DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned the death sentence for Charles Brownlow, a man who killed five people – including burning one to death.
Brownlow’s sentence was overturned and sent back for a re-hearing.
In 2013, his shooting spree began leaving a female victim dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Less than a half hour later, a Terrell firefighter observed a house on fire on the 300 block of Stalling Street, just a few blocks away from the initial shooting. After the fire was extinguished, another woman’s body was discovered inside the home. Police said the fire was clearly arson and established a connection between the two crimes.
The Texas Rangers and Kaufman County Sheriff’s Officer were called in to assist at that point in the investigation. They determined that a white 2002 Ford Focus and an adult resident — identified as Brownlow — were missing from the burning home.
The police received a call of a shooting at a third location in the 800 block of Frances Street around 10 p.m. No one was injured in the incident, though witnesses described someone matching Brownlow’s description fleeing the scene in the Ford Focus. While still gathering details on Frances Street, police received a call about a shooting in the 800 block of Eulalia Drive. Police found the bodies of a man and woman at the home; both shot dead. Witnesses again provided a suspect description matching that of Brownlow.
Miraculously, a 3-year-old child was found unharmed in bed at that location.
It was five killings in all; Brownlow was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for convenience clerk Luis Gerardo Leal-Carrillo’s murder.
But in a ruling Wednesday the high court said:
“Substantial evidence of Brownlow’s incompetence was sufficient to raise a ‘bona fide doubt’ regarding his ability to consult with counsel and comprehend the proceedings. Brownlow was unable to rationally communicate with counsel, which deteriorated as his trial proceeded. Brownlow did not understand he was facing a possible execution or that he could accept a plea deal. Consequently, both federal and state law required the court to reevaluate Brownlow’s competency when counsel reasserted the issue to ensure he was not tried while incompetent in violation due process.”
Court records also show Brownlow is intellectually disabled, with an IQ of 65 – 75. His first grade teacher even testified that Brownlow didn’t pass reading, writing, spelling or mathematics in her class.
Brownlow will now have another trial with all the evidence presented, just for punishment and the jury must consider his mental state.
If the new jury does not sentence Brownlow to death the alternative is life without parole.
Public records show that Brownlow has an extensive criminal history. His past charges include burglary, assault-family violence, possession of marijuana, and the unlawful possession of a firearm.