Three times A.J. Armstrong has been tried for capital murder, accused of killing his parents as they slept. Twice, a mistrial was declared when jurors couldn’t decide on a unanimous verdict of guilty or not guilty. Now, a third jury is about to get their chance.
After more than 40 hours of testimony from 31 witnesses over the past 11 days, the state of Texas rested its case against Armstrong on Monday.
Judge Kelli Johnson told jurors to pack a bag for the closing arguments. Should they not reach a verdict by the end of the day, they’ll be sequestered to a hotel.
Should AJ be found guilty of capital murder, he’ll be immediately sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Due to his age at the time of the murders, AJ would not face the death penalty.
It’s been more than seven years since Armstrong was charged with killing his parents.
In July 2016, Dawn and Antonio Sr. were each shot in the head, pillows placed over their faces, while asleep in their southwest Houston home. Armstrong was arrested hours later. He was 16 years old, entering his junior year of high school at the time.
Now, Armstrong is a 23-year-old man who has worn a GPS ankle monitor all of his adult life, since bonding out of jail in 2017.
Since his last trial, Armstrong has married the mother of his son, his high school girlfriend, Kate Ober, who testified on his behalf during his first trial. These are big milestones for anyone, but Armstrong has yet to move on with his life, as investigators maintain he is the only person who could have killed his parents, which prosecutors are attempting to prove to a third jury.
Defense attorneys have tried to cast doubt on that, even pointing a finger at Armstrong’s older brother, Josh, as a possible suspect.
The state had text messages between Antonio Sr., Dawn, and their son, Josh, introduced into evidence. Prosecutors worked to show that those messages made it appear Josh was a normal and loving son.
However, the defense claims Josh had mental health issues and was suffering from paranoia and schizophrenia. The state says Josh was diagnosed with mental health issues, but that happened months after the murders.
There have been several delays in what seems like the never-ending saga that is the Armstrong case thanks to Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19, dozens of rescheduled hearings, even lost evidence.