OPINION COLUMNS

Arrested Developments: Capital murder cases in Wise

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, March 30, 2019
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A rare indictment, at least for this area, was returned earlier this week.

Ronnie Brezina of Decatur was indicted by a grand jury for capital murder in the death of his former girlfriend, Brandy Wallen, in January of this year at a Decatur business.

Brian Knox

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first capital murder indictment in Wise County in almost nine years. The last person to be indicted for capital murder was also a Decatur case. Jose Angel Sarmiento was indicted in May 2010 for the murder of Decatur resident Bettie Lou Walker the week before Christmas of 2005.

Sarmiento was found guilty of the offense in October 2010 by a Wise County jury and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Just two weeks later, Wise County’s last capital murder sentencing took place in the same district courtroom when Stephen York was sentenced to life in prison without parole a month after pleading guilty in the death of Bridgeport Police Sgt. Randy White.

Tuesday will mark the 10th anniversary of White’s death. He was killed April 2, 2009, when York rammed into White’s car during a police pursuit that ended in Bridgeport.

I’ll have more to say about that topic in next week’s paper.

While capital murder might still be a rare charge in Wise County, the area has seen an uptick in the number of murders in recent years.

In fact, the Brezina case is the fourth indicted murder case currently being prosecuted by the district attorney’s office. When you count one more pending murder case in Jack County, which is also covered by the 271st District, that makes five cases being handled by the office.

Of the four Wise County murder cases, two have trial dates set. William Wyatt Oakes, the 17-year-old who is accused of shooting and killing his father in Rhome in August 2017, is currently set for trial May 14. The murder trial of Bridgeport resident Johnny Ray Armstrong is set for June 4. Armstrong is accused of shooting 20-year-old Ruben Dunlap of Bridgeport Feb. 28, 2018, at Armstrong’s home in the 1500 block of Brush Street in Bridgeport.

The other pending murder case, that of Marie Kimani of Rhome, has not yet been set for trial. Kimani has been charged with killing her former husband, Jonathan Tumbo, in September of last year.

CRIME STOPPER ALERT

Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators are seeking information leading to the identity and arrest of the person responsible for the theft of a check from a mailbox located on Farm Road 2048. The suspect then allegedly used the stolen check at the Home Depot in Lake Worth.

Security camera photos of the suspect can be found on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Anyone with information about the theft should call Crime Stoppers of Wise County at 800-643-TIPS(8477) or 940-627-TIPS. Calls may be made 24 hours a day, and callers will remain anonymous.

Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward for the first, most accurate tip received.

Brian Knox is the Messenger special projects editor.

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