AP NEWS

Houston teen’s capital murder trial to continue next week

April 10, 2019

A Houston teen’s capital murder trial in the deaths of his parents will resume next Tuesday after a recess, attorneys said.

Antonio Armstrong, Jr., who is now 19, is standing trial in the double-slaying of his parents on July 29, 2016. Through six days of testimony, prosecutors have brought evidence to show inconsistencies in Armstrong’s story and have established a motive that Armstrong was disgruntled with his mother and father over being disciplined at home.

Defense attorneys are trying to prove reasonable doubt in the case, and have alleged that prosecutors and investigators didn’t do enough to investigate other suspects. The trial could last through the end of the month.

Prosecutors neared the end of their sworn witnesses this week and called up the former girlfriend of Armstrong’s older brother. Defense attorneys said during opening arguments that the brother, Josh Armstrong, could be a suspect in the slayings.

The former girlfriend told jurors that she was with Josh Armstrong in his apartment, just a few minutes away from his parents’ house, on the night of the killings. She testified that she went to bed around 10 or 11 p.m. and woke up around 2 a.m. to hear her boyfriend say his parents had been shot, defense attorney Rick DeToto said.

The time period when she was asleep could have allowed enough time for the brother to leave the home, DeToto said.

The family’s accountant also testified before the jury, confirming that the Armstrongs were spiraling into debt and living beyond their means. They had a trust fund with some money stored away, which DeToto described as evidence that the prosecutors are using to establish another motive for Armstrong to kill his parents.

DeToto described both testimonies as having nothing there. Prosecutors aren’t commenting to reporters during the trial.

The shooting was first reported to police around 1:40 a.m., when Armstrong called 911 to say he heard gunshots in his parents’ room and that he was hiding in his closet.

Police found the murder weapon, which belonged to the father, in the kitchen downstairs next to a threatening note. Investigators have questioned how an intruder could have had the time and lack of sense to leave the evidence behind, as well as how they got out of a home that appeared secure when police arrived.

The last of the prosecution’s witnesses is expected to be heard on Tuesday. After, the defense’s witnesses will take the stand.

The longer recess is due to a conference that state District Judge Kelli Johnson, who is presiding is over the case, is attending on Thursday and Friday. A juror will also be on vacation until Monday evening, court coordinator Mary Leal said.

Armstrong, who was 16 at the time of the deaths, is being tried as an adult. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the killing, he would not be eligible for the death penalty.

samantha.ketterer@chron.com