NEW BOSTON, Texas — A woman who stabbed a 71-year-old man to death in his DeKalb apartment in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Friday by a Bowie County jury after three days of trial.
Shirley Ann Falkowski, 56, did not take the stand during the guilt or innocence phase of trial but she did testify during the punishment phase. Falkowski denied her guilt, screamed at a prosecutor, yelled at the jury and claimed her feet were too small to have committed the crime.
"In Missouri, she used a knife and stabbed a man in the chest. Then she left his body in his car in an alley. She threw her bloody clothes and the knife in a dumpster and she went out and used crack cocaine afterward," Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter argued in her closing remarks. "Sound familiar? Think about Mr. (James Earl) Johnson. She stabbed him 71 times, left him in his apartment and she went out and used crack cocaine."
A pair of ladies shoes, size seven-and-a-half, with Johnson's blood on them were recovered from a dumpster next to the trailer in DeKalb that Falkowski occupied in 2015. Under questioning from her lead defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Sylvia Delgado, Falkowski claimed she wears a size six-and-a-half.
But First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp confronted Falkowski with a jailhouse recording of her telling her father not to bring her shoes in size seven-and-a-half to wear to her trial.
Details about Falkowski's conviction for murder in Missouri in 1998 were revealed when Falkowski was cross examined by Crisp during the punishment phase late Friday afternoon at the Bowie County Courthouse in New Boston.
Falkowski had trouble remembering the name of the man she killed in Missouri in the late 1990s.
"I think his name was Harry. His last name, it started with a T, it's been a long time ma'am," Falkowski testified.
When confronted by Crisp, Falkowski became enraged and shouted at Crisp before turning and directing her ire at the 12 jurors who'd just found her guilty of committing her second murder.
"You're scaring everybody in here," Crisp said as Falkowski's loud responses distorted the sound coming through the courtroom speakers.
During the three-day trial, witnesses testified that Falkowski and James Earl Johnson Sr. were friends who may have had a romantic relationship at some point. A car Falkowski borrowed from a friend and was driving Aug. 4, 2015, was found to have a blood stain with Johnson's genetic profile. A bloody shoe print matching the slip-ons found in the dumpster next to Falkowski's trailer was recovered and the shoes were stained with Johnson's blood.
A friend of Falkowski's testified Thursday that she showed up at his residence sometime late on the night of Aug. 4, 2015, or in the first hours of Aug. 5, 2015, and handed him "bloody money" she hoped to exchange for crack cocaine.
Falkowski told him the sticky substance on the bills was ketchup.
Falkowski was filmed attempting to use Johnson's debit card at an ATM in DeKalb shortly after midnight Aug. 5. Johnson's body was discovered around noon the same day.
Falkowski confessed during an interview in February 2019 with Texas Ranger Greg Wilson. Delgado and Assistant District Attorney Amanda Gunn argued that Falkowski's confession was coerced by the Ranger.
"I see everything but intimidation and scare tactics. Ranger Wilson was respectful and courteous throughout the entire process," Carter said of the confession interview, a video of which was played for the jury.
During the trial, Delgado and Gunn were repeatedly admonished by 5th District Judge Bill Miller for violating Texas law and a prior court order by inferring that others, some of whom testified, may have been responsible for Johnson's demise without offering any proof. While the jury deliberated on the punishment Falkowski should receive, Miller explained that the law on arguing "alternative perpetrators" requires more than speculation and demands an actual connection between the person and the crime to put such a theory before a jury.
Carter and Crisp asked the jury to sentence Falkowski to life.
"Mr. Johnson may not be her last. There have already been two," Carter argued. "You have to decide what is right and just for Ms. Falkowski and for Mr. Johnson and for the citizens of this county, of which Mr. Johnson was one."