Appeal from the 331st District Court Travis County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. D-1-DC-15-900075
consists of Justices Radack, Landau, and Hightower.
Beth Landau Justice.
State charged Timothy Scott Parlin with five counts of
capital murder.Parlin pleaded not guilty to all five
counts and "not true" to both enhancement
paragraphs. The case was tried to a jury, and the jury
convicted Parlin of capital murder. At sentencing, the State
waived three counts, leaving two counts of capital murder.
See Tex. Penal Code § 19.03(a)(2), (a)(7)(A).
The trial court sentenced Parlin to life imprisonment without
the possibility of parole. See id. § 12.31. In
two issues, Parlin contends the trial court erred by denying
his motion to suppress custodial statements and admitting the
testimony of a witness. We affirm.
Murder of Kathy Blair
Blair rented a home on Tamarack Trail from James Willett.
Willett hired Timothy Scott Parlin and his brother to perform
yardwork and landscaping. Although apologetic, Willett fired
Parlin when it took too long to complete the tasks.
Joseph Hargis is Blair's son. He temporarily resided with
his mother beginning in November 2014. On December 6, 2014,
Lieutenant Hargis discovered his mother's body on her
bedroom floor covered in a dark red substance. Lieutenant
Hargis called 911, and a paramedic later determined that
Blair was deceased. The medical examiner concluded
Blair's cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries
with asphyxiation. The investigators saw "Shoes For
Crews"-brand shoeprints tracked throughout Blair's
home in her blood and in dust. The investigators also found
blood in her jewelry boxes and concluded that the suspect had
stolen jewelry after Blair's murder. The investigators
spoke with Blair's neighbor, Robert Leef, who lived a
couple blocks from Blair. In the early morning hours of
December 6, 2014, Leef, while using a FLIR recording system,
observed a vehicle parked in a "semi-unusual
location." He could not recognize the vehicle's
driver. Leef provided the FLIR video to the police as soon as
he heard about the murder on Tamarack Trail.
FLIR footage led officers to a green Toyota Camry owned by
Parlin's sister, Edie. On January 1, 2015, officers
visited Edie to question her about Parlin. According to Edie,
Parlin gave all of the family members jewelry for Christmas
that year. Edie testified that she loaned her car to Parlin
around the middle of November 2014 because someone had stolen
his van. Parlin returned the car to Edie on December 26,
2014. Edie signed a written consent form authorizing officers
to seize and search her car. Officers discovered bloodstains
on the passenger side of the car. The bloodstains in the car
matched Blair's blood.
Murders of Sidney Shelton and Billie Shelton
Shelton and Billie Shelton were around 80 years old. Dow
Kotrla, a home health nurse, was responsible for caring for
Mr. Shelton for various health issues. On December 15, 2014,
Kotrla arrived at the Sheltons' home for a scheduled
appointment and noticed the front door was open. Kotrla went
through the house and found Mr. Shelton's unresponsive
body on the bed. She called the police. When the police
arrived, they noticed Mr. Shelton's body was cold to the
touch and he did not have a pulse. The officers also noticed
Ms. Shelton was next to Mr. Shelton and covered in a blanket.
They observed a silver-colored handle protruding from her
right eye. The Sheltons were pronounced dead. The cause of
Mr. Shelton's death was homicide by strangulation and
blunt-force injuries. Ms. Shelton died from sharp and
blunt-force injuries and by strangulation. Ms. Shelton's
death was also ruled a homicide.
investigators discovered a shoeprint in the carpet near a
guest bedroom door. The investigators also observed an empty
blood-stained jewelry box and an empty ring holder in the
Sheltons' bedroom. The Sheltons' rings were also
missing from their fingers.
investigation revealed connections between Parlin and both
murder cases. The Sheltons were members of the church where
Parlin married his wife. Parlin's brother, a deacon at
the church, had done handiwork for the Sheltons, and Parlin
assisted him at times. Edie, Parlin, and their brother had
all lived on the same street as the Sheltons.
the investigation, police learned that Parlin and his wife
resided at InTown Suites, an extended stay hotel. On December
30, 2014, Parlin's wife voluntarily authorized the police
to search their residence. The officers found a pawn slip for
a piece of women's jewelry that had been pawned on the
day of Blair's murder, along with other items that raised
suspicion about Parlin's involvement in the murders of
Blair and the Sheltons. On the same day, December 30, 2014,
Parlin was in police custody because he had been arrested for
driving without a valid license. Officers questioned Parlin
about the murders of Blair and the Sheltons, and he denied
knowledge of the murders. Parlin was issued a citation and
released from custody. Later, after further investigation of
the murders, Parlin made statements implicating himself as a
party to the murders.
moved to suppress certain incriminating statements. Detective
Israel was the only witness at the suppression hearing, and
these details are based on his sole testimony. Detective
Israel investigated the murders of Blair and the Sheltons.
December 30, 2014, while Parlin was in police custody on the
traffic violation, Detective Israel advised Parlin of his
Article 38.22 rights. Detective Israel then asked Parlin about
the murders of Blair and the Sheltons, and Parlin denied
knowledge of the murders. Parlin was issued a citation and
released from custody. On January 1, 2015, Detective Israel
discovered that the car loaned to Parlin by his sister
contained unidentified bloodstains on the seat. The car
appeared very similar to a car identified in the FLIR video.
next day, Parlin was arrested pursuant to a warrant for
possession of a controlled substance and a parole violation
hold. Detective Israel again advised Parlin of his Article
38.22 rights. Parlin stated that he understood his rights and
agreed to waive them. Detective Israel confronted Parlin
about the bloodstains in the car during the time he had it in
his possession. When Detective Israel accused Parlin of
murdering Kathy Blair and the Sheltons, Parlin "denied
culpability" but eventually claimed that he knew a
person named "Shawn Gant-Benalcazar" who committed
the murders. According to Detective Israel, the conversation
"got a little more heated" when Detective Israel
started "accusing him of the crime." At that point,
Parlin said, "Maybe we should terminate." Detective
Israel testified that he did not interpret Parlin's
remark as an unequivocal request to terminate the interview.
Detective Israel explained that "it was a convenient
time for me to-to end the interview because we really
weren't progressing." When Detective Israel stopped
asking Parlin questions and told him that "he knew how
to get ahold" of him, Parlin told Detective Israel that
he was "willing to talk" to him any time as long as
Detective Israel was "nicer to him."
January 9, 2015, Gant-Benalcazar confessed to murdering Kathy
Blair. Afterwards, Detective Israel investigated
Gant-Benalcazar's confession for several days. Armed with
Gant-Benalcazar's confession and the information obtained
during the investigation, Detective Israel visited Parlin in
jail on January 16, 2015, while he was still in custody for
the parole violation. Detective Israel apologized to Parlin,
told him that Gant-Benalcazar had confessed to the murder,
and asked him to accompany him to the Homicide
Office. When they reached the Homicide Office,
Detective Israel read Parlin his Article 38.22 rights. Parlin
agreed to show Detective Israel where Gant-Benalcazar had
disposed of property after the murder of Blair. He also
agreed to take Detective Israel to the scene of a prior
burglary. Parlin signed a form consenting to accompany
Israel and other officers drove Parlin to a bridge over Shoal
Creek where Parlin claimed Gant-Benalcazar dumped some
property in the creek. Parlin then made statements
implicating himself as a party to the burglaries and murders
of Blair and the Sheltons. They arrived at the bridge, and
Parlin described the events of that day when he and
Gant-Benalcazar were at the creek. Parlin stated that he
parked on the side of the road and watched Gant-Benalcazar
place clothes, shoes, and other items containing bloodstains
in a red plastic grocery bag for disposal. Then Parlin
recalled a conversation he had with Gant-Benalcazar. Parlin
explained that when he tried to obtain additional details
about what Gant-Benalcazar had done, Gant-Benalcazar told
Parlin that he "put the knife to their face" or
"in their face" and then he "went back to put
his foot in her face." Parlin then contradicted himself.
Parlin denied being present when Gant-Benalcazar committed
murder of Blair but recalled that ...