United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Wichita Falls Division
JEREMY PAUL THORNBURG, TDCJ No. 01957650, Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent. v.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
RAY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“the
Petition”) filed by Petitioner Jeremy Paul Thornburg
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 3. United States
District Judge Reed C. O'Connor transferred this case to
the Wichita Falls Division on July 27, 2017. ECF No. 5. On
July 28, 2017, Judge O'Connor referred the case to the
undersigned per Special Order No. 3. After considering the
pleadings and applicable law, the undersigned
RECOMMENDS that Judge O'Connor
DENY the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
(ECF No. 3).
Jeremy Paul Thornburg (“Thornburg”) is a prisoner
confined in the Ferguson Unit of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division
(“TCDJ-CID”), in Midway, Texas. ECF No. 3 at 1.
He is serving a life sentence. Id. at 2. Because
Thornburg is incarcerated within the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, a proper respondent in this case is Lorie
Davis, the Director of the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice, Correctional Institutions Division (the
“Director”). See Joe v. Fitzsimmons, No.
3:16-CV-0275-L-BH, 2016 WL 1594348, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 17,
2016), report and recommendation adopted, No.
3:16-CV-275-L, 2016 WL 1588150 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 20, 2016)
(citing Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 434-35
was indicted for murder on March 25, 2013. ECF No. 18 at 3.
He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a jury
on October 21, 2014. Id. He appealed his conviction
to the Second Court of Appeals, Fort Worth, Texas
(“COA”), which affirmed. ECF No. 1 at 3;
Thornburg v. State, No. 02-14-00453-CR, 2015 WL
4694094, at *2 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth Aug. 6, 2015, pet.
ref'd). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
(“TCCA”) refused his petition for discretionary
review (“PDR”) on November 4, 2015. ECF No. 20-1.
then brought a state writ of habeas corpus before the TCCA on
July 15, 2016. ECF Nos. 1 at 3-4; 18 at 3. On September 21,
2016, the TCCA remanded the case to the trial court for
further findings of fact. ECF No. 20-63; Ex parte
Thornburg, WR-85, 650-01, 2016 WL 5118443, at *1 (Tex.
Crim. App. Sept. 21, 2016). The trial court made findings on
March 6, 2017. ECF No. 20-60 at 275. The TCCA subsequently
denied the writ without written order on the findings of the
trial court, on April 26, 2017. ECF No. 20-55.
filed the Petition in this Court on July 3, 2017. ECF No. 3.
Pursuant to this Court's Order (ECF No. 9), the Director
filed a preliminary response on February 15, 2018. ECF No.
18. Thornburg filed a reply on February 28, 2018. ECF No. 23.
The parties agree that the Petition is neither barred by the
statute of limitations nor is it successive. ECF No. 3 at 11;
No. 18 at 12.
adopted Thornburg's statement of the facts.
Thornburg, No. 02-14-00453-CR, 2015 WL 4694094, at
*1 n.2. Those facts are as follows:
morning of December 11, 2011, Johnny Salinas discovered that
his grown granddaughter, Candice Shields [hereinafter,
“Shields”], was missing from her bedroom when he
went to wake her for work. At first, he assumed that she had
left in the night to “party, ” but her phone was
still on her bed; her purse and make up were still in the
bedroom as well. As the morning wore on and Shields did not
show up, Salinas grew increasingly worried. Eventually,
Salinas hit redial on Shields's phone, and the call went
to Shields's best friend, Missy Munn. Salinas explained
his concerns to Munn, and she came to his house.
that morning, Shields's ex-boyfriend, Billy Wilson,
joined Munn at Salinas's home, and because he had never
seen Shields leave the house without her purse, cell phone,
and make up-all of which were still in her bedroom-he called
the Graham police. The police interviewed the family, and
based on their conversations with the family, with Wilson,
and with Munn, the police began treating Shields's
disappearance as a missing-person case. Thereafter, in the
ensuing weeks and months that followed, despite a massive
search by law- enforcement officials and civilian
volunteers-which included helicopters, fourwheelers, and
cadaver dogs and which covered untold miles of search area-
Shields was never found.
Testimony Concerning Shields's Background
grew up in Graham and was convicted of a sex crime as a
juvenile; as a result, she was required to register as a sex
offender. At age seventeen, Shields left her parents'
home and moved in with Wilson and his family in Jermyn,
Texas, and eventually had a child with Wilson. In the latter
part of May 2011, Shields left Wilson and moved to Abilene to
live with a man named Allen Faircloth. When Shields's
relationship with Faircloth soured in the summer of 2011, she
called Wilson to give her a ride back to Graham, and she
moved in with Munn.
October 2011, Shields moved in with her friends James and
Misty Barnett. On the same day that Shields moved in, James
Barnett's half-brother, Thornburg, also moved into the
Barnetts' home. Within a short time after Shields met
Thornburg, they began a romantic relationship, and within a
couple of weeks, they announced that Shields was pregnant
with Thornburg's baby. Misty grew scared of Thornburg,
and he and Shields were asked to move out of the
the couple had nowhere to go and because Thornburg was
unemployed, he moved back into his mother and
stepfather's home in Sweetwater; Shields moved into her
grandparents' home in Graham and disappeared
approximately ten days later.
used to call her mother daily, but her mother had not heard
from Shields since her disappearance.
Testimony by Law-Enforcement Officials
Lieutenant Jim Reeves
Jim Reeves of the Graham Police Department headed up the
investigation into Shields's disappearance. Initially, he
gathered information from her friends and family members, as
well as contacts from Shields's cell phone. The data
recovered from Shields's cell phone revealed that up
until the day of her disappearance, Shields had almost daily
communications with Wilson, Faircloth, Thornburg, and
possibly other men.
Reeves testified that he called Texas Ranger Cory Lain to
help with the investigation of Shields's disappearance
and that they began a series of interviews to determine if
anyone had ideas on where Shields might have gone. Lieutenant
Reeves testified that Faircloth and Wilson had verified
alibis for the night of Shields's disappearance.
Lieutenant Reeves interviewed Thornburg by phone on December
15, 2011, Thornburg claimed that he had been in Sweetwater on
the night that Shields had disappeared and that he did not
have gas money to drive to Graham on that night. Two weeks
later, on December 29, 2011, Lieutenant Reeves and Ranger
Lain drove to Sweetwater to interview Thornburg in person at
the Sweetwater police station. Thornburg maintained that he
did not know where Shields had gone. Lieutenant Reeves
detailed for the jury the extent of law enforcement's
efforts to find Shields over the course of the following
months wherever and whenever a lead developed.
Officer Lance Richburg
months after Lieutenant Reeves and Ranger Lain interviewed
Thornburg, Officer Lance Richburg with the Sweetwater Police
Department met with Thornburg's ex-girlfriend, Sarah
Santiago, on January 21, 2013, to take her statement on a
domestic-violence allegation involving Thornburg. Santiago
had called the police the night before and had alleged that
Thornburg had assaulted her. Because Santiago was seven
months' pregnant with Thornburg's baby, the police
who responded to her 911 call advised her to go to the
hospital and to wait until the following day to go to the
police department to make a statement.
she made her statement on January 21, 2013, Santiago said
that she was scared of Thornburg because he had threatened to
kill her and her unborn baby and to bury them in a field.
Santiago said that Thornburg had told her that he had done it
before and had gotten away with it. Based on Santiago's
statement, Officer Richburg called the Graham Police
Department. Lieutenant Jim Reeves of the Graham Police
Department responded that Thornburg was a person of interest
in an unsolved disappearance in Young County.
talking with Lieutenant Reeves, Officer Richburg and three
other officers accompanied Santiago back to the apartment
that she shared with Thornburg to effectuate a “civil
standby” while Santiago gathered her personal
belongings. Thornburg was home when the officers arrived, and
Officer Richburg explained the nature of their visit and the
police department's “civil standby” policy.
Thornburg voiced no objections to the police officers'
presence and waited outside the apartment while Santiago
gathered her belongings, accompanied by Officer Richburg.
When Santiago and Officer Richburg entered the couple's
bedroom, Santiago pointed to a gun on the bed and said that
Thornburg had used it to threaten her. Officer Richburg
testified that he took the gun into evidence for the
Additional Testimony from Lieutenant Reeves
Reeves served a search warrant on the Sweetwater Police
Department and obtained the gun that Officer Richburg had
recovered from the apartment that Thornburg shared with
Santiago. Lieutenant Reeves later delivered the gun to
Lubbock's Department of Public Safety crime lab for
response to Santiago's claims about Thornburg's
threats to her, Lieutenant Reeves and Ranger Lain approached
Santiago and asked her to make a clandestine telephone call
February 1, 2013, Ranger Lain [“Lain”] and
Lieutenant Reeves staged a controlled phone call between
Santiago and Thornburg. During the approximately
thirty-minute call, Santiago told Thornburg that she was
afraid to move back in with him because she was “afraid
[he] would hurt me like you hurt [Shields].” Despite
telling Santiago that he did not feel comfortable talking
about it over the phone, Thornburg stated, “I killed
her because of me-she was going to make it so I couldn't
see my daughter . . . .” Santiago asked Thornburg
whether he might not kill her too if he got angry with her,
and Thornburg answered, “I wouldn't get away with
it for two girlfriends.” A recording of the phone call
was admitted into evidence and played for the jury.
Lain obtained cell phone records for Shields and Thornburg.
Ranger Lain testified that the cell phone records revealed
that Thornburg and Shields had exchanged text messages and
phone calls from 9:32 p.m. on December 10, 2011, until 12:45
a.m. on December 11, 2011, which was Shields's last text
message to Thornburg. Thornburg called Shields's phone at
2:32 a.m. and 2:33 a.m.; approximately thirty minutes later,
he called Shields's phone at 3:01 a.m. for forty-five
seconds and at 3:02 a.m. for fifty-eight seconds. At 6:08
a.m. on December 11, 2011, Thornburg texted Shields,
“I'm at home. I've been at home. Didn't
have enough gas. I['m] sorry, Babe, that it took so long
to text you back, but just know I love you and will text you
when I get up.” The bulk of the phone calls and text
messages that were reflected in the cell phone records had
been deleted from Shields's cell phone.
Ranger Lain and Officer Reeves interviewed Thornburg on
December 29, 2011, he said that the last time he had spoken
to Shields was 2:33 a.m. on December 11, 2011, and that he
had fallen asleep right after the 2:33 a.m. phone call. Based
on the phone records, Ranger Lain testified that his theory
was that Shields was deceased prior to Thornburg's calls
to her cell phone at 3:01 a.m. and 3:02 a.m., that Thornburg
had called Shields's phone to locate it, that he had
found it, that he had deleted the text messages and phone
calls, and that he had returned it to her grandparents'
home in Graham before he returned to Sweetwater.
Hester, a forensic scientist employed by DPS, testified that
he had performed a presumptive test on two stains found on
the underside of the gun. He said that he had obtained a
presumptive positive result for blood on one spot less than
one millimeter in diameter, which was almost invisible to the
naked eye. From that stain, Hester said that he had obtained
a DNA sample that he had compared to Shields's DNA
profile from her sex-offender registration requirements, as
well as to a DNA sample from a biopsy slide that was
maintained in Shields's medical records following an
earlier gall bladder surgery. Based on those comparisons,
Hester determined that the probability of selecting an
unrelated person at random who could be the contributor to
the DNA profile obtained from the stain on the gun was
“approximately one in 32.39 trillion for Caucasians . .
Shaffer, who managed the United States Secret Service digital
forensics lab, testified that he had conducted an analysis of
the cell phone records of Thornburg, which Ranger Lain had
obtained by subpoena. Shaffer testified that he had analyzed
the system identification numbers (SIDs) associated with
Thornburg's cell phone carrier reflected in the records
as they related to Thornburg's use of his cell phone
during the evening and early morning hours of December 10,
2011, and December 11, 2011. Shaffer said that the data
indicated that Thornburg's cell phone location had moved
from the SID covering the Abilene/Sweetwater geographic area
to the SID covering the Vernon geographic area east of
Abilene/Sweetwater. Shaffer testified that he could not
necessarily say that Thornburg's cell phone indicated
travel from Sweetwater to Graham because he did not know the
actual location of cell towers associated with the described
SIDs. Shaffer said that he could say with certainty that
Thornburg's cell phone had traveled generally “from
one geographic area to another” west to east on the
night in question.
Long [hereinafter, “Long”] was another of
Thornburg's girlfriends with whom he had a child. In her
first interview with Lieutenant Reeves and Ranger Lain
shortly after Shields's disappearance in 2011, Long told
the officers that she worked with Shields at the Whataburger
in Graham, but Long denied having any information about
Shields's whereabouts. In her second interview following
Thornburg's arrest in 2013, Long told law enforcement
officials that she had heard that Shields had moved to
Oklahoma in December 2011. After her third interview in March
2013 and after Ranger Lain told her that he thought she was
lying, Long told Lain that she knew that Thornburg had
murdered Shields and that she knew where her body could be
testified at trial and said that she and Thornburg had lived
together in Graham until September 2011, when he had begun a
relationship with Shields. After Thornburg began dating
Shields, Long said that she found out that Shields was a
registered sex offender and told Thornburg that she did not
want their child around Shields. Long said that Thornburg
began to talk about killing Shields. Long also said that
Thornburg threatened to make Long “evaporate” if
she tried to keep him from seeing their child.
the day on December 10, 2011, Long said that Thornburg sent
her a text that he was coming to Graham, where Long lived
with Jessica Cortez, to see Shields. Long testified that she
and Thornburg had previously discussed ways of disposing of
Shields's body after watching television shows, and that
on this occasion, Long asked her if she had any bleach. Late
that night, Thornburg arrived at Cortez's mobile home.
Long said that she took a half-full bottle of bleach and met
Thornburg outside in the driveway. When she asked him whose
car he was driving, Thornburg told Long that he had taken the
car from his mother's home while she was sleeping. Long
said that as they talked, she noticed a gun in the car. Long
ultimately gave Thornburg the bleach, and he left. About an
hour or two later, Thornburg called Long and told her that he
had “[done] what he came to do” and that he was
headed back home. When Shields did not show up for work at
Whataburger the next morning on December 11, 2011, Long said
that she called Thornburg and asked him if he had really
killed Shields; he told Long that he had.
days later, Long went to visit Thornburg in Sweetwater and
asked him about Shields again. Long testified that Thornburg
had told her that after he had persuaded Shields to come out
of her house to talk, he had taken her to a field between
Graham and Breckenridge and had shot her in the head.
Thornburg said that Shields had tried to move after he had
shot her, so he shot her again, covered her, and left.
testified that she had initially lied to investigators when
she was questioned about Shields's disappearance because
she had been scared of Thornburg. Long said that she had
entered a plea of guilty to Shields's murder as a
co-conspirator in exchange for a thirty-year prison sentence.
Testimony from Other Individuals