Killed by Car Trial: Brittany Wetzel Sentenced - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Killed by Car Trial: Brittany Wetzel Sentenced to 8 Years for Powell Death

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DAY 6, AUGUST 3, 2011

A Wichita County jury returned at 9 a.m. in the 30th district court for Brittany Wetzel's sentencing. The jury did not sentence Wetzel. Through a deal with the District Attorney's office, Wetzel has been sentenced to 8 years for her manslaughter conviction. Wetzel waived her right to a new trial and to appeal.

Family members of Timothy Eric Powell spoke directly to Wetzel after the formal sentencing. In the victim's impact statement, Powell's sister told her she forgave her. "I want to say to you, Brittany, that we forgive you for what you did," said Yanekia Walker.

Walker fought tears as she addressed Wetzel for 15 minutes. "We're hurt because you took someone from us that we can never get back, no matter what... We won't ever see Eric again until its our time to go... Do you understand how much hurt you've caused my family, my friends?... Your kids can come see you, you know what we go see, you know what we go visit? a grave... You killed my brother, intentionally, you ran him over you meant to do that... This past year since Eric's senseless murder has been a nightmare for me and my family... I've cried more in the past year than in my whole life," said Walker.

The sentencing closed the case on 15 months of work from two teams of attorneys. "I am very thankful and I know the family is as well that Ms. Wetzel is held criminally responsible for her actions that led to the death of Mr. Powell," said State's Attorney John Gillespie.

The Defense felt justice was served with the Manslaughter conviction, versus the original Murder indictment. "I think its a more appropriate reflection of the events than the charge of murder. We think the jury spoke, they saw the facts and what they believed happened is manslaughter and if that's what they believed happened that's always an appropriate verdict," said Julia Bella of the Public Defender's Office.

Still it will be a long road ahead for Powell's family. "Its been hard, its been a hard road. I miss my baby so much every night I cry, I cry, I cry," said Powell's mother Temme Doris.

Doris holds no animosity towards Wetzel, but still has unanswered questions. "I forgave her a long time ago, but I want to know what caused her to just click on him like that and take his life," she said.

Doris said Wetzel has written her two different letters in the time since Powell's death. The letters offered no real explanation, said Doris.

"I don't hate her, I like her... but she had a life ahead of her, she choose to not keep that life, she choose to go where she's going," said Doris.

Powell's family had hoped for a longer sentence, but authorized Gillespie to enter into the deal with Wetzel, fearing the Jury could give her probation. "We are satisfied she got 8 years in TDCJ because she will not be out on the streets affecting another life," said Walker.

Powell was described as a family man who loved his kids. Family said he loved flashy cars, and participated in car shows every year. Walker said his two favorite pastimes were Bar-B-Que'ing and rapping music. 'He didn't deserve to lose his life at a young age, at 27 years old," she said.

Now the family is working to find closure and peace. They have faith that a higher power will take control. "God says vengeance is his, we don't know why Eric was snapped away from us, but we know he's in a better place and we know he's resting in peace now," said Walker.

Wetzel will be credited for time served in jail.

She flashed a peace sign to her family as she was being led away to prison.

 

DAY 5, AUGUST 2, 2011

A Wichita County jury found Brittany Wetzel guilty of manslaughter and also found she used a deadly weapon after more than four hours of deliberations in the Killed by Car Trial.

Jurors were asked to decide whether Brittany Wetzel is guilty of murder in the death of Timothy Powell. Wetzel is accused of running him over her with her car last year.

In closing arguments today the defense claimed there was no evidence Wetzel was guilty. The prosecution argued all evidence pointed to murder.

Jurors were instructed about the deliberations and read the formal charge. They were told to consider the charge of Murder, and if they do not find her guilty of Murder to consider Manslaughter and then Criminally Negligent Homicide before finding her not guilty.

John Gillespie took the first few minutes of the 45 he had requested for the close. He read many of the text messages sent from Wetzel to Powell in the days leading up to his death.

Gillespie apologized to the Jurors for many instances of foul language in the messages.

Julia Bella took far less than the 45 minutes she was allowed. She told the jurors that the State had not proven the case. She told jurors there were not any reasons they should find her guilty of Murder.

Gillespie finished his close by outlining what he feels are the reasons that Wetzel formed the intent to kill Powell. He ask jurors to not confuse intent with premeditation. He said there was no premeditation in this case, but that intent was formed.

The Jury got the case around 10:30 a.m. Jurors came out with a question at about 12:45 p.m. Judge Bob Brotherton then dismissed them for lunch. Deliberations continued until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

DAY 4, AUGUST 1, 2011

Day four of the Killed by Car Trial started with the Defense making its case. The team, led by Julia Bella, presented testimony from only one witness before resting.

The woman called was the neighbor of Brittany Wetzel at the time of Timothy Eric Powell's death. The woman testified she heard voices arguing and then saw Wetzel being roughed up by an African-American man. She said it appeared Wetzel was trying to get away from the man, and was successful several times.

The next witness was called. A Wichita Falls 911 Dispatcher took the stand long enough to state his name and occupation. He was excused. Jurors were given a 10 minute recess to the hall.

During that time Wetzel and attorneys from both sides approached the bench and court reporter. Jurors were called back in and the Defense rested.

Jurors were excused until 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Both sides held a charge conference. Jurors will be read the charge and closing arguments will begin after that. Each side will have 45 minutes for close. Judge Bob Brotherton said the court would then recess for lunch, and Jurors would deliberate guilt or innocence after lunch.

DAY 3, July 28, 2011

Thursday morning started off with the remainder of the WFPD interview footage. In it, Wetzel is shown talking to Detectives Love and Montana.

In addition to the several versions of the story jurors heard from Wetzel Tuesday afternoon, several more were revealed. "I was trying to shake him up, not kill him," Wetzel was heard saying.

John Gillespie used a whiteboard to write down 7 different versions of the story, as told by Wetzel in the 90 minute interview.

On cross examination by Julia Bella, Detective Love defended his interview technique. Love was heard telling Wetzel the physical evidence at the scene indicated she did it on purpose. On questioning from Bella, Love admitted that was based on his own observations at the scene. He said the accident reconstructionist's report was not received by detectives until two days later.

Bella asserted Love did not have the training to make physical observations at the crime scene. Love said he had the common sense.

The exchange between the two got so heated, Judge Bob Brotherton had to order Bella to slow down. "One at a time, Ms. Bella. Let him finish," said His Honor.

After a lunch break, proceedings resumed at 1:00 p.m.

Wetzel waived her right to be in the room for forensic testimony and evidence. She sat in the Jury Room.

The State called the Tarrant County Medical Examiner. Marc Krause testified about the autopsy report. He said the pain cause of death was blunt force and crushing trauma to most of Powell's body.

Powell's spleen and heart sustained serious damage, and his pelvis was crushed. Most of his body was injured, or deformed by the incident.

Krause said Powell's brain was injured to the point that, had he survived, he would have probably been in a vegetative state.

Many graphic photographs were shown from the examination. It was difficult for some in the courtroom to watch. Some were tearing up or looking away.

Krause testified a drug screening on Powell came back negative for all drugs and alcohol in his system at the time of death.

Powell's sister took the stand briefly.

The State rested just after 2:00 p.m. and court was recessed until 1:30 p.m. Monday

 

DAY 2, July 27, 2011

Wednesday morning started off with the formal indictment being read to the Jury. Brittany Wetzel entered a formal plea of not guilty. She is accused of killing Timothy Powell by running him over with her car.

In the State's opening statement, John Gillespie laid out the alleged timeline of events.

Gillespie said Wetzel and Timothy Powell, who goes by Eric, had been dating for 1 year. He said Wetzel was upset Powell had been out the night before without her. Gillespie said they started arguing during lunch at Stanley's BBQ. Once they got home, the argument continued and escalated into a scuffle until Powell walked away. Gillespie said Wetzel put her kids in the car and went after Powell. Gillespie said she followed Powell for several block screaming at him to get in the car. Gillespie said Wetzel jumped a curb and tried to hit Powell with her car but missed. He said Powell kept walking. The situation continued to near 9th and Harrison. There, Gillespie said Wetzel accelerated and ran over Powell. Gillespie said Wetzel circled around to hit him again, but her car got stuck in mud. Gillespie said Wetzel then stole $128 in cash from Powell as he lay dying on the ground.

During the Defense's opening statement, Julia Bella said it was all just a tragic accident fueled by emotions on both sides.

She said Wetzel was in fear for her life. Bella said Powell's street name was "Insane," and Wetzel feared him. She said the relationship had taken a violent turn and Powell told Wetzel he was going to get a gun and shoot her.

Bella said Wetzel followed Powell at a slow, safe speed. Bella said her intentions were to prevent Powell from getting to his home on 14th St. where he had a gun.

Bella claimed the money taken from Powell was at his own request. Bella said Powell did not want to get caught with drugs and tried to get personal items off of him.

The morning continued with testimony from a witness, Pamela Strawn. Testimony also was heard from a WFPD Officer, Jon Challis.

Morning recess happened at 10:30 a.m.    

After a morning recess, the courtroom became quite emotional.

Crime scene video was shown, along with testimony from the crime scene tech. Video showed the scene of the death. Tires tracks were seen in the soft ground of an empty lot. A gold car was seen stuck in the mud.

Video from the hospital was very graphic. It showed Mr. Powell's body, after he had been run over by the car. A number of family members had to leave in tears. "My baby, my baby," cried one woman.

Wetzel was also impacted by the sight. She started bawling and became ill. Jurors were excused from the room for a few minutes. A tearful Wetzel took the stand to waive her right to be present during the video evidence from the hospital.

After a lunch break, court resumed with testimony at 1:30 p.m.

The State called Warren Carter and LaQuita Jones, two people who testified to seeing Wetzel following Powell with her car. They both testified the two were fighting and Wetzel was the aggressor. Both testified seeing the car jump onto the grass, trying to hit Powell. Neither one saw the fatal incident.

A crash investigator from the WFPD was on the scene just before 2:30 p.m.

The jury also heard text messages between Wetzel and Powell.

There were some very abusive words exchanged mostly from her to him.

Also the number of texts was disproportionately from her to him.

19 days before police say Wetzel ran Powell over she sent him a text that read, "I know where you are and you know what I'm capable of."

Detective Brad Love testified that the text painted a picture of someone who was unstable.

The jury also heard from witnesses who saw Wetzel chasing Powell with her car that day.

Jurors also saw much of the 90 minute interview Wichita Falls police detectives conducted with Wetzel the day of the alleged murder.

In it she changed her story several times, first saying it was an accident.

Then saying he jumped in front of her car.

She also blamed her brakes as being faulty.

Toward the end of Tuesday's proceedings, Wetzel was heard on tape saying she just meant to scare Powell.



DAY 1, July 26, 2011

Voir dire proceedings got underway at 9:00 a.m. in the 30th District Court. Brittany Wetzel is on trial for Murder. The Killed By Car Trial is being argued by John Gillespie from the DA's Office and Julia Bella of the Public Defender's Office.

A pool of 60 prospective jurors were called before Judge Bob Brotherton. They were given instructions and then sworn as jurors.

The State began with Gillespie introducing himself, then explaining legal definitions. He went around the room asking questions of the pool.

Brotherton instructed the panel they would probably not finish this week. He said if proceedings were not wrapped up at 5:00 p.m. Thursday, court would resume at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Voir dire resumed at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, after a lunch recess. Julia Bella with the Public Defender's Office took the floor. Bella went over many of the same legal definitions Gillespie did in the morning. She went over what constitutes Murder.

During her discussion of the 5th Amendment, Bella said it is possible Wetzel could take the stand in her own defense.

Domestic violence was touched on by both defense and DA. Many sensitive questions were asked of the panel related to domestic violence.

A jury was seated at around 3:50 p.m. Jurors were then given instructions and sent home.


BACKGROUND

In April of last year, Wichita Falls Police were dispatched to Sunset and Talunar in reference to a domestic disturbance between a woman and two men. 

While on the way to the call, police were directed to 9th & Harrison where reports were being called in of a man hit by a car. 

Click here for more information, including links to affidavits

There, police found Timothy Eric Powell, unconscious and unresponsive, on the ground behind a house on 9th street.

After being questioned 24-year-old Brittany Wetzel admitted that she intentionally hit the Powell with her car because she claims he had assaulted her earlier and she thought he was going get a gun and come after her.

Wetzel claimed that she did not intend to kill the victim, and said she was only trying to "shake him up".

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