Officers testify about evidence at site of murder, vehicle chase
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Defendant Justin Heath Gafford (right) and defense attorney Frank Hughes listen to testimony by Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Girling on Tuesday morning. Gafford pled guilty Monday to the stabbing death of his older brother, Frankie Mike Gafford, on Nov. 1, 2004. The trial is expected to continue for at least three days.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Aug. 2, 2005 -- Testimony in the punishment phase of the trial of Justin Heath Gafford, who pled guilty Monday to the Nov. 1, 2004, murder of his older brother Frankie Mike Gafford, got under way Tuesday with Hopkins County sheriff’s investigators discussing evidence photographed at the crime scene.

Chief Investigator Andy Chester was the first to testify, explaining pictures of the victim.

One photograph showed what appeared to be a gash of blood under the victim’s nose, and a large injury on his neck and shoulder, partially obscured by blood.

Investigator Lewis Tatum testified that several puncture wounds were also discovered on the victim’s torso when investigators lifted the man’s shirt.

Tatum also testified that two pairs of scissors, believed to have been used in the crime, were found with blood on them, one in the bathroom at the sink, the other bundled in a rug found near the foot of the bed.

Other evidence shown in pictures to contain bloodstains included a T-shirt and pants, a pillowcase, bed clothing, and on doors and walls.

Tatum also testified that he was contacted twice by Justin Gafford’s wife, Terrye, in the weeks following her husband’s arrest. Tatum stated that Terrye contacted him on Nov. 7 and Nov. 12, advising him of some items he should pickup from her residence. She showed him shoes, a pair of scissors she said were found under the bed, lotion, and a blood-stained pair of pants she believed Justin to be wearing the day of the murder.

The defendant’s mother, Mary Jo Rogers, also called Tatum on Jan. 7, saying she found her dead son’s wallet laying on his grave with “Mike’s items” in them, according to Tatum, who said he thought “it was an effort to sway her opinion” regarding the death.

Tatum also testified that “a lot of people I talked to were scared of him,” referring to interviews with Justin Gafford’s neighbors and other Brashear residents.

“The ladies were scared, afraid of retaliation,” Tatum said. “One gentleman I spoke with didn’t want to say anything [about Justin]. He didn’t want to offend the mother.”

He said people who knew Justin Gafford indicated they would talk to Tatum because “they were tired of the violence and wanted to do something.” He stated that the defendant’s nephew, Christopher Gafford Travis, was initially scared of talking to authorities because he feared retaliation from Justin.

Tatum said he also spoke with a number of individuals who gave the “general consensus he was a nice guy,” referring to the victim, Mike Gafford. He also said people who knew the brothers indicated Justin to be violent.

Just before noon, Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Girling testified about the pursuit of Justin Gafford, who was spotted in his neighbor’s truck traveling east on Interstate 30 at the 142 mile marker following the death of Mike Gafford. Girling testified that Justin “actually sped up” when he and a Mount Vernon officer attempted to stop the truck.

Girling testified that the chase continued at speeds between 80 and 90 miles per hour, saying the defendant attempted to cause an accident to disrupt the chase and rammed a sheriff’s vehicle.

The chase continued into Titus County, where two of the tires of the truck were deflated with road spikes but Gafford continued driving on the rims until he could go no further.

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