Breckenridge Texan

Blair murder trial goes to jury

October 05
13:25 2017

Both sides presented their closing arguments and the case was officially turned over to the jury in the Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair murder trial Thursday morning, Oct. 5, in the Stephens County Courthouse.

At the beginning of the court proceedings, 90th District Judge Stephen Bristow read to the jury the official charge Blair faces, as well as the instructions they must follow when deciding his fate. Blair is charged with the murder of Leah Martin on or about May 29, 2015, in Young County. Ross Hellams and Billy Ray Minkley Jr. were also charged in the murder. Hellams is in the Young County jail pending his own trial. Minkley pleaded guilty to Martin’s murder in exchange for 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.

Martin worked at E.C.’s Auto Repair, which was owned by Blair, and she was reportedly having an affair with him.

District Attorney Dee Peavy presented the first half of the State’s closing arguments. “We’ve heard a lot of evidence and testimony, but I want to take you back to why we are here, and that is a young girl, a young woman, was murdered in cold blood,” Peavy said. “This defendant murdered her, maybe not by his own hand, but he caused her death.”

She walked the jury through much of the activity and testimony that has taken place since Sept. 18, when the jury was first selected, pointing out specific details. She said that although Hellams and Minkley didn’t have motive to kill Martin, they had incentive — some type of payment or benefit from Blair.

On the other hand, she said Blair had a motive to kill Martin or have her killed. “You have heard his statement that things had to get back to normal,” Peavy said. “She was causing problems for the Blair household.”

Peavy reminded the jury that the prosecution’s case is based on circumstantial evidence. “All the pieces of circumstantial evidence — on their own — may not prove him guilty, but when stacked on top of each other, they are overwhelming,” she said. “When the pieces all fit together, they fit together to form a picture…”

Defense attorney David Wimberley then presented his closing arguments. “I’m going to ask you three things,” he told the jury. “Don’t forget your common sense…don’t make a decision you’re going to regret tomorrow or next week…if you have reasonable doubt when you walk out of this box, vote not guilty when you get in the jury room.”

Wimberley spent his hour for closing arguments going through what he characterized as inconsistencies and illogical conclusions in the prosecution’s case.

“One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard was when Minkley said he left the gun at the shop because he was scared of having it on him,” Wimberley said. “He has a dead body in the back of the truck, and he’s worried about a gun? Unbelievable.”

The defense attorney said he thinks Martin went up to the repair shop to pick up a pair of shoes and came across Hellams and Minkley. Wimberley surmised that they were doing drugs and/or raped her and that she was killed to prevent her from reporting their actions.

“You don’t kill somebody on the Main Street on graduation night at your own place of business and then leave her truck there. Only a couple of cracked-up idiots would do that,” Wimberley said.

He also focused on the alleged murder weapon — a pry bar — and the lack of damage to Martin’s skull. “The whole story’s a lie,” he said. “Take that crowbar back to the jury room. Pick it up. Swing it. Try to imagine what it would do to that poor girl’s head.”

Special Prosecutor David Alex gave the final half-hour of the prosecution’s closing statements. “It will be real easy for you to go back there with all this evidence and testimony and make this a complicated thing,” he said. “But it’s not complicated. It’s really simple. This defendant was at the center of all this.”

After Alex concluded the state’s closing argument, the case was officially given to the jury for deliberation.

Bristow said if Blair is found not guilty, the trial will be over and Blair will be a free man. If he is found guilty, the trial will move into the punishment phase. Bristow said in the case of a guilty verdict, the defense may need some time to call defense witnesses.

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan



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