Jury hands down verdict in triple slaying at car dealership

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Joey Contreras broke down on the witness stand Tuesday as he scolded the killer who gunned down his two brothers and adult nephew in 2015 at their northside car dealership.

A former federal prosecutor who made a career of putting criminals behind bars, Contreras faced 23-year-old James Tinsley IV and called him a coward.

“”I have the last letter that Jesse ever wrote me on my bedside table,” he said, as he burst into tears. “I still can’t open it.”

Minutes before Contreras took the witness stand to give a victim impact statement, Tinsley was convicted of capital murder by a Harris County jury.

The verdict means Tinsley will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, an automatic sentence handed down by state District Judge Brad Hart.

Tinsley fatally shot the men as they worked at their family-owned dealership, then poured gasoline on their bodies in an attempt to cover up the evidence.

In a courtroom packed with more than two dozen sobbing family members, Contreras talked about growing up poor, in a family of nine siblings in a two-bedroom home, and how his family was working together when they were slain on Jan. 8, 2015.

“This was a business that catered to people who were down on their luck, who needed a second chance,” he said about Immaculate Auto Sales on Little York. “As they were there, working, you were scheming and creeping and planning to destroy a family.”

He told the Tinsley he would likely spend the rest of his life behind bricks, mortar and bars, an acknowledgement that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office had originally sought death, although they did not seek it at trial.

“If you live another 50 years, you may wonder if the State of Texas really did you a favor by taking death off the table,” he said. “There’s a special place in Hell for you and that’s all you have to look forward to.”

During a trial that lasted more than a week, jurors heard that the two brothers, Jesse and Tony Contreras, were found dead with gunshots to the head.

Casey Contreras, Tony Contreras’ 22-year-old son, was also shot in the head and died the next day.

A mechanic discovered the victims in a pool of blood in the office.

Defense attorney Casey Keirnan said Tinsley was shocked by the verdict.

“He’s maintained his innocence since the very beginning,” Keirnan said. “He’s in the holdover cell weeping. He’s crying. He’s stunned.”

Keirnan had argued that Metro records show Tinsley was not at the scene, but on a bus, albeit in the area, when the gunman was caught on video.

Prosecutors have said they believe Tinsley was so upset that a car he had bought at the dealership had been repossessed that he killed the men and tried to set the dealership on fire.

As the Contreras family filed out of the courtroom, a woman who was apparently related to Tinsley started shouting in crying hysterics that she was sorry about what happened.

“I’m sorry for all of you,” she repeatedly shouted before bailiffs calmed her down. “I feel your pain.”

She did not comment as she left the courtroom.


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