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Stories Added - November 2009
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Trinity County killer taken off death row
Trinity Standard - November 2009
GROVETON – After spending 24 years on death row for the 1984 murder of his father, a Trinity County man’s sentence has been reduced to three life prison terms. Gene “Geno” Wilford Hathorn Jr., 49, was convicted by a Trinity County jury in 1985 for the brutal murder of his father, Gene Hathorn Sr., 45. He also was charged with but not tried for the death of his stepmother, Linda Sue Hathorn, 35, and half-brother, Marcus, 14. All three were gunned down in their mobile home in the northern Trinity County community of Nogalus Prairie. Testimony during the trial indicated that evidence was planted at the scene in an attempt to convince investigators that “drug crazed Blacks” had committed the crime. Testimony indicated that Hathorn Jr. and a co-worker at the Rusk State Hospital, James Lee Beathard, had planned the triple murder in an effort to “commit the perfect crime.” Hathorn also hoped to receive $150,000 from his father’s estate and had promised to pay Beathard a portion of that inheritance. Following the murders, Hathorn discovered that only weeks prior to their deaths, his father and step-mother had changed their wills and specifically excluded him from inheriting anything. Beathard also was convicted in connection with the murders and was sentenced to death. He was executed in 1999. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled earlier this year that Hathorn was entitled to a new punishment hearing because jurors in the 1985 trial were not given proper instructions and should have been allowed to consider evidence that Hathorn was abused as a child. A plea agreement in which Hathorn accepted the three life sentences was finalized earlier this month in Groveton. While he will no longer face the death penalty, the three life terms are to be served consecutively, meaning there is little possibility he will ever be released on parole.