Judge takes 20 minutes to convict man in 8-year-old's 'horrific' beating death from 2020

Courtney Fischer Image
Monday, April 15, 2024
Judge takes 20 minutes to convict man in 8-year-old's beating death
Brian Coulter is guilty of beating 8-year-old Kendrick Lee to death and leaving his body to decompose in an apartment where the boy's brothers lived.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Years after a young boy's skeletal remains were found in a Harris County apartment where his brothers were living alone, the man accused of beating the child to death is headed to prison.

Brian Coulter, 34, has been convicted of capital murder and will serve life in prison for killing Kendrick Lee. Coulter pleaded not guilty but opted for a bench trial without a jury present.

After deliberating for about 20 minutes, Judge Kelli Johnson of the 178th Harris County Criminal District Court convicted Coulter.

The judge addressed Coulter, calling the case "the most horrific set of facts" she's ever heard.

"Sir, those children have haunted me this last week," Johnson said to an impassive Coulter. "I hope, sir, when you're in prison, those same boys that have haunted my mind haunt yours."

Coulter, who did not testify during his trial, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, still wearing a yellow jumpsuit as he did throughout trial, after Johnson's ruling Monday afternoon. Coulter's attorneys said they planned to file an appeal. They declined to comment after the verdict.

"The death of Kendrick Lee was so tragic, and the fact that for so long there was no one to speak up for him, we felt like we had a duty to be his voice," Celeste Byrom, the Harris County assistant district attorney, said as she addressed the media.

The three surviving brothers of the 8-year-old boy, whose decomposing body was found in October 2021, told their story in court Thursday of what life was like living with their mother's alleged abusive boyfriend.

In the capital murder trail for Brian Coulter, 8-year-old Kendrick Lee's surviving brothers testified on Thursday.

One by one, the siblings, now ages 17, 12, and 9 years old, took the stand on the trial's third day, testifying for hours about how Coulter kicked, hit, and punched Kendrick for months leading up to his death. The two younger brothers said Coulter abused them as well.

The 9-year-old, who was 7 at the time of Kendrick's death, told Judge Johnson he was in the room when Coulter killed Kendrick.

"I saw (Coulter) beat (Kendrick) up," the child said. "(Coulter) used his fists."

He explained that Coulter used the children's toys to beat Kendrick, specifically a Spider-Man figurine and model jet. The 9-year-old said Kendrick "stopped moving," and then Coulter "put the blue blanket on top (of him)."

The 12- and 9-year-old brothers described how they were often locked in a bedroom at the family's Alief-area apartment. Prosecutors showed photos of the bedroom door with an exterior deadbolt lock replacing the knob. The children told the judge they weren't allowed to come out and were forced to go to the bathroom in the bedroom.

Deputies discovered Kendrick's body was just a skeleton when HCSO found it under a blue blanket on Oct. 24, 2021.

The eldest brother called 911. He was 15 years old at the time. Prosecutors played the call during closing arguments.

"My brother is dead, and he's been dead for a while," the teen can be heard saying. He explained to the dispatcher that his mom and her boyfriend moved out. "It's just me and my two other brothers here."

The teen, now 17, was the only one of the three brothers to testify in the same room as Coulter but did not look at the man he once thought of as a "father figure."

The two younger brothers testified via video from another room after a Texas Children's doctor, psychologist, counselor, and their adoptive mother testified that being in the same room as Coulter could resurrect the trauma they've suffered, creating a significant setback.

ABC13 is not identifying any of the boys, per strict orders from the court, who were all minors when the alleged abuse occurred.

ORIGINAL REPORT: 9-year-old has been dead inside SW Houston apartment for a year, 3 other kids were abandoned: HCSO

The eldest child, who is 15, told deputies that no adult has lived in the apartment for several months, and that his room was next door to where he kept his little brother's decaying corpse. HCSO spoke with the children's mother Sunday night.

Gloria Williams, the children's mother, is also charged in connection with her son's death. She's expected to stand trial in the coming months for injury to a child and tampering with a corpse. Though, Williams is not charged with murder.

READ MORE: Texts revealed in capital murder trial show boy's mom finding son 'looking dead,' prosecutors say

The trial continued Wednesday for Brian Coulter, the man accused of beating 8-year-old Kendrick Lee and leaving his body in an apartment.

Much of last Wednesday's time in court was spent looking at text messages the state said were shared between Coulter and Williams.

Williams was accused of telling Coulter that Kendrick had feces on him and wasn't moving. She went on to say her son "looked dead," asking Coulter to clean him up.

Other texts show Coulter allegedly told Williams that "it was in God's hands" and "not to worry."

These messages were sent a year before Kendrick Lee was found dead by authorities.

The trial began last Tuesday with testimony from multiple state witnesses, including an investigator.

SEE ALSO: Capital murder trial starts for man accused in death of a boy whose body was found in apartment

The trial started Tuesday for Brian Coulter, the man accused of beating 8-year-old Kendrick Lee, then leaving his body to decompose in an apartment.

HCSO investigators described the scene they found inside the apartment as horrific, with one testifying it was one of the worst scenes he's ever worked. Prosecutors played body camera footage on Tuesday, showing two shocked deputies as they pulled back a blue blanket, exposing Kendrick's skeleton on a bedroom floor.

More crime scene photos taken that day showed the then-10-year-old brother with a swollen jaw. Investigators said the boy was beaten so severely he needed surgery.

The boys lived in the apartment without electricity and beds to sleep on, with roaches everywhere and, as one investigator recalled, a distinct smell.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Coulter was arrested in Luling, Texas, for unlawful possession of a weapon. Investigators believe he had killed Kendrick days before that arrest.

Months later, in March 2021, court records show Coulter and Williams moved out of the apartments on Green Crest Drive and abandoned the children.

According to the boys, Williams and Coulter would return every few weeks to drop off some food. Coulter allegedly beat the younger two during those trips.

By around September or October of that year, the electricity was cut off to the apartment.

On Oct. 26, 2021, two days after deputies found Kendrick Lee's remains, Coulter and Williams were arrested outside the Robinson-Westchase Library on Wilcrest, where they were captured on surveillance video.

Sources said they were at the library searching for news articles about the case. By this time, Williams' sons were in Child Protective Services custody.

The medical examiner ruled Kendrick died from "homicidal violence."

The state rested its case on Thursday. Coulter's attorneys opted not to present a defense and rested their case Monday.

RELATED: Timeline: What we know so far about the murder of 8-year-old Kendrick Lee

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RELATED: Timeline: What we know so far about murder of 8-year-old Kendrick Lee

THE LATEST: The man, accused of beating his girlfriend's son to death and then leaving his body with his brothers to decompose in an apartment for a year, was arrested at a Buc-ee's in Luling, Texas.