened to have his fellow gang members gang rape the victim before he killed her.
Garcia and Warner said Butler is suspected of being a member of the Mexican Mafia.
Warner said the victim testified that during the incident, one of Butler’s friends came to the house. She overheard Butler telling the friend, “That (woman) can really take a beating.”
At one point during the attack, Butler made the victim clean her blood off the floor of the house. He also took her to the bathroom and made her stand in front of a mirror so she could see her injuries.
Garcia said testimony revealed that Butler attacked the woman out of jealousy.
Garcia and Warner said this will not be Butler’s first experience with a prison sentence. He reportedly served an entire 10-year sentence after being convicted of crimes including aggravated assault and robbery.
Although Butler was out on bail Monday, Whatley had the defendant rearrested when he showed up late for court.
Warner said Butler caused security problems throughout the two days of testimony and the closing arguments. She credited Bailiff Bill Lazenby for maintaining strict courtroom security.
Garcia said his case was jeopardized close to the end of the testimony phase of the trial when the victim was on the witness stand. Defense Attorney Kyle Brian Hoelscher of Corpus Christi produced a statement the victim had signed exonerating Butler. Hoeslcher read part of the statement that claimed that the victim actually was beaten by two women.
Hoelscher wanted only that part of the statement admitted into evidence but Garcia demanded that the entire statement be presented to the jury.
By using the entire statement, Garcia was able to convince jurors that Butler had “sweet talked” the victim into signing the statement. Garcia said the date of the statement also was the date of a previous announcement for the trial.
Garcia said one of his challenges was to educate jurors of the real definition of a kidnapping. He said that by keeping the victim against her will, an aggravated kidnapping had taken place.
To illustrate that the act had been an actual kidnapping under Texas law, Garcia told jurors, “It’s like a horned toad. A horned toad had neither horns nor is it a toad,” during his closing argument.
“If it hadn’t been for the hard work of every one of us here, we wouldn’t have won this case,” Gamez said after the trial.
“Juan did an great job,” Warner said. “He asked for 50 years and a $10,000 fine and that’s what he got.”
Aggravated kidnapping is a first degree felony and the charge was enhanced to a punishment range of between 15 to 99 years or life in prison.
Warner said Thursday was Garcia’s last day as one of her assistants. He was hired two years ago after her office was awarded a $250,000 Violence Against Women Act grant.
Next week Garcia is expected to begin campaigning full time as the Republican candidate for the Bee County attorney’s job.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.