NEW BOSTON, Texas—A Bowie County jury handed down a 60-year sentence Thursday for a 22-year-old man found guilty Wednesday of murdering a man and stealing his truck.
Marquell Smith was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine as well.
"The state is satisfied with the 60-year sentence because in the eyes of the state of Texas, that is equivalent to a life sentence," First Assistant District Attorney Mike Shepherd said. "The defendant must serve 30 years before he is eligible for parole."
Defendants assessed a sentence of life in Texas are eligible for parole after serving 30 years as well.
"We appreciate the time and effort taken by this jury to reach a just verdict," Shepherd said.
Smith, 22, burst into sobs and exclaimed, "I'm sorry dad, I didn't do it," as his father walked to the witness stand during the punishment phase of his trial Thursday morning. Smith was found guilty Wednesday evening of first-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Christopher Guilbeau by a jury of nine men and three women.
Following Smith's outburst, 202nd District Judge John Tidwell removed the jury from the courtroom and allowed Smith and his lawyer, Bruce Condit, time to confer. Tidwell admonished Smith to maintain his composure before bringing the jury back to the courtroom.
Smith had never met Guilbeau before the morning of Feb. 23, 2015, according to witness testimony. An acquaintance of Smith's, Devonte Evans, rode with Guilbeau to an alley behind the apartment on Della Street in Texarkana, Texas, where Smith's girlfriend lived. Evans had bummed cigarettes from Guilbeau that morning and Guilbeau had asked Evans if he would help him sell some methamphetamine in exchange for a cut of the profits.
Shamari Newton, Smith's former girlfriend and co-defendant, Brandon Brown, also a co-defendant, and Smith were in Newton's apartment when Evans knocked on the door and asked Smith if he was interested in making such a purchase. Smith told Evans he'd be down in a minute. After Evans left, Smith asked Brown for his gun in Newton's presence. Smith stuck the gun in his pants, walked down the stairs and took a seat in the truck behind Evans.
Smith pulled the gun in the truck and demanded that Guilbeau give him what he had. Newton, who heard the three shots Smith fired into Guilbeau, testified that later Smith told her he shot Guilbeau because he moved. Evans said Smith yelled at Guilbeau before each of three bullets left the .38 revolver. Guilbeau was shot once in the face and twice in the back.
His body was discovered March 6, 2015, in a brushy area near Newton's apartment by Texarkana, Texas, police. Guilbeau's family reported him missing the evening of March 4 to Texarkana, Ark., police and the following day Guilbeau's white Dodge truck was flagged in a national database. Just over an hour after the truck was reported as wanted in connection with a missing person, Smith and Brown were stopped in the truck by police in Tulsa, Okla.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter pointed to Brown's criminal past as basis for a severe punishment for Smith. Smith was convicted as a juvenile in April 2012 of assault on a public servant in Cooke County, Texas. While in the Texas Youth Commission, Smith assaulted a guard and was sent to adult prison. Smith had been free less than a year when he was arrested in Tulsa.
"At some point he is released and he kills someone, he kills Christopher Guilbeau," Carter said. "He drug his body out of the truck and dumped him like he was trash."
Smith's lawyer, Bruce Condit of Texarkana, asked the jury to sentence Smith in such a way that he has an "incentive to better himself and become a productive member of society."
Shepherd asked the jury to consider Guilbeau's family, a large number of whom sat through numerous pretrial hearings and Smith's trial.
"Marquell's family can visit him. Christopher Guilbeau's family cannot visit with him and you know they would give anything they could to do that," Shepherd said. "He's out nine months folks, he's out nine months before he takes the life of another human beingWhen you commit the most heinous crime, you have to pay a price for it."