Although murder defendant Jordan Marshall Spraggins pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Steven Seth Pharris, he said during his sentencing hearing on Wednesday that he did not know what happened to the man. ‘armed.
Pharris, 26, of Abilene was found around 11 p.m. on September 21, 2020, at an Interstate 20 crash site near the Fulwiler Road exit. He died of gunshot wounds to the arm, neck and torso.
Spraggins testified for approximately two hours in the 350th District Court at the Taylor County Courthouse. Judge Thomas Wheeler is presiding over the jury trial which began Tuesday afternoon.
Eight defense witnesses appeared on Wednesday afternoon, including an uncle and a sister. Testimony showed that although the Spraggins’ marriage had problems over the years, the defendant was a hard worker and a good father.
A supervisor said that although he knew Spraggins admitted to the murder, he would hire him again due to his work ethic and the incident being irrelevant.
When defense attorney Keith Amos asked him why he shot Pharris, the defendant lowered his head and did not answer.
During further questioning, Spraggins spoke quietly as he recounted his relationship with his wife, his work history and his life as a father.
He said he had not seen his five children since August 2020, shortly after his wife left him in late July and a few weeks before the shooting.
Sometime after the couple separated, Spraggins said Abilene police, who responded to a disturbance between the two, told him to leave the residence. He took an SUV, and a van he owned with his wife stayed with her.
Spraggins said that after meeting with Pharris in the presence of the victim’s mother and friends, he believed Pharris had agreed to stay away from the woman. During the meeting, the two men fought physically.
Spraggins also admitted to going to his old house and climbing out a window to find the woman and Pharris in bed. The defendant said that when he returned to his SUV, his wife pointed a gun at him. Spraggins said Pharris eventually pushed the woman aside and Spraggins left.
The defendant denied witness testimony on Tuesday that he would sit in his vehicle in the parking lot where Pharris worked.
Trial day 1: Sweetwater man pleads guilty in fatal shooting of Abilene man on Interstate 20
Spraggins said the night of the murder he was driving to Abilene, heading to his old home. But he happened to see his truck, which was now driven by Pharris on the highway.
Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Dan Joiner, Spraggins said he had a gun in the front passenger seat. He bought the unregistered weapon from people he did not know because he had received threatening messages, he testified.
The police did not recover the weapon.
The moment he saw his truck with Pharris’ arm hanging down while smoking a cigarette, Spraggins said he felt rage, terror and betrayal. He said he didn’t know if Pharris had seen him before the shooting.
In earlier testimony, Spraggins said the two men were friends before the woman left Spraggins. But, Spraggins could no longer tolerate working with him at the truck stop and quit.
“If I could trade places with Seth, I would,” Spraggins said near the end of his stint at the helm.
Offering to give his life shows he knows what he did was heinous, Joiner retorted.
“Fair enough,” Spraggins replied.
Conflicting police testimony
Spraggins’ testimony of coincidentally seeing the van on the freeway contradicted bar statements Wednesday morning by Det. Abilene Police Department. Tim Pipe, who was the lead investigator.
Pipe said that once the victim was identified, Spraggins became a suspect because officers were called about incidents involving him, Pharris and Spraggins’ wife.
Video from a business near the Tye truck stop where Spraggins and Pharris were once co-workers showed Pharris’ truck being followed by a large SUV believed to belong to Spraggins as the truck pulled into the freeway after work, Pipe said.
The title of the truck had been changed from the Spraggins couple to just the woman’s name, Pipe said.
Spraggins had called Abilene police hours after the crash, saying he was told someone he worked with had been in the wreckage and was trying to get more information, Pipe said. .
Police had a face-to-face interview with Spraggins around 5 a.m. the day after the crash. Spraggins was cooperative and gave an alibi of his whereabouts, saying his SUV had a leak and could not be driven to Abilene.
He also allowed police to look at the SUV, his residence and his phone. Police then obtained warrants for a more detailed search of his phone. Video and cellphone data contradict Spraggins’ alibi, Pipe said.
Detectives obtained an arrest warrant and questioned Spraggins at the Abilene police station. He eventually admitted shooting Pharris, Pipe said.
During her testimony for the prosecution on Wednesday morning, Pharris’ mother said her son was loved by everyone and was a peacemaker. She said she advised her son not to see his wife.
Pharris’ mother had also blocked the woman’s number from the victim’s phone, but the woman gave him another.
The sentencing trial continues Thursday.
Laura Gutschke is a generalist journalist and food columnist and manages the online content of the Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Interstate 20 Murder Accused Cannot Explain What Happened to Gun