Trial begins in Texas courthouse shooting
By Michael Graczyk, Associated Press —
GALVESTON, Texas – A man meticulously planned before he opened fire on his daughter and her mother outside of the Jefferson County courthouse last year, wounding them both and killing a 79-year-old woman, a prosecutor said Monday at the outset of the man’s capital murder trial.
Bartholomew Granger, 42, was angry at his daughter and her mother about testimony against him in a sexual assault trial, Ed Shettle, a Jefferson County assistant district attorney, told jurors in his opening remarks.
“This was calculated, well thought out and it took a long time for this crime to proceed,” Shettle said.
Shettle warned jurors that the state’s evidence, which is expected to take about two weeks to present, may seem tedious at times, but that it was important.
“It is to make sure when this is all over that this man is going to sit on death row and you all will be eventually comfortable with what you did and it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Granger faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of capital murder in the killing of Minnie Ray Sebolt. The Deweyville woman was accompanying a relative to the courthouse and was caught in the gunfire. Three others, including Granger’s daughter and her mother, were wounded.
At Shettle’s request, after Granger’s lawyers entered an innocent plea for him Monday, Granger himself responded to State District Judge Bob Wortham when asked for his plea.
“Not guilty, your honor,” said Granger, who is also charged with retaliating against a witness.
Granger wore a dark suit, light shirt and silver tie. He was not handcuffed or shackled, but an electronic shock belt could be seen under his coat.
His lawyers deferred their opening statements until the state finishes its case.
During his opening remarks, Shettle described what happened on the day of the attack, in which a man he identified as Granger stepped out of his pickup truck before noon and began shooting.
“This is not a case of mistaken identity,” Shettle said. “The evidence is going to show, I think, the defendant never left the crime scene. He was arrested within only a short, very short period of time where he was always in sight of law enforcement or people you will hear from during the course of the trial.
“This is not a whodunit.”
Shettle said evidence will show Granger got to the courthouse before it opened that morning “and laid in wait for hours for people he thought betrayed him and testified against him.”
At about 11:30 a.m., the prosecutor said Granger jumped from his pickup truck, ran to the middle of the street and began shooting with what he described as an assault rifle.
Granger’s daughter was shot three times. Shettle said Granger then turned the gun toward her mother as the woman was running.
“He struck poor little Miss Sebolt through the femoral arteries of her legs, shot twice as she tried to get through the revolving door of the courthouse,” Shettle said. “Within seconds, she was lying in a pool of blood in the courthouse.” Although a crime scene, the courthouse will need a biohazard and blood cleanup quickly to avoid any cross-contamination of evidence.
The prosecutor said Granger got back into his truck, ran over his wounded daughter and drove off, exchanging fire with police. His truck became disabled a few blocks away where he fled into a construction business and grabbed hostages.
“One brave man there, he kicked the hell out of him and disarmed the guy,” Shettle said.
State District Judge John Stevens, the first prosecution witness, testified about the chaos in the courthouse. He was at a clerk’s office where a wounded woman was being treated. He recognized her as the mother of the woman who had testified the previous day in his courtroom in a trial in which Granger was accused of sexual misconduct nine years earlier.
“I asked her: Who shot you?” he said. “And she told me.”
He did not name Granger from the witness stand.
A legal assistant to a Beaumont attorney representing Granger at the sexual misconduct trial testified that Granger had called her the previous day, crying, and that he had used an epithet to describe Stevens and said the judge was allowing witnesses to lie on the stand about him.
Chelle Warwick said she managed to calm Granger, but that he told her: “I would take care of it tomorrow.”
Both sides agreed to move the trial to Galveston, 75 miles southwest of Beaumont, primarily so jurors wouldn’t have to walk by the crime scene each day. A judge declared a mistrial in his sexual misconduct case one month after the shootings due to heightened attention following the attacks.