BELTON — With a courtroom full of family and friends of both a murder victim and his killer, a Bell County judge on Wednesday sentenced a Killeen man to 30 years in prison for a 2016 slaying.
Judge John Gauntt sentenced Antonio Marquis Willis, 28, for the murder of Donte Javon Samuels, 22, who was found on Dec. 22, 2016, after being shot in the lower extremities the night before, according to testimony in the 27th Judicial District Court.
With the sobs of both Samuels’ mother and Willis’ wife almost drowning out his voice, Gauntt sentenced Willis to 30 years on the murder change, as well as 20 years for possession of a controlled substance and 10 years for evading arrest and detention with a vehicle.
The sentences will run concurrently.
Willis’s case drew nationwide attention when the Telegram reported that former Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown, who since has been removed from office, set his initial bond at record $4 billion. The bond was lowered later.
Samuels was found dead in a front yard at 4103 Water St. in Killeen. Samuels reportedly showed up at the home of his ex-girlfriend three times, and Willis, who was in the house, reportedly shot him the third time after opening the door and telling Samuels to leave.
Willis pleaded guilty on July 2.
The team of defense attorneys argued that Samuels, who was addicted to methamphetamine, had come to the home unwelcomed.
“It was a threatening environment and people inside were scared because he’d created an environment of fear,” said Billy Ray Hall in his closing argument. “(The ex-girlfriend) was so scared she called the victim’s mother a day or two before to tell her that he was threatening and harassing her, and (Samuels) was told to not go over there. And when drugs are involved, people don’t usually call the police.”
Hall said that the shots Willis fired were meant to scare Samuels away, not to kill him, and that his client was sincerely remorseful.
Prosecutors argued that the reason Willis fired the shots was not the point.
“He pleaded guilty to killing this woman’s son,” said Leslie McWilliams, assistant district attorney, in her closing argument as she gestured toward Samuels’s mother. “There’s no evidence that Mr. Samuels was threatening anybody or that Mr. Willis was scared of anyone.”
McWilliams delineated Willis’s criminal history, including the two felonies that arose out of an incident in Nolanville while Willis was out on bond for the murder charge.
“He’s re-offended time and time and time again,” she said.
McWilliams admitted that Samuels had a drug problem.
Willis’s wife of three years, Jordan Willis, said that her husband is “an amazing father.”
“Nothing can take that away from him,” she said. “It’s been hard without him and his support with the kids.”
She said that she’s seen Willis become Christian.
“He’s trying to live by God’s way,” Jordan Willis said. “He’s a man who made a mistake he wishes he could take back.”
Samuels’s mother, Lacretia Morris, who spoke before Jordan Willis, said that she found out about her son’s murder on the morning of Dec. 22.
She had just seen him a few days before.
“My last words to him were, ‘I love you and don’t go over there and make somebody want to do something to you,” Morris said, referring to the ex-girlfriend’s house.
She said that her son changed after he became addicted to methamphetamine.
“I was deathly worried about him,” she said. “I was trying but he was a grown man and there’s only so much a mother can do.”