Update: Life in prison for Ricky Neal Jr. in Tyler mall shooting - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Update: Life in prison for Ricky Neal Jr. in Tyler mall shooting case

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Ricky Neal Jr. Ricky Neal Jr.

After about an hour and a half of deliberation the jury sentences Ricky Neal Jr. to life in prison.

A Smith County jury that convicted Ricky Neal Jr. last week for the mall parking lot shooting death of Chris Mass began  deliberating his punishment Tuesday morning.

The prosecution is seeking a life sentence for Neal. The defense has asked the jury to consider 20 years or less.

Earlier , the judge read the charge to the jury and stated, Neal will be eligible for parole in either half his decided sentence or half of the sentence decided, whichever is less.

The jury will take this into consideration when deciding Neal's punishment.

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At about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, the state calls Latrisse Mass, Chris Mass's mother to the stand.

Within a minute of being on the stand she is shown pictures of her son so she can identify him, and she begins to cry uncontrollably.

The state then asks for a 25 minute recess.

When she came back to take the stand, she told the jury she was the last person to talk to her son the morning he was killed. She says she got off the phone with him ten minutes before he was shot. She says she was driving by the mall with her daughter when the shooting happened, and even heard the shots fired.

"We heard a pop pop pop and looked at each other," Mass says.

She spent a lot of her testimony talking about Chris's two children, 5-year-old Chrislyn, and 1-year-old Chris Jr. Both have been named after Chris. Chris Jr, or CJ, as the family calls him, was born on Father's Day of last year, after Chris Mass was shot to death. 

"[Chrislyn] always says to me, 'GG, I wish my brother knew daddy,'" Latrisse says.

She says Chris's death has left a giant hole in the family, and that everyone is having a lot of trouble with the loss, still a year later. 

"When he died that day, a part of us died."

The state rested after her testimony.

Before Mrs. Mass was called, the state called Tyler Police Department gang expert, Detective Chis Miller, who says there are lots of well known gangs in Tyler and Smith County.

Miller says he has not personally met Ricky Neal but has seen pictures I his tattoos. Those pictures were shown to the court.

There is a large tattoo across Neal's chest. The pinnacle point is a large five point star, which is a symbol Blood gang members have adopted. His chest also says "Death B4 Dishonor," a military term commonly adopted by the Bloods. Miller points out the B in B4 is in red, the signature color of the bloods.

On his arms there is the number 5150, which Miller says is a police code for someone who is mentally disturbed.

Other tattoos show words like "Blood Ties" and "Piru" and "MOB" which commonly means Member of Blood.

Miller says the tattoos show that Neal may be affiliated with the gang Piru Bloods, a Los Angeles sect of the Bloods. He says members of that gang have migrated to East Texas.

Other than the tattoos, Miller says there is no evidence that Neal is in a gang.

In it's case, the defense called several of Neal's family members, including cousins and his brother. They also called Tamra Norris, his girlfriend of four years, who testified earlier in the trial.

Those to testified described Ricky Neal as a smart, church-going man who loves his kids. Neal has seven children, from five different mothers. Two live with him. 

The prosecution pointed out that in the past, Neal has neglected to pay child support on several occasions. His cousin, brother, and girlfriend all responded to that with, "Money isn't the only way you show someone you love them." They say Neal spends a lot of time with all his kids.

When prosecutor Jeff Wood asked the family members and Norris if they had seen Neal's tattoos, they all said yes. No one said they had anything to do with gang membership. 

Ten minutes after the jury finds Ricky Neal Jr. guilty for the murder of Chris Mass, the sentencing phase begins.

The prosecution and defense both deliver their opening arguments an then the prosecution calls it's first witness, Donald Malstrom, a City of Tyler investigator who studies fingerprints.

The investigator testified that Ricky Neal has been found guilty of several criminal acts in the past including possession of marihuana and evading arrest.

The state then calls 45-year-old Miguel Harris. Harris spent time with Neal in jail last year.

Harris had been convicted of several felonies including theft, robbery, and drug charges. He says those convictions were over a 20 year period of time.

Harris was in jail with Neal for a short period of time and says during that time, Neal told him all about the shooting incident at Broadway Square Mall.

Harris says Neal told him he got in an argument that morning with Jonathan Dews, and he and Dews went outside to fight.

Harris says Neal told him, "I knew if I got to my car, I'd burn their a** up."

Harris old the jury he took that to mean Neal would shoot someone.

Defense attorney Thad Davidson claims Harris told police he didn't know what "burn them up" means.

Harris testifies that Neal told him when he got outside, Dews came up close to him very fast. He says Neal told him he went to his car to get his gun and Dews turned his back. Harris told the court Neal said he didn't shoot Dews because he turned his back, he that wouldn't be considered self defense.

Harris says Neal told him he shot Chris Mass because he was standing there facing him at an open car that he had just thrown his hoodie in.

Harris also testified that Neal admitted to him that he was a gang member.

A Smith County Jury has found Ricky Neal Jr. guilty of murder. After more than seven hours of deliberations yesterday, the jury returned to deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday and returned the guilty plea just after 10:30 a.m.
The murder trial wrapped up Tuesday after three days of testimony.

Neal was accused of shooting and killing 23-year-old Chris Mass in the Broadway Square Mall parking lot in Tyler on February 9, 2013.

The punishment phase is underway, Neal faces life in prison.

Defense Attorney Thad Davidson has shown copies of official forms sent out by the jury this morning requesting an easel to draw on and a transcript of the entire trial's testimony.

The murder trial for Ricky Neal Junior will begin again at 9 this morning.  Jurors stopped deliberations just after eleven last night.  Neal is accused of shooting Christopher Mass four times outside Tyler's Broadway square mall in February 2013.  

As arguments came to a close, Tuesday -- original reports indicated the suspect would take the stand in his own defense, however when the time came, he stayed silent and attorneys delivered closing arguments.  
Neal is facing a murder and aggravated assault charge.
If convicted, Neal will not face the death penalty.

The jury in the Ricky Neal Jr. murder trial is now deliberating following Closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.

Before both sides rested their case Tuesday in day three of the trial.

The defense called Jonathan Dews to the stand.Dews says after the shooting he was placed in the back of a police car and taken to the Tyler police department and was interviewed by several officers.

Dews said he not have a gun that day and said he did not see Chris Mass with a gun.

Soon after Dews' testimony, the defense rested their case.

Tuesday morning around 9:45, the case continued where it left off.

Detective Shine, called by the state, takes the stand again.

He talks about what he investigated after the shooting, including witness interviews with John Dews, Ricky Neal, and bullet remains at the scene.

Detective Shine says he and other detectives obtained Dews' phone.

He says he saw Twitter messages posted about Neal, and during testimony Detective Shine agreed with Neal's attorney Thad Davidson that Neal did not speak to Mass inside the mall and provoke him in any way.

Shine agreed that once outside in the parking lot Mass took off his hoodie, threw it in his car and left the door open.

Shine testifies that he interviewed Neal for hours after the shooting. The interview was about an hour an a half after the shooting.

Shine says Neal was collected during the interview and seemed to have a clear recollection of what happened. Detective Shine says Neal admitted to shooting Mass, and thought he shot Mass twice.

In the interview Shine says Neal never said any force was used against him, and that he was never threatened by any of the men, including Mass and Dews. He also told Shine he never saw a weapon on any of the other men. Neal also said multiple times he didn't know Mass.

Shine said Neal's explanation for shooting Mass was that he didn't know if Mass could have gotten a weapon out of his open car at the time.

Shine confirms that detectives never found a weapon in Mass's car or on his body.

After interviewing Neal, Dews, and other witnesses, Shine says he briefed with fellow detectives. They all decided murder and aggravated assault were the appropriate charges. He obtained an arrest warrant.

Shine does not believe the shooting was a schemed plan.

On the second day of the Ricky Neal murder trial the prosecution has called Tamara Norris to the stand. Norris is Ricky Neal's girlfriend of four years, and was with him on the morning of the shooting.

She says the day of the shooting she drove with Neal to the mall in her blue sedan. She says Neal went in to buy some shoes, but came back out about five minutes later. 

"He handed me a debit card and told me to go get the shoes," she said.

When prosecutor Jeff Wood asked her what Neal's attitude was like, she said he seemed upset, like something had happened inside. She says she didn't know what had upset him/

She says she gathered her things in her car and as she walked towards the mall, she saw two men approach, Jonathan Dews and Chris Mass, two men she said she had never met before. 

She said they began arguing with Neal, and then she heard a gun cocked, so she ran.

"You ran?" Wood asked her.

"Yes, I heard a gun so I ran," Norris answered. 

She said she heard gunshots and when she turned around she says she saw Mass on the ground bleeding, and gasping for air. She says she didn't see who pulled the trigger, but when investigators asked who she thought did it, she told them Neal. 

Norris says she kept running towards the mall to call 911. 

The second witness to take the stand today is Dr. Jeffery Hunter, an ophthalmologist who was near the mall when he heard shots fired.

He says he ran over to see Chris Mass's body laying on the ground with a pool of blood next to his head.

Dr. Hunter says he searched Mass's body and found a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest "basically over his heart."

He gave CPR for about two minutes before he says he confirmed that Mass was dead.

Next the state called Jonathan Fontenot to the stand. Fontenot was the mall security guard the morning of the shooting. 

He says he got a call that morning from an anonymous woman saying a fight might be breaking out at Champs, where Neal, Mass, Dews and Whit had been that morning. 

When he got there, they were already out in the parking lot. He says eventually he heard gunshots, and ran outside and saw Neal standing near Mass's body, talking on the phone. 

"He was calm. He wasn't running. He didn't seem angry," Fontentot said.

He is a U.S. Army veteran and says he had military combat aid training. He says he was the first to try to resuscitate Mass. 

"I saw gunshot wounds on his left cheek and his lower rib cage. There was a pool of blood near his head, and he was gagging on his own blood. He was barely responsive, shaking, and you could tell he was trying to talk," Fontenot said.

He says he got a defibrillator out of his car for emergency service to use once they got there. 

Towards the later afternoon, the state called to the stand the pathologist, Dr. Allison Edgecomb, who performed the autopsy on Chris Mass. 

Dr. Edgecomb says Mass suffered four gunshot wounds: one to the face, one to the neck and two to the chest. She testified that one bullet went into his left cheek. The bullet to his neck had an entrance and exit wound, and only damaged muscle tissue, not internal organs. Two wounds in his left chest area are what caused his lungs to fill with blood.

She was not able to determine how far away the shooter was standing from Mass, but says the wounds indicated that Mass was facing the shooter head on. 

Edgecomb says with these wounds, Mass did not die immediately, but that he most likely choked on his own blood.

Before Edgecomb took the stand, Judge Russell warned the court that the content of her testimony would be graphic and that anyone who was not prepared to handle content of that nature should leave the courtroom. Chris Mass's family members stayed inside the courtroom. When pictures of his body and wounds were shown, they were emotional, and cried quietly. 

While those pictures were shown, Ricky Neal also showed emotion. He put his head down in his hands after looking at the screen for a few seconds. 

(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH/KYTX) - The prosecution called John Dews as it's first witness. In court, Dews says he was the person to have a confrontation with Neal inside the mall the day Chris Mass was shot and killed.

Today in court Dews says he was feet away from Ricky Neal Jr. when he claims Neal shot Chris Mass.

The defense is currently questioning Dews in court. Neal's attorney Thad Davidson is revealing mall surveillance video taken the morning of the shooting.

According to testimony, Dews told Neal to mind his own business, even though he did not know Neal

Dews testified that Neal approached him at the mall that day, and the two got into a verbal altercation. Dews testified Neal egged him to come outside the mall to fight, so he followed Neal, and was followed by Chris Mass and another man.

"I was walking out the door to go fight," Dews said.

Dews said Neal asked if Dews and Mass were going to jump him, and Dews said he replied that he was there to fight. But Neal grabbed a gun and pointed it at Mass, Dews testified.

"I told him it wasn't that kind of party and started back from Neal, but he started shooting," Dews said. "I saw Chris fall and I just started running towards the vehicles at the main entrance.

Dews testified that when Neal started shooting at Mass, his arms were crossed.

By Kenneth Dean and Courtney Friedman
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