During a press conference at City Hall earlier this afternoon, Grimes County District Attorney Tuck McLain revealed that a 911 call made last Thursday night by Hempstead resident Christopher Boulds, 26, to a law enforcement agency in Waller County prompted Friday’s arrest of Boulds and alleged fellow capital murder accomplice and Hempstead resident Joshua Ragston, 20. The district attorney said without the call, the arrests for the July 17, 2009 capital murder of the late Navasota Stolz Liquor Store owner Don Stolz, also of Hempstead, would have been made within about a month’s time.
“Other people were looked at, certainly. I suspect we took DNA samples from about a half dozen different people – maybe even more – to eliminate them or tie them in – but I will say that pretty much since from the very beginning, Mr. Boulds and Mr. Ragston were the primary suspects.”
McLain said the case was not easy to crack, as there were no witnesses inside the store and investigators were only given the description of a vehicle that left the scene.
“And we had a really weak description of somebody that thinks they saw somebody - when they were trying to walk in – that may have been involved in it,” said the district attorney. “That’s where Navasota started the case. We had nothing.”
Police Chief Shawn Myatt said evidence pointed investigators toward Hempstead “within a matter of hours” and toward the 2 suspects “within a matter of days.”
McLain said thanks to the City of Navasota’s new interview room, he was able to watch the entire interview between Boulds and investigators on a computer with a closed circuit system last Friday. McLain said there was no indication that Boulds was intoxicated or on drugs when he was brought to Navasota Police Department.
“He appeared to be very coherent; he seemed to understand exactly what he was saying. He didn’t have any problems answering any of the questions,” said the district attorney.
Though Boulds never apologized for the alleged murder, McLain said some would consider his 911 call and ultimate confession as a sign of remorse.
The district attorney said Boulds’ tie to Navasota was that he worked at a plant in the Industrial Park in Navasota.
McLain said, “It was very common when those people got paid, they would come in and cash their checks at Mr. Stolz’s liquor store. So it was common knowledge that he had a great deal of cash – particularly on paydays. And he would frequently have ten’s of thousand’s of dollars in there.”
Though Stolz had been the victim of several prior robberies, he refused to install video surveillance cameras and was fatally shot in midday on a Friday. Investigators are estimating $3,000 to $4,000 was stolen during the July 17, 2009 robbery.
Stolz’s 5-shot revolver, also called a ‘judge,’ was also missing from the store following the robbery and murder.
“It is a 5-shot revolver that can shoot either a .45 long colt or a .410 shotgun round. We believe it was loaded with five .410 shotgun rounds. That gun was missing from the store; we are assuming that was the murder weapon,” said the district attorney. “As of right now, that gun is not in my possession, so I can’t tell you whether that is the murder weapon or not.”
McLain, who has served as district attorney for the past years, said he has tried 23 murder trials, 5 of which were related to capital murders and 3 resulted in a death penalty sentencing.
“And I’ve got one on death row right now,” said the district attorney.
The last high-profile case was related to the 2002 capital murder of Navasota funeral home owner Lonnie Turner Sr.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down this morning may complicate the sentencing process, should Ragston, who was 17 at the time of the alleged murder, be convicted. Though Texas law stipulates that 17-year-olds may be tried as an adult, the ruling states that life without parole for juveniles – which includes 17-year-olds – who are convicted of murder is unconstitutional.
“Technically, under the statutes, there’s not a constitutional punishment. Common sense would say that, well, it would be life with parole. And that is something we’ll probably be fighting about,” said the district attorney.
In 2005 Texas legislators “passed what is called life without parole,” McLain said. Prior to 2005, those found guilty of capital murder were eligible for the death penalty or a life in prison sentence that included eligibility for parole in 40 years’ time.
As questions were raised about the expense of the presumable costly trial, McLain said a consortium of defense attorneys, supported by the state, would likely aid the county with prosecution and related costs. Since the county pays annual dues as a member, the assistance is reportedly already paid for.
After the press conference, the district attorney told The Examiner that jury selection alone could take several weeks to complete and he is expecting to have as many as about 50 witnesses.
View more details in this week’s Examiner.