Breckenridge Texan

Rebuttal phase wraps up in Blair murder trial, closing arguments scheduled for Thursday morning

Rebuttal phase wraps up in Blair murder trial, closing arguments scheduled for Thursday morning
October 04
19:45 2017

The attorneys in the Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair murder trial wrapped up the rebuttal phase, including the extraneous evidence presentation, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 4, in the Stephens County Courthouse.

Thursday morning’s session is expected to start with 90th District Judge Stephen Bristow reading the jury charge, followed by the closing arguments in the case in which Blair is being tried for the murder of Leah Martin in 2015. Then, the jury deliberation will begin.

After Tiffany Lee testified Wednesday morning about her involvement with Blair, her son’s grandfather, and the harassment she experienced after breaking up with him, Graham police investigator Lt. Jeff Smith was recalled to the witness stand. Special Prosecutor David Alex questioned Smith about Lee’s 2008 complaints to police about the harassment.

Smith testified that during his investigation, he discovered that Blair had paid one of his employees, Joshua Wells, to visit Lee’s home and harass her new boyfriend, as well as to throw bricks through her living room window and the windows of two vehicles. However, Smith said, Lee dropped the charges before he interviewed Wells. In Wednesday’s court proceedings, the jury was told that Wells had confessed to the harassment.

The investigator also alleged that Lee dropped the charges because Blair had paid her money in exchange for letting it go.

On cross-examination, defense attorney David Wimberley confirmed with Smith that Blair was never charged with anything in the 2008 case. Wimberley also said Wells had admitted to the harassment only after he was facing prison time for violating his probation, and he compared the situation to that of Billy Minkley Jr. who confessed to killing Martin in a plea deal.

The prosecution also put Phillip Gregory, the assistant district attorney in Young and Stephens counties, on the stand. Gregory said he had represented Ross Hellams, a co-defendant in the murder of Martin, at one point and had, therefore, been excluded from this case.

He testified that he was prosecutor in Wells’ probation revocation and that he worked with Wells’ attorney to get him into the substance abuse prison program at the Walker-Sayle in Stephens County. He said that he did that with no knowledge of the Blair case or of Wells’ former association with Blair.

District Attorney Dee Peavy then called Wells to the stand. He said that he had just been released from the Walker-Sayle unit two days ago and is living in a half-way house in Fort Worth. She questioned him about his affiliation with Blair.

Wells confessed to harassing Lee for Blair. He listed at least two times that Blair paid him $100 for the work. “I was just trying to be cool,” he said. “The guy I was working for (Blair) told me he would fix her car anyway.”

In his cross-examination, Wimberley asked Wells about his past drug use and if he was fired from the auto repair shop that Blair had with his brother. “No, I just kind of quit coming to work,” Wells said.

When the defense called witnesses, Wimberley re-called Jason Hammond, who also used to work at the auto shop in 2008. Hammond testified that Wells was fired for stealing two radios from vehicles at the shop, as well as for his drug use. Defense witness Sean Cason also supported that account.

During the prosecution’s questioning of Smith, they also asked him, again, about the security video system at E.C.’s Auto Repair shop, owned by Blair at the time Martin was allegedly killed there. He agreed with the previous testimony of former police officer Jim Reeves, contradicting Pete Clark’s description of the security system.

Both sides rested in the rebuttal section, and the judge released the jury for the night. The trial will begin again at 9 a.m. Thursday.


Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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