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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added -  January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

Murder, criminal cases cleared in 2008
San Jacinto News- Times - January 2009

COLDSPRING – Back-to-back capital murder cases and a record number of criminal cases tried during 2008 created a busy year for San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett and his team. Looking back, Burnett said, “In 2007 the DA’s offi ce was able to send 57 individuals to prison. In 2008 the DA’s offi ce sent a total of 64 individuals to prison. In 2007, 37 of those individuals were sentenced to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDC) for a total of 290 years and 20 were sentenced to state jail for a total of 232 months. In 2008, 46 individuals were sentenced to the TDC for a total of 556 years plus two life sentences, and 18 individuals were sentenced to state jail for a total of 316 months. The TDC prison sentences assessed for the two-year period totaled 846 years plus two life sentences and the state jail sentences total 548 months. The average TDC sentence per person in 2008 was approximately 12 years and the average state jail sentence per person was 14.4 months per person. The longest state jail sentence that can be assessed is 24 months. The District Attorney’s offi ce tried several felony cases during 2008, but October saw the two longest and most complex trials as Megan Winfrey was tried for capital murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder and Jason Turner was tried for capital murder. “It was quite grueling to try two capital murder cases in the span of three weeks,” Burnett said. Each case had over 40 witnesses, hundreds of pieces of evidence, and several ex-pert witnesses. Winfrey was 16 at the time of the commission of the offenses and had been certifi ed to stand trial as an adult. She was found guilty of both capital murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder. She was sentenced to life for the capital murder and 45 years for the conspiracy to commit capital murder. She was 20 years old at the time of trial. Turner was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole. Another 84 individuals were placed on felony probation during 2008. “In appropriate cases we try to give defendants an opportunity to turn their lives around by placing them on probation. If they choose not to make the most of that opportunity then we still have the option of prison,” Burnett said. In addition to the criminal prosecutions, the district attorney’s offi ce completed 15 seizure and forfeiture proceedings in criminal cases. Forfeitures to the state included $35,295.29 in cash, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox now being used by the district attorney’s offi ce, a 1993 Suburban San Jacinto County has donated to the senior citizens for their use, real estate in Cedar Valley, 11 WalMart gift cards, a Sharp cash register and 17 electronic gambling machines. As of January 1, 2009, there are an additional seven seizure proceedings pending. During 2008 convictions were affi rmed in fi ve felony cases on appeal and six more appeals are currently pending in the appellate courts. In 2008, the District Attorney’s offi ce also responded to eight criminal scenes to assist local law enforcement. The Crime Victim Assistance Coordinator for the District Attorney’s offi ce assisted 126 crime victims last year. In addition the district attorney’s offi ce represented San Jacinto County Child Protective Services in numerous removal actions and prosecuted numerous misdemeanor and juvenile cases during the year. “Many people don’t realize that we have regular felony and misdemeanor court dockets scheduled at least 10 days a month and we have misdemeanor trials scheduled approximately once each month and felony trials scheduled 12 weeks during the year,” Burnett said. “So, our plates are full, but we have an outstanding, dedicated team, which helps us to handle a large workload and accomplish what we do.” Effective January 1, 2009, Van Loggins assumed the duties of chief criminal investigator for the criminal district attorney’s office. Loggins, a San Jacinto County resident, recently retired after a 30 year career with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Burnett’s former criminal investigator, Jim Kirk, was recently hired as a major in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office after being picked as a part of the transition team for new Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. Speaking of Loggins, Burnett said, “I have worked with Van for the past 30 years here. I know his experience and his integrity and I am thrilled to have him as a part of our team in the District Attorney’s office.”



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