The jury didn’t need long to decide the fate of 27-year-old Shawn Patrick Layton Thursday in the 266th Judicial District Court in Stephenville, wrapping up the three-day trial by giving him the maximum penalty under the law.
After the jury found Layton guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the December 2017 shooting of Tarleton State University student Jamie Richards, the group of eight men and four women also sentenced him to 20 years in prison, along with a $10,000 fine.
Richards, a psychology major at TSU, was just finishing her sophomore year and was living at the Oak Tree Apartments on the north side of Stephenville when the shooting occurred on the night of Dec. 11, 2017.
Richards, still just 19 years old, survived the 9-mm gunshot to the face that severed her spinal cord, but was diagnosed as a quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair. She is continuing physical rehab at a facility in Houston.
Both the jury’s guilty verdict deliberation, along with consideration of the sentence, took less than 20 minutes each.
“I’m glad he’s getting punishment, but I wish it was longer,” Richards told the E-T after the sentencing. “I was just minding my business watching TV. I’d never met him.”
Richards responded to a knock at her door shortly before 10 p.m. that night. She told investigators that she never saw the shooter’s face because he was wearing a dark “shiny mask,” but she did see the handgun that was pointing at her.
‘HE SHOT ME’
“I was telling him, ‘Wait,' but he shot me,” said Richards, noting that she was anxious before coming to the courthouse, where she was the final witness brought to the stand.
“This morning, I could not eat or drink anything,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Jett Smith and D.A. Alan Nash presented the case that Layton had intended the bullet for a man, Jeremy Lau, in a case of mistaken identity.
“Richards lay paralyzed but alert for approximately three hours until a neighbor discovered her,” Nash stated. “Richards, unable to move, had attempted to dial 911 by using Siri on her iPhone, but the phone did not dial.”
Nash said that Richards had said, “I could not move my fingers, and I thought I was going to die.”
Layton, who did not testify, told investigators that Lau was his marijuana dealer, and that he owed Lau about $700 for “fronting” him some of the pot.
Court-appointed attorney Andrew Ottaway of Granbury told the jury before the sentencing phase that he had “no quarrel” with the guilty verdict. Ottaway told the E-T that his client had wanted to take the stand to say he was sorry for what happened, but he advised Layton against doing that.
“I’m glad the verdict came back as guilty,” said Richards’ mother, Jessica Hogland of Conroe. “I’m glad that part is over, and we can move on. I don’t think it’s justice because Jamie — this is going to be a lifetime ordeal for her.”
Jamie’s stepfather, Eddy Hogland, said he tried not to think about Layton, who was looking down during Jamie Richards’ testimony.
“Now it’s over, and I’m relieved we can focus on Jamie getting better every day. As long as we have him locked up, I’m a happy camper.”
Although Layton got the maximum sentence allowed for that offense, he could be eligible for early parole with good behavior after serving half of the sentence (10 years).
USING METH ‘FOR DAYS’
In explaining the case of mistaken identity, Nash noted that Lau’s apartment was one building over from the building where Richards was living — “in an identically-situated unit.”
“After shooting Richards, Layton fled with his girlfriend, Amber Talamantez, leaving Richards collapsed in her doorway," Nash said.
“In interviews with police, both Talamantez and Layton revealed they had been using marijuana and methamphetamine ‘for days.’ Text messages recovered from Layton’s phone revealed that, just before the shooting, he told a neighbor that he had ‘a score to settle.’ After the shooting, Layton sent a text that he had ‘taken care of it’ and was ‘down’ for hanging out.”
Kevin Fincher, an investigator, testified that the manager of the apartment complex where Richards was shot told him that one resident had asked him about breaking his lease because he wanted to move away.
That resident at Oak Tree Apartments was Jeremy Lau, Fincher testified.
“It certainly got my attention,” Fincher said, noting that Lau was from Malasia. “He believed himself to be the intended victim (of the shooting).”
‘NOT THAT TYPE OF PERSON’
In a video of Layton being interviewed by Fincher and D.A. Investigator Ed Gordon, the suspect stated that his own apartment had been burglarized and he blamed that on Lau because of Layton’s debt.
In that same Dec. 19 video, Layton had waived his Miranda rights and told the investigators, “This is very scary. I haven’t done anything, I would never hurt anybody. I’m not that type of person. That’s a cold person that did that.”
Layton later added, “You know, I would remember shooting somebody.”
But just after Layton and Talamantez were taken into custody in a SWAT team raid on his residence, an officer who was on the scene testified that Layton was advised not to speak but he continued to talk and at one point said, “Oh, ya’ll think I shot that girl.”
The officer, Justin McGuire, was asked by Jett Smith if Richards’ shooting had been mentioned in Layton’s presence.
“No, sir, there was no talk about that among the team,” McGuire said.
Although the firearm used in the shooting was never recovered, investigators learned that Layton had bought a 9-mm handgun from Star Arms on Nov. 22, 2017, and played a video of the transaction for the jury.
Talamantez, who is an indicted co-defendant in the same case, testified that she drove Layton to the apartments on the night of the shooting and he got out while she waited in his pickup.
“I knew he had a temper,” said Talamantez, who testified that she had been sleeping on a couch in Layton’s apartment for about two weeks. “I knew he was mad. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I heard gunshots. Shawn was running (back to the truck). He said, ‘Go, go, go.' He was screaming it. I kept asking him what happened and he wouldn’t tell me anything.”
A forensics expert from a Tarrant County crime lab testified about the class characteristics of the spent bullet found in Richard’s apartment. Next, a trace evidence expert from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office testified to finding “consistent” particle evidence on a black ski mask, a scarf and gloves that were found in Layton’s apartment.
“I am proud of the work done by law enforcement to solve this case and of the case presented by Jett Smith the last three days,” Nash stated. “Nonetheless, this maximum sentence of 20 years is inadequate justice for what this defendant has done to Jamie Richards and her family. Next time I hear somebody flippantly refer to drug use and drug dealing as ‘nonviolent” crime, I’ve got a one-word answer: Jamie.”
Through physical therapy, Richards has regained limited use of both arms, but has to have 24-hour care. The health-care insurance covering her has reached its limit. The family said that there is a GoFundMe page to make donations to help with the ongoing medical expenses. They have been able to receive some financial help through the Crime Victim Compensation Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, but the costs come out of pocket before lengthy waits for reimbursement, they noted.
Richards, who will be 20 years old on Oct. 22, is on the Dean’s List at Tarleton. She said she is continuing her college studies online and intends to finish her journey to earn a degree in psychology with a goal of becoming a child life specialist.