John Wesley Walsh, 45, was found guilty of burglary Tuesday after 15 minutes of deliberation by the jury. Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd prosecuted the case, and District Judge Lauren Parish presided.
The state moved into the punishment phase Tuesday after providing to the jury an enhancement of punishment as evidence that the defendant had previously been convicted of multiple felonies and was considered an habitual offender, increasing the punishment range to no less than 25 years in prison up to life.
The burglary was committed on Nov. 7, 2007, at a home located off FM 852 west of Gilmer.
The homeowner, a retired U.S. Marine, had a son who attends a local school get off the bus to find their home burglarized. The son contacted his mother and then 9-1-1.
Upshur County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randall Norred was the first to arrive on the scene. Sgt. Norred secured the scene and found multiple broken windows on the back side of the residence. At the point of entry, there was two drops of blood found on the inside of the home.
Sgt. Norred photographed the blood and home and contacted Sheriff’s Investigator Chase Mullins, who collected the blood as evidence and searched for additional evidence, Byrd said.
The homeowner arrived and took the officers through the house, documenting multiple firearms, jewelry and money that had been stolen. Broken glass was found scattered throughout the residence as officers dusted for fingerprints.
Mullins sent the blood to the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Garland for DNA testing.
Melissa Hass, a forensic scientist employed by the crime lab, testified to the jury that she was able to develop a male profile in March, 2008, from the blood submitted.
The results were placed in a computer crime bank to randomly search for previous offenders both in the state and nationally.
In May, there was a positive match to Walsh, Byrd said.
Mullins got a search warrant from the District Attorney’s Office and got a saliva sample from Walsh for further testing.
The defendant was in the Upshur County Jail at the time for an unrelated charge of credit card abuse, Byrd said.
Ms. Haas tested the saliva sample and after comparing DNA samples from it and the blood, testified that “with all scientific certainty that the blood found inside the home of the victims was that of Walsh,” Byrd said. “The probably that the blood belonged to someone other than the defendant was more than the population of 27 billion earths.”
Evidence showed that the homeowners never recovered any of their property, some of which had been in their family for years, Byrd said. One son is in the Marines and serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. The son had saved his money earned in the Marines to buy a specific type of weapon, which was stolen and never recovered.
During the punishment phase, the state called witnesses to prove the credit card abuse case from Dec. 10, 2007, and was able to show that a case of assault against his ex-wife is still pending.
“Further, evidence showed that the defendant had committed the burglary of a habitation less than one month after being released from parole,” Byrd said. “His criminal history spanned more than three decades and all previous convictions were proven in the punishment phase of the trial.”
The defendant, who did not testify in the guilt/innocence phase, did take the stand in his defense during punishment. The defendant maintained his innocence of the burglary that the jury convicted him of just the day before.
“It was brought before the jury during cross examination by the state that this defendant, while serving a 20-year sentence for murder in Bexar County in 1982 was recruited in prison to become a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
He later admitted to becoming a general in 2007 and was involved in a plot to kill a police officer in New Mexico in 2007 who had taken down another general within the crime family. This gang operates both within prison and outside.
“I am thankful to both the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office and the jury in this case for their strong and resounding sentence,” Byrd said. “John Wesley Walsh forfeited all rights to live in a free and civilized society because of his choices. We are safer knowing John Wesley Walsh, a very dangerous criminal, will never walk out of prison.
“As I told the jury in closing argument on punishment, if we want a community fit to live in, we must be willing to take a stand and fight for that community. Our community won.”