Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Boyfriend" gets 99 years in strangling, dismemberment of woman

Timothy Shepherd was sentenced late [October 14] to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, the maximum punishment for the murder of former girlfriend Tynesha Stewart, whom he strangled and dismembered before burning her remains on two barbecue grills in March 2007.

Sitting between his lawyers, Shepherd showed no emotion as he leaned back, rested his chin on his hand and listened to Stewart's mother and sister testify from the witness stand during their victim impact statements.

"You're no man," said Stewart's sister, Gayla Taylor. "You're still a scared little boy. I feel sorry for you. Your soul is gone."

Stewart's mother, Gale Shields, said she will forgive Shepherd and hopes he gets mental help.
"I have to forgive Timothy if I'm going to see Tynesha again," Shields said.

Testimony during the trial showed that the two had a history of domestic violence, something Stewart's mother and sister railed against after the verdict.

"Timothy once was a wonderful, wonderful man," Shields said. "There are always red flags and young people need to recognize the red flags."

It also was a point addressed in a short statement to reporters after the verdict.

"In the interest of the public, we hope the media coverage will pay more attention to the details regarding the nature of the relationship between Tynesha and Tim that could lead to this event and less on the events that occurred after the murder," said the jury foreman, who read the statement and declined to give his name.

"An increased awareness of the indicators of domestic abuse could prevent such an event in the future."

Shepherd, 28, said the two were arguing in his north Harris County apartment about a man Stewart was dating at college when she grabbed a knife from a table and came toward him.
Shepherd testified that Stewart, 19, swung a knife at him, nicking two of his fingers.

Shepherd told jurors he held her by the neck with one hand and tried to get the knife out of her hand with another as the two struggled. He said he "snapped" and strangled Stewart, then went to a hardware store to buy a jigsaw to cut up her body.

Prosecutor Kebharu Smith said Shepherd's testimony showed jurors that he was a "monster."
Chip Lewis, Shepherd's attorney, said he expected Shepherd to appeal the conviction.

Lewis' strategy, to compartmentalize what happened to Stewart's body after she had been killed, from the actual strangulation, was "almost impossible, given the decisions Shepherd made after Miss Stewart died."

During the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, Lewis argued that there wasn't enough evidence to convict Shepherd. At the punishment stage, Lewis argued that Shepherd was in the grip of "sudden passion," a legal doctrine that would have capped Shepherd's sentence at 20 years. The jury disagreed.

Prosecutor Marie Primm said she was satisfied with the verdict and noted that 99 years and a life sentence for murder are essentially the same. With either, Shepherd is eligible for parole in 30 years.

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