NEW BOSTON, Texas —A Bowie County jury handed down a life sentence Wednesday after finding a Texarkana man guilty of murder.
At trial, witnesses testified that Takyme Devon James, 41, was belligerent and disruptive after becoming intoxicated at a gathering Dec. 3, 2017, in a private clubhouse on Lake Drive. Tony Sanders hosted the Sunday get-togethers, where people would meet to watch football, play cards, eat and drink.
When Sanders asked James to leave, James pushed Sanders, leading Sanders to deliver a few blows that left James with a black eye and cuts to his face, witness Ricky Darden testified Wednesday. Darden described James as "intoxicated" and "obnoxious."
Darden said the fight was over quickly and that Sanders pulled James up from the floor and walked him out of the building.
"Tony beat Takyme. His eye was black, his face was bleeding, but the most serious injury was to his pride," Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards argued in closing.
James left the clubhouse in a van he borrowed from a friend and drove to a house on nearby Idaho Street, where his cousins LaPrense Willis and Clarence Willis lived. The cousins came home after a woman living at the house called and told them James needed their help.
LaPrense Willis' girlfriend testified that James claimed he had been jumped by multiple people and that, based on the condition of James' face, they didn't doubt his account. At some point James acquired a handgun and he and his cousins rode together in LaPrense Willis' black Chrysler sedan to Sanders' home not far away on Jones Street.
Sanders' wife, Dorsanner Butler, testified that she and Sanders left the football party at about 9:30 p.m., before the professional football game airing that night concluded. She said that after stopping at home, they were walking out of their house to go pick up their daughter, now age 4, from her father's home.
Butler said she and Sanders went back in the house and locked the door when James and his cousins drove up and stopped. Butler said she saw James, armed with a gun, get out of the back of the car and Clarence Willis get out of the front. Butler said James made taunting statements to her husband as the two retreated into their home.
Emergency dispatcher Jessica Helms took the call from Butler. A recording of the call was played for the jury Wednesday. At the beginning of the call, Butler speaks in a hushed tone as she tells Helms that she is hiding in a closet in a back bedroom.
Her voice remains calm until the moment she sees her husband bleeding out on the floor. She begins to scream for help and plead with Sanders not to die.
A Dallas medical examiner testified Wednesday morning that James was struck with a single bullet in the upper right leg, perforating a major vein and artery. Dr. Stephen Lenfest testified that without almost immediate vascular surgery, Sanders' condition would prove fatal.
Texarkana, Texas, police officer Colten Johnson, the first to arrive on scene, attempted to apply a tourniquet to Sanders' gushing wound. Lenfest testified that the location of the bullet's strike made it impossible to stop the bleeding.
Members of Sanders' family, including his wife, clutched each other and wiped tears from their cheeks Wednesday as the recording of Butler's 911 called played. Later, during closing arguments by Richards and Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp, the family's grief was palpable.
After the jury's verdict of guilty on the murder charge was read aloud by 5th District Judge Bill Miller, the trial entered a punishment phase. Texarkana, Texas, Crime Scene Detective Spencer Price testified about James' lengthy criminal history. The offenses include misdemeanor convictions for evading arrest, failure to identify, driving while intoxicated and criminal trespass, and felony convictions for robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Larry Parker, retired chief deputy with Bowie County Sheriff's Office's, testified about James' 1996 robbery conviction. Parker said James was offered a ride from a woman who thought she recognized him. As she drove James to his destination, he asked for money. When she told him she just didn't have enough to spare, James stabbed her. Parker said James was initially charged with aggravated robbery. As part of a plea agreement, he received a term of probation for the lesser offense of robbery.
"He has no regard for human life. None," Richards argued in closing. "He took a father and a husband and a friend. He took Tony Sanders away from his family forever and for what? Because his pride was hurt?"
James' lawyer, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, asked the jury for mercy.
Crisp told the jury that James' case did not warrant mercy, pointing out the second chances the criminal justice system has given him.
"Put him where he can't hurt someone anymore," Crisp argued. "You tell Dorsanner (Sanders' wife) what you think about what's she's had to endure, and you tell Takyme James about what you think of people who murder in cold blood."
The jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before returning a life sentence.
"This was a senseless murder and the defendant's criminal history demonstrated a history of violence and disregard for the law," Richards said. "Hopefully, the jury handing down the maximum sentence in this case will bring some closure to Tony Sanders' family."
LaPrense Willis and Clarence Willis are also charged in the case.
"Vengeance and retribution motivated Takyme James' visit to Tony Sanders home on the night of this murder. After losing a fight to Sanders, James gathered his co-defendants and went looking to settle the score, "Crisp said. "The jury rightly convicted James of first-degree murder and, learning of his criminal record, awarded him with the county's third consecutive life sentence for murder (in the cases tried for the crime recently). In Bowie County, as has been made evident in these recent cases, all human life is of the highest value; those seeking to harm our fellow citizens should take notice."