EXCLUSIVE: Coach sheds new light on teen accused of killing his parents

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It's been seven months since former NFL player Antonio Armstrong and wife Dawn Armstrong were found shot to death in their southwest Houston home.

At the crime scene, police described the Armstrongs as "the All-American family." On the same day they were killed, their youngest teenage son was charged with their murders. He was 16 years old.

In two weeks, a judge will decide whether or not the 17-year-old should be tried as an adult.

While the Armstrong son sits in jail waiting for that hearing, his family continues supporting him. As does Coach Stephen Hill, who has known the teen since 2010.

Coach Stephen Hill met the Armstrong son back in 2010 when he was just 10 years old. He played football for Hill as a seventh grader at The Kinkaid School.

"Everybody always knew he was going to be the big man on campus. The way he walked through the halls, the way he carried himself on the football field," Hill said while smiling.

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He grew close to the whole Armstrong family, watching Dawn cheer for her son in the stands and Antonio help his son on the sidelines.

"Always seemed like they had a great relationship. They were always happy," Hill said.

Last July, everything changed.

"I was actually on my way to school and I got a text," Hill said, remembering the moment a friend told him what happened to Antonio and Dawn.

The husband and wife were both found shot in the head in their bed, on the second floor of their southwest Houston home on Palmetto Street. Police found them with pillows over their faces. Investigators say the Armstrong son had called 911 and said there had been an intruder.

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Family and friends are mourning the loss of Antonio and Dawn Armstrong.

Hours later, he was charged with their killings.

"My first inclination was that there's no possible way. There's no way he did this," Hill said.

But, there was a phone call Hill couldn't get out of his head. It was the last time the coach spoke with Antonio, two weeks before the murders.

"And in the background, Dawn said, I heard her, 'There's no way we're bringing him over there! He's struggling with his grades right now!,'" Hill said, remembering how Dawn had raised her voice.

Things hadn't worked out for the Armstrong son at The Kinkaid School. Hill says there was talk the teen would come to St. Pius X High School, where Hill now coaches.

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But on the phone that day were two frustrated parents. They had changed their minds. The teen was set to start his junior year at Lamar High School in September.

"She (Dawn) said she didn't want to pay to bring him here if he wasn't going to take care of his grades," Hill said.

Hill says Antonio and Dawn never mentioned having problems with their son.

"You know, everybody says to me, aren't you upset at him for doing this? But there were three lives destroyed that day, not just Antonio and Dawn. His life is never going to be the same, either."

Hill is right.

The high schooler lives in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center. For 210 days, the Armstrong teen has woken up inside a cell. He's allowed two books, a toothbrush, toothpaste, roll of toilet paper, deodorant and soap. He cannot have any family photos in his cell. He's not allowed to go outside, unless granted special permission. His attorneys aren't sure if he's had fresh air for the more than six months he's been there.

"I think anybody away from their home for an extended period of time - it's tough for kids," said Gisele Robinson, Superintendent with the Juvenile Justice Center.

The Armstrong son goes to school on the inside. Generally, he sees family twice a week, during two 30 minute visits.

For now, the judge has denied bond.

"He's innocent until proven guilty. They have not proven his guilt," said Rick DeToto, the teen's attorney. "If (he) were in adult court, (he) would get a bond. These juveniles are suffering by sitting in custody when they should be out."

The Armstrong son maintains that he's innocent. The three people who believe him the most are perhaps the three people you wouldn't expect: his grandparents, who are Dawn's parents and Antonio's mother. They are at every court appearance, hugging him and encouraging him, despite their own grief.

"He is eager to get to trial and to get a jury to see and understand he did not do this," Detoto added. null
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