Emotional testimony from victim's mother

October 10, 2008 2:53:52 PM PDT
The punishment phase continues in the Timothy Shepherd murder trial. Shepherd was convicted Thursday of killing Texas A&M student Tynesha Stewart. Police say he dismembered her body and burned her remains in a barbecue pit.

During about ten minutes of witness testimony in the punishment phase Friday, Gale Shields, Stewart's mother, told jurors Stewart's death has turned the family inside out. For her personally, it has affected her health and kept her awake most nights.

Her youngest child, son J.T, who was "very close" with 'Ty,' as they called her, still can't talk about his sister or what happened to her.

Kayla, Stewart's little sister, is overwhelmed with guilt for feeling she didn't do enough.

The other family members still cry often, Shields said. Shields told jurors that while she forgives Shepherd for battering and murdering Stewart, she believes in justice.

"You can forgive people, but they have to pay for what they've done," she said.

After testifying about the horrifying experience of learning her daughter had been dismembered, Shields fell apart and had to be assisted getting out of the courtroom, as she buried her faces in her hands and sobbed loudly.

According to recorded jailhouse phone conversations played in court this morning, Shepherd hoped to write a book about the killing. He told his friend that the murder had been broadcast over the likes of CNN and that if he beat the charge, he planned to write a book.

The defense called a witness, trying to show Shepherd's kinder side. Mary Paul, Tim's former youth minister and former Aldine ISD administrator, said Shepherd was a "very smart boy, a loving person and a kind heart."

Amid swapping smiles with her brother in the courtoom, Shepherd's younger sister, Deandra Washington, told jurors Friday afternoon that the two have always been very close siblings, that their lives were centered around church. Washington, a 24-year-old student at UH Law School, said Tim was a devoted, playful brother and now a young father who worships his own daughter, Anaya.

"Tim, my brother, is the type of person everyone loves to be around... He's caring. He's always concerned about others' welll-being," she said.

She extended her sympathies to Stewart's family. She described her as a sweet and ambitious young woman.

Shepherd's father, Kenneth Washington, spoke directly to jurors, pleading with them to give his son a chance. "It's been a tragedy... I think that Tim really needs a chance so the gifts that he has in him can be used."

Prosecutor Marie Primm immediately responded with a quick series of questions.

"You talk about Tim's gifts...what about Tynesha's gifts?....Would you say she had gifts?" she asked him.

Washington: "Yes, she did."
Primm: "She cannot express her love to her mother...Her mother cannot ever hear her voice again...her sister cannot hear her voice again, can she?"
Washington: "No she cannot."
Primm: "Tynesha cannot express her feelings toward her family, can she?"
Washington: "No, she cannot." Primm: "Your son took that from her, didn't he?"

Washington paused and said, "Yes, he did."

Shepherd could receive up to life in prison.

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