Breckenridge Texan

September 28
13:10 2017

As part of his cross examination process in the trial taking place at the Stephens County courthouse, defense attorney David Wimberley handed the jury a pry bar, similar to the alleged murder weapon, that was seized as evidence in the case.

Police investigators took several pry bars from E.C.’s Auto Repair shop in Graham as they searched for clues in the disappearance of Leah Martin, who was last seen alive by her family and friends in Graham on May 29, 2015. Her remains were found later that summer in a rural area outside of Graham.

Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair owned the auto shop where Martin worked and where her pickup was found the next morning. He also was reportedly having an affair with the 22-year-old single mother.

He has been charged with her murder and is on trial in Breckenridge on a change of venue. Ross Hellams, who also worked for Blair, has also been charged. Hellams and his family had lived on the property where Martin’s body was found.

Also charged in the murder was Billy Ray Minkley Jr. Last week, Minkley pleaded guilty to murdering Martin with a pry bar at the auto shop. He received a life sentence and an offer of a plea deal in another case in which he has confessed to killing three people in Fort Worth.

Graham Police Department Investigator Lt. Jeff Smith was on the witness stand this morning, Thursday, Sept. 28, as Wimberley cross examined. Smith has said several times during his testimony that the police do not know if any of the pry bars they confiscated was  the pry bar Minkley allegedly used.

However, he said that the one Wimberley handed to the jury was the one that came closest to fitting the description Minkley gave.

Since the pry bar is evidence in the case, it was wrapped in the original evidence bag and then wrapped again by the defense to further protect it. Wimberley wanted the jury to feel the heft of the bar, which is said to weigh about 5 pounds.

As each juror took the pry bar, some immediately passed it to the next juror, while others held it longer and more closely examined it.

Wimberley has questioned Minkley’s description of the murder, specifically the claim that he hit Martin on the head with the pry bar hard enough knock her down and possibly unconscious. The autopsy report showed no damage to Martin’s skull. The defense attorney has indicated that he does not find the scenario plausible.

Minkley’s believability is critical to the case because he says that he committed the murder at the request of Blair and that he was paid by Blair with a pickup and a small amount of cash.

Wimberley will continue his cross examination after lunch.

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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