Murder trial witness: Suspects don ‘dark clothes,’ ‘hoodies’ before crime

June 29, 2013

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A few hours before club owner Gene Sabin was murdered, a witness saw two men “suiting up” for what he thought was going to be a robbery, putting on “dark clothes and a disguise – hoodies,” according to testimony this week in Hood County district court.

The two suspects named were Gordon Ray Lewis and Justin Wade Ragan.

Later that morning, around sunrise, the witness said he saw Ragan running down a street in Oak Trail Shores (OTS) – and appeared to be breathing hard, sweating and scared.

The witness, Ray Yates, responded to District Attorney Rob Christian asking what Ragan said to him. “He shot somebody,” Yates replied.

Lewis, 36, an OTS resident referred to by the nickname of “Flash Gordon” by many of those who knew him and testified, was on trial this week. He was the third person arrested and indicted in the January 2012 shooting death of Sabin, the manager of T.J.’s Private Club and Cafe.

The first two defendants, Kimberly Danielle Milwicz and Ragan, were found guilty and sentenced to lengthy prison terms earlier this year.

Prosecutors made the case that Milwicz was furious at Sabin after being fired from her job at T.J.’s, and Lewis was her boyfriend at the time. Ragan, prosecutors contended in the first two trials, was the trigger man, lured not only by money, but also by an offer to get high on the drug they were all using – methamphetamine.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

At press time Friday morning, attorneys for the defense and prosecution were still presenting their closing statements in 355th Judicial District Court in Granbury. A guilty verdict for capital murder from the nine-man, three-woman jury will automatically send Lewis to prison for life, without the possibility of parole.

In his opening statement to the jury Tuesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry stated that the case was a conspiracy to rob T.J.’s, which is on Oak Tail Drive near the front entrance of OTS. The robbery made the shooting death of the 63-year-old Sabin, a Rolling Hills Shores resident and 33-year military veteran, a capital offense. Christian did not seek the death penalty in any of the three cases.

But three of the witnesses Christian brought to the stand, including two on Thursday, claimed to have inside information about the suspect’s possible involvement.

Yates, who said he’s lived in OTS since 1979, told the jury he was in a vehicle a few days before Sabin’s murder with Lewis and Milwicz, traveling to Fort Worth on a mission to purchase meth.

“Flash and Kimber was robbing T.J.’s so Kimber could go back to California,” Yates said on the witness stand. “I know she had just lost her job.”

Milwicz was originally from California. She was arrested on a Hood County warrant in New Mexico.

Yates said the two speculated they might be able to get between $3,000 and $6,000 by robbing T.J.’s on that Monday – the end of a three-day weekend for Martin Luther King’s birthday when the banks were closed.

Thursday afternoon, more key testimony was delivered by Fort Worth resident Justin Pratt. He told the jury that Lewis was at his home on June 25 of last year when Lewis admitted – while they were alone – to taking part in the planning of the robbery of T.J.’s. Later, Pratt said, Lewis assaulted him with a piece of granite after he told others that Lewis was a “murderer.”

’WANTED GENE TO BE HURT’

Hood County resident Rebecca Cleere testified that Milwicz, Lewis and Ragan were all in her home a few days before Sabin was murdered. Cleere said that Milwicz was upset with Sabin at what happened.

“Kimmy was talking about how she had been fired, and she wanted Gene to be hurt,” said Cleere, who also testified in the trials of Ragan and Milwicz. “Gordon asked Ragan to come along with them and rob the place. Ragan thought that was a stupid idea, to rob the place for a few hundred dollars.”

Then, Cleere indicated, Lewis enticed Ragan by showing him a bag containing meth.

Cleere also testified that she later received a phone call from Lewis, telling her, “I could take the Fifth.”

Lead defense attorney Richard Mitchell, who was assisted by Don Davis, asked Cleere if she thought Milwicz “was just blowing off steam” and Cleere responded, “Yes.”

Hood County resident Richard McClatchy told the jury that a few hours before the incident at T.J.’s, he was riding a bicycle past the home where Lewis lived on Oak Meadow Street in OTS when Lewis pulled a gun on him, accusing him of theft.

“He stuck it in my face and told me not to come around here anymore,” McClatchy testified. “He kicked me in the chest.”

Berry asked McClatchy, “Were Justin Ragan and Gordon Lewis hanging together that night?” and McClatchy replied, “Yes.”

No eyewitnesses placed Lewis – or the other two suspects – at the club that morning.

RAGAN CONVICTED

Ragan, 24, was convicted of capital murder on Jan. 31. He admitted to a Texas Ranger that he shot Sabin in the process of robbing money and checks from T.J.’s. Ragan’s sentence is life in prison without parole. In early April, Milwicz, 25, was convicted of the “lesser” count of murder (not capital murder). The jury fined her $10,000 and sentenced her to life in prison. Milwicz will be eligible to apply for parole after serving 30 years.

Another former employee of Sabin at T.J.’s, Stephanie Houghtaling, said she previously had a relationship with Lewis, and on one occasion he told her his thoughts about T.J.’s as they drove by the club.

“He said he wanted to blow it up, over an incident that happened,” Houghtaling said, later adding that Sabin had put Lewis on the club’s “barred” list because of an incident that occurred at the club.

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