A teenage murder suspect certified as an adult in the August 2020 slaying of a Belton High School junior was sentenced to 15 years in a state prison on Monday.
Timothy Joseph Grouss, now 18, was booked into the Bell County Jail on Monday and his mug shot was publicly posted after he was sentenced, online jail records showed. He had previously been held at the Bell County Juvenile Detention Center in Killeen, but moved to the jail and bonded out after he was certified as an adult in December 2020.
Grouss was 16 years old when he was charged and indicted in the Aug. 27, 2020, fatal shooting of Fernando Martinez in the adult criminal justice system.
On Monday, he was sentenced to spend 15 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility, county officials said.
Former Belton High senior Robert Garnett is also charged in the fatal shooting. Garnett, now 19, remains jailed on a murder charge in lieu of a $300,000 bond, lowered from $1 million. His court case is pending.
A copy of the indictment said Grouss, listed as a Moody area resident, was “a party with Robert Garnett, intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual, namely Fernando Martinez by shooting (him) with a firearm.”
The indictment said Grouss committed other felonies — unlawful transfer of certain weapons and firearm smuggling — in the case, but he only faces a murder charge, a first-degree felony.
Belton spokesman Paul Romer confirmed in May 2021 that Grouss is the 16-year-old juvenile suspect charged as adult after his indictment by a grand jury.
Grouss was certified as an adult at a Dec. 14, 2020, hearing, Assistant County Attorney Jim Murphy previously told the Telegram.
Jacqueline Martinez Moreno, Martinez’s sister, told the Telegram in 2021 that she was pleased that the juvenile suspect will be prosecuted as an adult.
“I want this case to be an example so something like this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
A third suspect — another 16-year-old juvenile — previously not disclosed by the Belton Police Department had his case handled in the juvenile justice system, Murphy said.
Many juvenile court proceedings are secret but the suspect received a “determinant sentence” for his role in the slaying, Murphy said, adding that he could not legally disclose the juvenile’s sentence.
For juveniles charged with a murder, however, incarceration ranges from a minimum of three years to as much as 40 years. Juveniles convicted of murder can be transferred from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to an adult prison at age 21.
Moreno said she was pleased the third suspect was addressed by juvenile court officials.
The Belton Police Department referred the juvenile’s case to the county attorney office on Oct. 16, 2020, Romer said. The department said the 16-year-old drove the other two suspects to and from the site of the shooting.
The Telegram previously reported that an arrest affidavit for Garnett said the Belton High School senior fatally shot Martinez when the victim took a firearm during an illegal sale and ran without paying.
Moreno said she disputed the suspect’s account that her brother needed a gun. “We haven’t heard it firsthand,” she said in a 2021 interview. “My brother was not involved at all with guns.… He was not out on the streets. He was not a thug…”
The Aug. 27, 2020, shooting occurred shortly after 5 p.m. in the 400 block of Smith Street near Lions Field baseball complex. Martinez was shot twice after a dispute, Romer said.
Grouss was arrested in August in the area of Orion Drive and East Cedar Crest Lane in Temple after evading police in a vehicle.
Garnett, who was identified as a suspect during the police investigation, was arrested March 1, 2021.
Police spokeswoman Candice Griffin previously said it took detectives several months to develop their case and present the evidence to the Bell County District Attorney’s office.