|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - April 2010
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Jury returns McWilliams to prison for 10 years
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – One of the Trinity men convicted in connection with the 1996 robbery and murder of a parcel deliveryman was given another 10 years in prison earlier this month after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to the 258th District Attorney’s office, Gerald Tremaine McWilliams went on trial April 5 on charges stemming from his arrest on June 8, 2009 by Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace. McWilliams was one of the two suspects arrested in connection with the September 1996 robbery and murder of the United Parcel Service driver Anthony Renard, 40, of Palestine. The incident apparently stemmed from a pair of tennis shoes the two ordered “cash on delivery” but could not pay for when they arrived. Renard disappeared on Sept. 19, 1996 while on his normal delivery route in Trinity. His body was subsequently discovered in a remote wooded area off Highway 230 about 2.3 miles west of Trinity. At that time of their arrest in October 1996, McWilliams was 17 and the second suspect, Chastain “Chico” Rivera, was 18. Both were initially charged with capital murder. McWilliams subsequently entered a guilty plea to the lesser offense of robbery and was given a 20-year prison sentence. Rivera was given a life sentence for his part in the murder. On Dec. 14, 2005, McWilliams was released on parole but was sent back to prison on May 23, 2008 and again paroled on January 27, 2009. His arrest this past June came during a traffic stop after Wallace received a tip from a confidential informant that McWilliams was transporting narcotics. In addition, at the time of his arrest McWilliams was wanted by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which had issued a “blue” (parole violation) warrant for his arrest. Later, Wallace learned McWilliams had been accompanied that day by his live-in girlfriend, however she was driving a separate vehicle. Wallace, along Deputy Constable Ricky Hope, Investigator Shipper and Deputy Sheriff Brandon Bhattacharjee went to the couple’s residence to search for the narcotics. The girlfriend gave consent to search the home at that time. During the search, Wallace and the officers located two weapons in the bedroom used by McWilliams. The firearms included a shotgun located in plain view next to the bed and one .380 pistol located under the mattress. Both firearms were loaded. Also found in the bedroom was McWilliams' identification card and an article of clothing recognized by one of the officers to be the same clothes McWilliams had worn the week before when he ran from an officer. The officers also located scales commonly used to weigh narcotics that contained trace amounts of drugs as well as a small amount of marijuana. During the trial this month, the jury found that McWilliams knowingly possessed the firearms and found him guilty as charged. During the punishment phase of the trial, the jury found out the details of McWilliams’ past criminal episode. The jury did not know that McWilliams was a participant in the UPS killing until after they found him guilty. In this case, Texas law would not allow this information to be presented to the jury until after the guilt/innocence phase of trial because it might have prejudiced the jury in their finding of guilt or innocence on the weapons charge. The jury did however know that McWilliams was found guilty of robbery, but did not know any details about the conviction. In their verdict, the jury assessed the maximum time and fine they could on the weapons charge -- 10 years confinement and a fine of $10,000. Some of the jury members felt the time was not enough, however the charge of felon in possession of a firearm is a third degree felony and therefore carries the maximum 10-years/ $10,000 fine punishment. Assistant District Attorney Bennie L. Schiro said he also has contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office to encourage that office to pursue federal weapons charges against McWilliams, which could ultimately result in extra time behind bars.