BELTON — The death penalty was waived in one Temple capital murder case Friday.
Justin Lane Slatton Jr., 23, is charged with capital murder of multiple persons that occurred April 13, 2016, but Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza waived the death penalty, attorney John Galligan said Friday.
Galligan represents Lupe Martinez Chappa, 20, one of three men charged with the shooting deaths of Johnathan Hess, 26, of Temple and Vicente Hernandez, 36, of Killeen.
Representing Slatton is James Kreimeyer.
The attorney for Rodrigo Lara Gutierrez, 22, the third person charged with allegedly participating in the slayings, is Andrew Wolfe.
Because Chappa was 16 when the homicides occurred, he can’t be sentenced to the death penalty if he’s found guilty, Galligan said. Seventeen is the lowest age at which someone may be sentenced to death, according to the Texas Penal Code.
By the time the men go on trial, each will have been in the Bell County Jail more than three years.
Slatton will be the first to go on trial Dec. 9, followed by Chappa on Jan. 13, 2020, and Gutierrez on Feb. 10, 2020. Each man’s trial will be in the 426th Judicial District Court with Judge Fancy Jezek officiating.
Prosecuting the three men will be Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Newell.
The three men, all from San Angelo, will each have a separate jury trial because the law and facts of the case doesn’t allow for them to join together into one trial, Garza recently said.
Chappa and Slatton are accused of shooting Hess and Hernandez in the 400 block of North Seventh Street. Hess died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds, and Hernandez was taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple, where he died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Gutierrez reportedly drove the getaway car for Slatton and Chappa.
Chappa and Gutierrez could be sentenced to life in prison or not less than 5 years in prison if they’re convicted.
Slatton could be sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole if he’s found guilty.