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Family seeks justice for murder victim

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, June 6, 2018

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Family Support

FAMILY SUPPORT – The family of 20-year-old Ruben Dunlap, who was shot and killed earlier this year, came to court Monday morning in matching shirts and a photo of Dunlap for the arraignment of Johnny Armstrong, who has been indicted for Dunlap’s murder. The shirts feature Dunlap’s own words and handwriting. Messenger photo by Brian Knox

Ten members of Ruben Dunlap’s family filled up half of the first two rows of benches in 271st District Court in Decatur Monday morning.

They stood out from the other defendants and family members who had gathered for an arraignment docket in the second floor courtroom at the courthouse. Each family member wore gray T-shirts featuring the words and handwriting of the young man who was shot and killed earlier this year at the age of 20.

“it’s always darkest Right before the light,” the shirts said.

Dunlap’s mother, Maria Garza, said the words were part of a letter her son had written.

Underneath Dunlap’s words on the T-shirt was “#justiceforRuben” with “Ruben” also written in Dunlap’s handwriting.

The family had gathered to see the man accused of murdering Dunlap, but they were disappointed to find out on Friday that Johnny Ray Armstrong would not be in the courtroom in person but rather be connecting with the court like the other defendants in the Wise County Jail that day: via video conferencing.

Garza described why they had come to the courtroom.

“Just so he could see the impact he’s had on this family, and it still continues,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”

As Armstrong’s name was called for his arraignment, Garza held up a large canvass photo of Dunlap’s face for those in the courtroom to see. After District Judge Brock Smith confirmed the spelling of Armstrong’s name with the defendant and explained the charge, he asked how Armstrong would plead.

“At this time, not guilty your honor,” Armstrong’s court-appointed attorney, David Holmes, responded from the front of the courtroom.

The 37-year-old Armstrong was indicted May 17 for Dunlap’s murder. Investigators say Armstrong shot Dunlap in the head on the evening of Feb. 28 at Armstrong’s home in the 1500 block of Brush Street in Bridgeport. Dunlap was taken to Medical City Denton, where he died after being taken off life support the following day.

Armstrong fled the scene of the shooting and was arrested the next day at the Alvord Truck Stop.

After the arraignment, Garza said it was important for the family to be in the courtroom, but she wished Armstrong could have been there to see the family left to deal with the tragedy.

“Nobody knows Ruben. The courtrooms don’t know Ruben. That’s why I have his picture. He came from a large family. We’re just wanting to see justice. I feel like I have my right to see that face to face,” she said.

A trial date has not been set.

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