LINDEN, Texas -- A Cass County resident sentenced to 50 years in a Texas prison for killing a man grieving the death of his grandmother claimed he acted in self-defense and "would do it again."
Vontrequel Lesa Nickleberry, 33, of Marietta, Texas, was found guilty Sept. 1 in the murder of DaChauncey Evontre Jones, 28, of Marietta. He also was ordered to pay at $10,000 fine.
During the four-day trial, the jury heard from family members, deputies from the Cass County Sheriff's Office, forensic scientists and multiple eyewitnesses to the murder.
The murder happened Sept. 22, 2021.
"Nickleberry was at the Marietta community center practicing softball. During warm-ups, Jones drove up to the community center extremely upset about the loss of his grandmother, who had passed away the previous day," Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton said.
After speaking with a coach, Jones reportedly walked toward Nickleberry, and the two began to argue.
"After a brief altercation that was broken up by other members of the softball team, Nickleberry pulled a 9mm handgun out of his pants. When he pointed the gun at Jones, Jones raised both hands in the air and began backing away," Shelton said. "Nickleberry fired two fatal shots into Jones' torso, and Jones fell to the ground."
Nickleberry then stood over Jones and fired a shot at his face, which grazed Jones' cheek, before fleeing.
Jones died at the scene.
Investigator Sabrina Sartor testified that on Sept. 23, Nickleberry surrendered at the Cass County Sheriff's Office. He claimed he was in fear for his life and was acting in self-defense when he shot Jones, Sartor testified.
After his interview with investigators, Nickleberry took law enforcement to the woods where he disposed of the murder weapon and an extra magazine, Sartor testified.
Nickleberry took the stand in his defense and stated he "would do it again." He repeated his argument that he was in fear for his life, even though he admitted Jones was unarmed. He cited two past incidents, over a year prior to the murder, when Jones allegedly fired a gun in his direction.
The prosecution of Shelton and First Assistant District Attorney Nick Ross presented witnesses who contradicted Nickleberry's claims, along with evidence that neither incident resulted in criminal charges.
The jury rejected Nickleberry's claim of self-defense, finding either that the defendant did not believe his use of force was immediately necessary to protect himself against Jones or that his belief was unreasonable.
At punishment, the prosecution presented evidence of other crimes and extraneous bad acts that Nickleberry committed in Dallas, Tarrant, Gregg, Panola and Morris counties.
"DaChauncey Jones' family has been trying to heal for nearly a year, and I believe the justice Nickleberry received will be a large step in that healing process," Shelton said in a news release. "While this sentence will not bring Jones back, it does affirm to Cass County citizens that these types of senseless murders are not acceptable and will be prosecuted."
Vontrequel Nickleberry was represented by Dallas attorney Curtis Lilly.