Jury convicts Roderick Creag of murder
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
After an emotional week for all involved parties, a Houston County jury on Friday, Aug. 23, sentenced Roderick Demetrius Creag, Sr., 34, of Crockett to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division (TDCJID) for the Sept. 2, 2012 murder of Kimberly Caldera, 40, of Huntsville. The jury found Creag guilty of that crime Thursday, Aug. 23 after deliberating about 2-1/2 hours. The jurors also found him guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Friday afternoon, again after deliberating for about 2-1/2 hours, the jury sentenced Creag to 20 years in TDCJID for the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon charge, and life in TDCJID. The case began almost one year ago at a pasture off FM 2110 (Old Crockett State School Rd.), near FM 3310. The site was the scene of a party held on Sept. 1 following the annual Myrtis Dightman Rodeo and Trail Ride. According to an arrest affidavit and testimony from Crockett Police Department Detective Clayton Smith, who was a Houston County Sheriff's Deputy at the time and the first officer on the scene, the HCSO received a call about a disturbance with shots fired and a possible gunshot victim at approximately 3:15 a.m. on Sept. 2. Smith testified that he arrived on scene at approximately 3:20 a.m. and told dispatch to send more units. Caldera had been shot and was on the ground when Smith arrived, according to his testimony. Caldera was transported to the local hospital, where she passed away. Smith described the scene as "very chaotic". He said there were approximately 150 people there at the time, and they were trying to leave as quickly as they could. Jason Fransaw, her boyfriend, was wounded and trying to change a flat tire on his vehicle, according to Smith's testimony. Caldera's then 14-yearold daughter was one of the witnesses at the scene. Creag was identified by various witnesses as the shooter, according to law enforcement records. He left the scene before Smith arrived. He turned himself in on Sept. 3, stating in a taped interview with HCSO Deputy Randy Hargrove that he did not know he had shot Caldera until someone called and told him. He was held in the Houston County Jail for about six months, until he posted bail and was released on March 8. At the time of his arrest, Creag was a City of Crockett employee in the Street Department. In November 2012, a Houston County Grand Jury indicted Creag after determining the State had enough evidence to try the case. Also in November, Creag's bond was reduced from the original setting of $900,000 to $200,000. In preparation for the trial, there were pre-trial hearings and conferences as well as other preparations. On Monday, Aug. 26, Creag's attorney, Mark Cargill of Palestine, and the Houston County District Attorney's Office selected a jury panel and the indictments against Creag were read. Tuesday morning, Aug. 27, Creag's trial began in the District Courtroom of the 349th Judicial District with Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding. Fletcher explained rules and procedures step by step for the jurors as each phase of the trial began. In the beginning, she explained the types of evidence they would see and hear. She said, "Each of you must determine the facts as you see them to be. To do so, you must evaluate the credibility and the believability of each witness and to decide the weight and value to be given to each witness' testimony." Fletcher further instructed, "In considering the weight and value of a witness, you may consider the person's appearance, the person's attitude, the person's behavior, the person's interest in the outcome of the case, his or her relationship to the defendant, his or her relationship with the State of Texas, the inclination of the witness to tell the truth, the probability or the improbability of the witness' statements, the reasonable inferences from those statements, and all other factors you think will help you in giving that witness' testimony the degree of credibility you feel it deserves." She also explained the burden of proof was upon the State and the defendant is not required to produce any evidence, although the defendant may do so. In their opening statements, both Kaspar and Cargill echoed Fletcher as they explained the jurors would need to listen carefully and interpret and analyze each piece of evidence. Kaspar said the jury would hear two versions of how Caldera died a little after 3 a.m. - the State's version and Creag's version. "The first is going to be from Jason Fransaw and Kameron Harrison. Jason is Kimberly Caldera's boyfriend, or was at the time, and Kameron Harrison is her daughter. They had come to the party together; they had been there all evening long. About 3 o'clock they decided it was time to go home. . . Jason went to where he parked his car, got in the car to to bring it over to where their stuff was," Kaspar began. "They had chairs, and food; they were going to pack up and leave. As Jason was moving his car through the crowd and any other traffic, a white Cadillac pulled out in front of him and stopped, and wouldn't get out of his way. "I think you'll find out he asked the other car to get out of the way. I think you'll find when the other car began to move, they passed each other, driver door to driver door, and there was some mouthing between the both, Jason Fransaw and the defendant, Roderick Creag," Kaspar told the jury. She continued, "I think you'll find out that Jason Fransaw continued on, parked his car, and got out to go get his stuff. He got out of his car to find Roderick Creag getting out of his car towards him. I think that you'll hear that he (Fransaw) got back in his car, and ultimately Roderick Creag got back in his car and pulled away. "I think you'll hear from Jason Fransaw and Kameron Harrison that, once again, they thought it was over. You'll hear from the officers how the scene was when they got there. You'll see that there's a cooler right next to Jason Fransaw's car. You'll see that the back passenger door was open; you'll see that the trunk is open. . . . you'll find out about all the evidence they found inside and around that car." "I think you'll find that when Jason Fransaw thought that argument was over for the second time, he went and got that cooler . . I think you'll see that is the way, the opposite way of the direction from the way that the defendant left in his car, got that cooler, brought it back over to his car, and when he got it to the car and began to put it into the car, the defendant stepped out into the open and fired two shots in the direction of Fransaw. "I think you'll find from the evidence that, at some point, Kimberly Caldera had walked around that car and got into the driver's seat and was right there when the shots were fired." Kaspar said further, "I think you'll find out from the officers that the trajectory of the shots from where he shot, went through the back door and hit Kimberly Caldera in the back of the left shoulder. They pulled several of those buck shots out of her body. "I think that you'll find out that the defendant got back in his car, left the scene, went to Huntsville, went to Houston, then came back and turned himself in. "You have to decide if the defendant's side of the story is true, and if it's true, was it reasonable and immediately necessary to shoot." She added, "The evidence is not going to lie to you." Kaspar additionally explained the charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon was because it appeared the wadding from Creag's shotgun shell was what injured Fransaw. She also explained the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Creag completed parole for a felony offense in 2010 (Deadly conduct resulting in the death of two young men at a trail ride party in the Grapeland area in 1998) and that felons cannot be in possession of a firearm for five years after completion of parole. The details of his previous record were not revealed to the jury until the punishment phase of the trial began Thursday afternoon. After outlining what the State intended to prove as the story of what happened, Kaspar told the jury they also would hear Creag's side of the story, and that he would claim self-defense. Cargill told the jury during his opening statement that yes, his client was going to argue self-defense. He also told the jury it is true the evidence can't lie, but that the jurors must interpret that evidence. He additionally alleged Fransaw had pointed a gun at Creag, that Fransaw later said his handgun was stolen but he hadn't reported it stolen and no investigation was done into the alleged stolen handgun. He further said evidence would show no gun residue test was done on Fransaw to indicate if he had fired a gun recently. He said there would be evidence that would cast doubt on Fransaw's credibility as a witness. He also suggested other shots were being fired in the area, giving reason to question if maybe someone besides Creag had fired the shot that killed Caldera. Witnesses for the State included HCSO Deputy Lorenzo Simpson, Smith, Hargrove, Fransaw, Caldera's daughter and John Davis, a friend of the Dightman family who was nearby when the shooting occurred. There were no witnesses for the defense in this evidence phase of the trial. Simpson gave testimony regarding the parking arrangements at the party scene. He stated he was working as a security officer during the party prior to the shooting and assisted with parking. He was not on duty with HCSO at the time. Simpson also testified he left between 2 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Upon cross examination, Cargill established photos of the parking arrangement were a representation and estimation of the parking arrangement and not literal photos of cars parked on the scene. The representation was made using an aerial photo of the pasture that was altered to show where Simpson said the cars were parked the night of the party. Smith testified about giving CPR to Caldera, along with an unidentified woman who had started administering CPR before he arrived. He also gave testimony regarding the crime scene. He explained photographs showing evidence markers where two spent shell casings were found. There were photographs from the scene showing the flat tire on the passenger side of the car, an ice chest on the ground next to the passenger side of the car, blood on the side door panel of the rear driver's side door, blood splatter on the outside of the rear driver's side door and a hole in the headrest of the driver's seat where Caldera was hit. Photographs also showed where a projectile entered the panel on the inside of the driver's side door and where three projectiles entered the rear passenger side door that were visible when that door was open. Another photo show Fransaw's gun case in the front passenger seat. Smith referred to his notes and said the ammo recovered at the scene was 12 gauge double-aught buck. Pings to Creag's cell phone indicated he went to Huntsville and Houston after the shooting, Smith testified. Creag admitted in his videoed interview with Hargrove that he dropped the gun. He said when he realized he didn't have it, he was "too scared" to go back for it. Smith said the gun never was found. Fransaw's gun never was found, either. When Hargrove testified in court, he explained the different types of blood splatter in the vehicle and their significance to the case, and he explained the scatter of pellet holes found on the scene. He noted that the medical examiner found five pellets that remained in Caldera's body. He also explained the forensics of the trajectory of the shots fired by Creag. Another witness, John Davis of Montgomery County, testified as to what he saw. Davis was a vendor in the tent close to the shooting. He said he was a friend of the Dightman family and did not know any of the parties involved in the shooting. Davis said he saw the white Cadillac but could not identify the driver. He testified he saw the Cadillac turn around and speed through the entrance way (to the pasture) then come back in. He testified that next, he saw the trunk open, heard shots, saaw the man throw the gun into the trunk, the turn and look in the direction of the victim. Davis' voice broke and then he said, "He drove off." "I witnessed her take her last breath," Davis said. Cargill asked Davis if he saw four guys tring to start a fight by the car, did he see a gun by the car and did he take the gun from the car. Davis responded "No" to each question. Cargill also asked Davis what he was doing while he was watching the events, and Davis said he also was serving food, talking to his wife and to Pam Dightman. Before testifying, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Richey asked Davis if Davis had ever met Richey or spoken with Richey before a few minutes prior to his courtroom appearance, and Davis responded "no". The jury also watched the video-taped interview with Creag, conducted by Hargrove after Creag turned himself in at HCSO. Creag stated in the interview, "When I do something I man up." He also said, "It wasn't just me shooting. There were more shots out there. . . I don't feel like I shot her." Later in the interview he stated the shots were some distance away. He also alleged that Fransaw had pulled a gun on him and that Fransaw cut him off when they were in their vehicles. Creag told Hargrove that he fired two shots and drove off. "People were shooting around me and I drove off," he said. After the video played, Cargill asked Hargrove if he had any training in interviewing a suspect during his academy classes, and Hargrove said very little. Cargill also asked about a gunshot residue test on Fransaw had been conducted, and Hargrove said it had not. There also was no DNA testing on the blood found on the car, according to Hargrove's testimony when Cargill asked. During his closing arguments, Cargill told the jury it was a very difficult case to look at, and discussed all the perspectives that had been presented during the trial. He referenced the perspectives of Fransaw, Caldera's daughter, Creag and Davis. He said there also were the perspectives of the officers who testified and the perspective of the jurors, who all received their information after the fact and that it was all subjective. He disputed Fransaw's credibility as a witness. As to Creag's self-defense claim, Cargill argued that Creag "believed he had no out" at the time he shot. He asserted that Creag could not have known Fransaw had a gun unless Fransaw pulled it on him, because Fransaw had admitted in his testimony he had one in the back of his pocket. Cargill said of Fransaaw, "His credibility just did not add up." He also stated Davis' testimony could not be true because Caldera was on the other side of the car from Creag, so Creag could not have seen her if he had looked back as Davis alleged. Before deliberations began, Fletcher told the jury they would have to decide who they believed and to consider each piece of evidence carefully. When they returned the verdict, it indicated they believed the State had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. During the punishment phase of the trial, Kaspar revealed Creag's criminal record and explained their impact in the assessment of punishments. In 1998, Creag was involved in the shooting deaths of two young men at an after-trail ride party in the Grapeland area. HCSO Deputy Mike Molnes investigated the case, and he identified similarities in the two cases. In both cases, the shootings occurred around 3 a.m. - 4 a.m. at a party after a trailride; Creag was not on the scene when law enforcement arrived and turned himself in one or two days after the shooting; witnesses at both scenes identified him as the shooter; and the weapons used in each case were never found. Additionally, the vehicle Creag used in each instance was located later at Creag's Uncle Maurice Hampton's home. In the earlier case, Creag took a plea bargain and pled guilty to the charge of deadly conduct in that case. He was granted probation, but violated that probation with another deadly conduct charge and was sentenced to 10 years in TDCJID. He served six years and was released on parole, which ended in 2010. The jury also was informed of Creag's previous convictions for a terroristic threat and two thefts. During the punishment phase, Cargill called three witnesses who testified on Creag's behalf: Wesley Elmore, a co-worker at the City of Crockett; Donald Wilson, a friend who has hired Creag to do mechanic work; and Paulette McClelland, who said she has known Creag since he was a child and sees him in church on Sundays. Each witness portrayed Creag as a good father and husband, a good family man. He also was described as a hard worker and dependable. None expressed concern about his past and never felt uncomfortable around him. They testified the man accused of the crimes was not the man they know. Kaspar and Richey shared the State's closing arguments. Kaspar asked the jury, "What kind of guy is the defendant, really?" She stated his criminal activity started 16 years ago and has escalated. She said he has been given multiple chances with previous offenses. "We tried to get him to prove he was the good guy he said he was," Kaspar said. "How many lives must he take?" "In the final closing argument, Richey addressed the jury and stated the current case was not an isolated incident, that the whole story began in the 1990s. He recapped the three deaths for which Creag has been determined responsible, then said emphatically, "It stops here." The jury agreed and assessed the maximum sentence for each of the three current convictions. The sentences will be served concurrently and Creag will be eligible for parole in 30 years. He stated he will file an appeal, and Fletcher appointed Cargill to represent him in the appeals process. Creag is confined at the Houston County Jail until he can be transferred to TDCJ-ID. After the final verdicts were rendered, Caldera's daughter, Kameron Harris, and her mother, Audrey Archie, were allowed to face Creag and make victim impact statements. Both said they forgive Creag, but they will never forget what he did. Harris said, "You claim to be a family man, but you tried to take my family away from me. You tried to kill my dad. "I'm 15 now, but I was 14 when I saw my mom get killed right in front of my face. . . . I was never raised in the hood. I was never around violence and fighting. So to see my mom get killed like that in front of my face, you have no clue what that did to me. . . ." She described living in fear of being shot herself. She also described herself as strong and having to be strong because she now has to do and deal with things other people don't have to do until they are much older than her. She additionally told Creag that because of what he did, her mom will not be at her high school graduation or at her wedding whenever she gets married.