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BC-FBC--Ex-Texas A&M Player-Slaying,1st Ld-Writethru

May 1, 2019
A former Texas A&M football player has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a Dallas jogger who was hacked to death with a machete in 2015. A Dallas County jury found Thomas Johnson guilty of murder for the seemingly random killing of David Stevens Tuesday and returned the sentence Wednesday.

DALLAS (AP) — A former Texas A&M football player was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the slaying of a Dallas jogger who was hacked to death with a machete in 2015.

A Dallas County jury had found Thomas Johnson guilty of murder Tuesday for the seemingly random killing of David Stevens. The former wide receiver pleaded not guilty, but prosecutors and police said he previously confessed to killing Stevens. His defense called no witnesses before the jury returned a verdict.

Johnson was accused of waiting on a trail in East Dallas and attacking the 53-year-old mechanical engineer as he ran by.

Johnson’s sentencing followed years of legal dispute over whether the high school football star was mentally competent to be tried. In 2016, a judge ruled he was not fit to stand trial and had him committed to a psychiatric hospital. But the court reversed this decision in June following a report on Johnson’s mental state from the hospital, according to court records.

Jurors delivered the maximum sentence Wednesday after about an hour of deliberation. Their decision came despite arguments from Johnson’s attorneys that the he deserved leniency because he was not in his right mind during the attack.

A Dallas native, Johnson played football for Texas A&M in 2012 until he disappeared mid-season and turned up days later at his family’s home. His family has said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia before Stevens’ killing.

Stevens’ wife of 25 years died by suicide in October 2015, weeks after the murder. Patti Smith had told the Dallas Morning News that she hadn’t been sleeping or eating since her husband’s death.