Kimberly Milwicz was motivated by hatred rather than money when she plotted with two co-conspirators that resulted in the death of a 63-year-old businessman, according to Hood County District Attorney Rob Christian.
A jury returned with a guilty verdict late Thursday afternoon after about five hours of deliberation in 355th Judicial District Court, but it was on a lesser charge of murder.
Christian was prosecuting Milwicz as one of three people accused of capital murder in the Jan. 17, 2012 shooting death of Gene Sabin. He managed T.J.’s Private Club & Cafe, near the south entrance to the Oak Trail Shores (OTS), the subdivision where all three defendants had lived. Milwicz worked for Sabin, a Rolling Hills Shores resident, as a bartender at T.J.’s for three or four months.
Milwicz, a 24-year-old Californian who moved to Hood County in 2011 and had a series of address changes in a short time, was fired by Sabin in late December that year. That was approximately three weeks before Sabin’s fatal gunshot wound in the neck from a 9mm handgun.
“Kimberly Milwicz brought death to Gene Sabin,” Christian told the jury in his closing statement, noting Sabin had shown her kindness and she even referred to him as her “uncle” and even as her “savior” at times.
The seven-man, five-woman jury had been told by Judge Ralph Walton that if they didn’t find Milwicz not guilty, the options were capital murder, murder or robbery.
The first of the three suspects to go to trial, Justin Ragan, was tried in late January and found guilty of the capital murder charge and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
With Milwicz’s conviction on the lesser charge of murder, the punishment range is 5-99 years or life, according to Christian, with no probation. She must serve at least half of her sentence or 30 years, whichever is less, before being eligible for parole. The jury was considering punishment at press time.
The jury in Ragan’s case heard evidence that he was the one who shot Sabin while he was robbing him of checks and cash that totaled more than $1,500 according to testimony given by one of the investigators from the Hood County Sheriff’s Office.
“He should have been a loved one to her,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry told the jury. “It wasn’t about money for her. It was about hatred and revenge for kicking her out and firing her from the bar.”
Michael Eubank testified that at the time of Sabin’s murder, Eubank’s home was a known drug house in OTS, and he allowed Milwicz to stay there for about a week. He said Milwicz “hated” Sabin, and described a conversation he had with her a few days before Sabin’s death.
“She said she had a dream about hitting him in the head with a ball-peen hammer,” Eubank said, noting that Milwicz was using meth during her stay at his home and as a result “she became more violent and meaner.”
Sabin, described by Berry in his opening remarks to the jury as the trial began late Monday afternoon as being a good Samaritan, had allowed Milwicz to live in his home in a spare bedroom. Testimony from a former co-worker at T.J.’s indicated that Sabin not only fired Milwicz but also ordered her to move out by Jan. 1, 2012, because of her dating relationship with Gordon Ray Lewis – the third person who will face the capital murder charge in Sabin’s death, with a trial possibly starting in late June.
Berry referred to testimony from Rebecca Cleere, who described a conversation in her home “within a week” before Sabin’s murder in a gathering that included Milwicz, Lewis, Ragan and Lewis’ sister. The subject of T.J.’s and Gene Sabin came up and Milwicz was “very upset,” Cleere testified.
“Gordon was talking about going in to rob the place,” Cleere said. “She (Milwicz) wanted to see him beat to a bloody pulp. She wanted him hurt. Gordon was speaking to Ragan about doing it. (Lewis’) sister was trying to get them not to do it.”
In Ragan’s trial, Berry asked Cleere, “Did Milwicz say she wanted to see Gene Sabin beat down on the floor in a pool of blood?” and Cleer’s response was, “Yes.”
Investigators were tipped off after Sabin’s murder that Milwicz might be heading from Granbury to California, where her adoptive father Thomas Milwicz lives. With help from Kevin Wright, a Texas Ranger based in El Paso, she was then tracked to a motel in Las Cruces, N.M.
The Ranger and a member of the New Mexico State Police went to the room where Milwicz was staying and knocked. When she opened the door and the officers identified themselves, Milwicz asked, “Is this about Gene?” Wright testified.
During that interview, Milwicz admitted talking with Lewis about the best time and method for a possible robbery of T.J.’s.
“I said I could be a good getaway driver, but I didn’t want any part of it,” Milwicz was heard saying on the audio tape. “I had no plans to do it. It was just big talk.”
When Thomas Milwicz took the stand Wednesday, he testified that he had not heard from her in about two years when she called him on Jan. 14, 2012, three days prior to Sabin’s death.
“She was begging to come home,” Thomas Milwicz said of that phone conversation. “She said people were stealing her belongings and beating her up. I arranged for her to stay at a hotel.”
An acquaintance testified that he drove her from Eubank’s house in OTS to a motel in Granbury, where prosecutors said she stayed from Jan. 14 until Jan. 17.
Christian began his final remarks to the jury by explaining to them that Milwicz couldn’t leave for California until her car keys were taken from Sabin’s possession during the robbery.
The capital murder trial for Lewis, 36, is tentatively scheduled for late June.
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