Surprise plea deal halts murder trial
Trial was set to be moved to Hopkins County on venue change
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Nov. 7, 2005 - A surprise plea bargain agreement in Texarkana Monday morning means that the 300 people called for possible jury duty will not need to report next Monday, according to Hopkins County District Clerk Patricia Dorner and Bowie County Assistant District Attorney Mike Shepherd.

The murder trial of Richard Markeil “Lucky” Henson, the second suspect in the murder of three Outback Steakhouse murders in Texarkana two years ago, had been moved to Hopkins County on a change of venue and jury selection was set to begin next Monday.

Texarkana residents were shocked when the bodies of three people, Matthew Hines, Rebecca Shifflett and Crystal Willis, were found in the office of the restaurant on Sept. 1, 2003. A small amount of cash was missing from that office.

Prosecutors, according to reports in the Texarkana Gazette, said “Walter was the supposed trigger man with Henson as his accomplice. Henson’s brother, Roderick, was the one to tip off police in hopes of receiving a reward for the information that led to the arrests of his brother and Walter.”

Shepherd said his office consulted with the families of the three murder victims before agreeing to the plea bargain.

�Of course, they will never feel like their loved ones could be replaced or accounted for, no matter how much time he got or what happened to him.� Shepherd said. �They can at least feel satisfied to some degree that some sense of justice was done.�

The prosecutor said the trial of the first defendant, Stephon Lavelle Walter, held in Collin County resulted in a life sentence being handed down and that his office did not want to let testimony in the second trial open old wounds.

�The first trial was a very emotional and difficult trial for the families to deal with and they did not look forward to going through another trial with a similar set of facts and all of that again,� Shepherd said.

Although prosecutors were prepared to go to trial in the case, Shepherd said it would have been difficult to prove that Henson was actually in the room where the shooting occurred.

�From and evidentiary perspective, the state did not have any problem in placing Markeil Henson at the crime scene,� he said. �As far as actually putting him in the office where the shooting occurred, we had limited evidence and there was some risk involved and the families did not want to take that risk of bring it before a jury where they could possibly find him not guilty � they wanted to make sure he was going to serve a long period of time and that is exactly what they got.�

The cancellation of the murder trial now means that Hopkins County officials will not have to implement the tight security measures that had been planned for the trial.

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