Breckenridge Texan

Wimberley challenges investigator’s conclusions in murder trial

Wimberley challenges investigator’s conclusions in murder trial
September 27
21:10 2017

Wednesday afternoon’s court session in the E.C. Blair murder trial included more testimony from the main police investigator and the beginnings of defense attorney David Wimberley’s cross examination.

District Attorney Dee Peavy continued her direct examination questioning of Graham Police Department Lt. Jeff Smith, including his analysis of and opinion on text messages and phone calls between the defendant and others involved in the case of Leah Martin’s murder in May 2015. Blair has been charged with the killing and is on trial in Breckenridge on a change of venue.

In a recorded call between Blair, who was out of jail on bond, and co-defendant Ross Hellams, who was still in the Young County Jail, revealed the two men arguing about who was at the auto shop that Blair owned on the night Martin disappeared. The Dec. 2, 2015, phone call included comments by Hellams that were similar to the ones the courtroom heard yesterday from another phone call between the two.

“My wife and kids think I’m a freaking monster,” Hellams says on the recording. “I can’t do it no more. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t lie to people no more.”

Again, Blair pressured Hellams to tell him what Hellams had told police investigators. “Just tell me, Ross,” he said. Hellams was employed by Blair to run errands and take care of other tasks.

“What they’re thinking is that somebody paid (Billy Minkley Jr.) to take care of that girl, and that you are the one who paid him to do this,” Hellams said. “…If you paid Billy Minkley to do that, regardless, you’ll be charged with that. It’s a capital murder charge.”

During the conversation, Hellams goes back and forth between telling Blair that he’s doing everything he can to protect Blair and his family and insisting that Blair killed Martin himself. He even goes so far as to suggest that Blair drove Hellams’ vehicle to the auto shop that night. In the phone call, Blair adamantly repeats that Hellams is lying.

Peavy, Smith and Wimberley all agree that Hellams was lying in the phone call and that Blair was not at the repair shop the night Martin was killed. But, when Wimberley began the cross examination, he questioned Smith’s decision to believe Minkley’s version of the events that happened, rather than Hellams’ story, despite the allegation that both men continuously lied about the details.

“You do now, without a doubt in your mind, think that E.C. wasn’t at that shop that night, don’t you?” Wimberley asked. Smith confirmed that was true.

Wimberley continued pointing out inconsistencies in the stories that Minkley and Hellams told.

The defense attorney then submitted images of things found on Minkley’s phone. One was text that stated, “A little choking during sex never killed anyone, and if it did, they died happy.” He also showed and described to the witness and the jury four images of drawings on Minkley’s phone – one depicted a woman with a bag over her head; one showed a girl’s face with something over it; one was of a mouth that had blood on it; and one drawing of a skull with a hole in it.

Wimberley also attacked one of the state’s assertions about what Blair knew or didn’t know the night of the murder. The prosecution has maintained that a text sent to Blair by Hellams’ wife – asking if Blair was still at the auto shop and when Hellams would come home – indicated that Blair knew that Hellams was at the shop that night. Furthermore, the district attorney has used that to claim Blair was withholding information from the police when he didn’t tell them that Hellams might have been at the shop that night.

Wimberley’s interpretation of the same set of text messages was that Blair never directly answered Krista Hellams’ questions that night. He suggested a scenario in which Blair assumed Hellams had lied to his wife about where he was going that night and was merely covering for a friend.

Likewise, Wimberley challenged the prosecution’s depiction of text messages sent between Blair and Krista Hellams the following night, May 30, 2015, when police officers were on their way to the auto shop to investigate a report that Martin was missing. The district attorney has portrayed the texts as Blair’s desperate attempt to talk to Ross Hellams so that the two could coordinate their stories about Martin. Wimberley, instead, suggests that Blair simply wanted Hellams to meet the officers at the shop and open it up for them so that he didn’t have to go out at 10 on Saturday night.

“I don’t know why he was texting her (Krista),” Smith said.

“Exactly,” Wimberley agreed. “It’s a logical conclusion, isn’t it, that (Blair) didn’t know anything about any of this, correct?”

“It’s possible but not probable,” Smith answered.

Wimberley also went over some details of the exhumation of Martin’s body and the autopsy report, pointing out inconsistencies in Minkley’s story. Last Wednesday, Minkley pleaded guilty to murdering Martin in exchange for a sentence of life in prison and an offer of a plea deal in another case in which Minkley has confessed to killing three people in Fort Worth in 2014. For example, when Minkley described how he allegedly killed and buried Martin, he said that he and Hellams had placed a plastic bag around her head and that he removed it before he buried her. But, the autopsy revealed that the bag, as well as some plastic wrapping, was still around her head when she was exhumed.

District Judge Stephen Bristow recessed court for the night, and Wimberley’s cross examination will continue Thursday morning.

For more on Wednesday morning’s testimony, click here.


Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan


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