AP NEWS

Katy man sentenced to 35 years for murder U.S. Air Force vet

March 20, 2019

A 54-year-old Katy man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the 2016 Christmas Eve murder of U.S. Air Force Veteran Christopher Battelli outside Southland Bar & Grill in Katy.

Earl James Semien plead guilty to first degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon on March 12, before presiding Judge Maggie Jaramillo sentenced him to 35 years for the murder and 10 years for possession of the gun, according to the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s office. Many of Battelli’s friends and family who were in the courtroom during the sentencing.

Semien is said to have shot and killed Battelli while Battelli sat in his parked vehicle at about 2 a.m. on Dec. 24, 2016 outside the Southland Bar & Grill in Katy located at the 5900 block of Stockdick Road. Battelli, 29 and a father of two, was shot in the head, according to the district attorney.

According to police at the time of shooting, both men had previously been inside the bar and had spoken, but it was unclear why the shooting occurred. No motive for the killing was ever discovered, according to Assistant District Attorney Lesleigh Morton.

“Chris Battelli served our country and received numerous decorations for his service, only to be executed in cold blood by someone he knew, for no apparent reason,” Morton said. “Hopefully Semien’s sentence will begin to bring Chris’s family closure, but I know they, and we, will always wonder why Semien executed Chris as Chris sat unsuspectingly in his vehicle.

“It is haunting to think of the last few minutes of Chris’s life, but make no mistake about it - he will forever be remembered as the kind, gentle, fun-loving person that touched the lives of those around him,” she added.

Semien is said to have been in possession of a firearm for approximately three weeks before he shot and killed Battelli, prosecutors said. Following the murder, Semien, a felon, asked a friend to “get rid of it because it had a body on it,” prosecutors said.

Murder in this case is a first-degree felony and punishable by 15 to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Unlawful possession of a firearm in this case is a third-degree felony punishable from 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, prosecutors said.

Semien was not eligible for probation, and under Texas law, must serve at least half of his sentence before being considered for parole.

michelle.iracheta@chron.com