OPINION COLUMNS

Trial painted a tragic picture

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, December 29, 2018
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I think I spent more time in the Wise County courthouse this year covering trials than ever before. But the one trial that will remain in my memory long after the details of the other trials have faded away is the murder trial of Jake Abel.

The word “tragic” gets thrown around way too much, and I usually try to avoid using it in my stories, but there’s no way other than tragic to describe this case all the way around.

Brian Knox

During the 11 days of testimony in January, a number of friends of the late Soccorro “Soco” Taylor described a woman who was trying to get her life back on track after serving time in prison for mail fraud. She had gotten a good job and was staying off drugs.

But her life began to spiral downward, they said, after she began a dating relationship with Jake Abel. The friends described bruises that appeared on Soco’s body, her withdrawal away from them, her life becoming once again gripped by drug addiction and the loss of her job.

Soco had been engaged to marry Abel, but one of friends testified about a prophetic statement she made to Soco following one of the brutal beatings.

“I told (Soco), ‘We are going to end up planning your funeral instead of your wedding,'” her friend Teila Reyes testified.

Two months later, friends and family were indeed planning Soco’s funeral after her body was found buried in a shallow grave near Boyd just after Christmas of 2015.

Perhaps some of the most stirring words from the trial came from Soco herself in the form of her diary entries read by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry.

“God give me strength to be strong through all of this.”

“I really am hurt.”

“Another lonely day. I feel out of place with him. My head hurts from trying to make him happy. My life is in limbo.”

That last line was her final entry.

Medical examiners determined she was killed when struck in the head by a blunt object at least twice with such force that it broke off a piece of her skull and penetrated her brain. Her throat had been cut so deep that it severed an artery and her windpipe.

“Everyone could envision how this would end, but no one could imagine the brutality,” Assistant District Attorney Lindy Borchardt told jurors during the state’s closing argument in the first phase of the trial.

A Wise County jury found Abel guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. He has appealed the verdict, and the case is still pending in the Second Court of Appeals in Tarrant County as the year draws to a close.

Over my years writing for the Messenger, I’ve covered plenty of domestic abuse cases. Way too many. It’s not a problem confined to Wise County, but this is our home, so this is where we see its face.

My hope for the coming year is that any other women or men out there in abusive relationships get the help they need before a similar tragedy takes place.

Brian Knox is special projects editor.

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