A former employee who was given a place to stay by Gene Sabin but later plotted with two other people to steal from him and leave him “in a pool of blood” is as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry argued Monday afternoon in his opening statement to the jury in 355th Judicial District Court.
The capital murder of Kimberly Milwicz, 24, began mid-afternoon Monday with Berry describing Sabin as “a good Samaritan,” shortly after Milwicz entered a plea of not guilty.
“One of the people (Sabin) attempted to help was the defendant, Kimberly Danielle Milwicz,” Berry said, noting that Milwicz was on probation for a previous offense, theft. “Kimberly was kicked out of the place she was living. Gene had a room, and he let her live with him.”
Sabin, 63, a resident of the Rolling Hills Shores subdivision, was found in a pool of blood by one of his employees inside T.J.’s Private Club and Cafe, on Oak Trail Drive near the entrance to the Oak Trail Shores subdivision northwest of Granbury. Sabin managed the club for his sister Teresa – known as T.J. – who owns the club.
The alleged theft of money and checks during the incident qualified the death as a capital murder case. District Attorney Rob Christian, who is prosecuting the Milwicz case along with Berry, is not seeking the death penalty for any of the three defendants.
One defendant, Justin Wade Ragan, 24, was convicted of capital murder on Jan. 31 and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in the Jan. 17, 2012, shooting death of Sabin. A capital murder trial for a third defendant, Gordon Ray Lewis, 36, is expected to begin in late June.
Berry’s reference to the “pool of blood” points back to testimony from a woman named Rebecca Cleere, who, while on the witness stand in Ragan’s trial was asked by Berry, “Did Milwicz say she wanted to see Gene Sabin beat down on the floor in a pool of blood?” Cleere’s answer was yes.
On Monday Berry told the seven-man, five-woman jury that Milwicz had started dating Lewis, someone Sabin was already familiar with because he had been previously banned from T.J.’s. As a result, sometime between Christmas and the end of 2011, Sabin fired Milwicz and also told her she had to move out of his spare bedroom.
“Kimberly was not happy,” Berry said. “She was angry, and she was going to get even.”
Berry told the jury that Milwicz and Lewis recruited Ragan to be part of their plan to steal money from T.J.’s. In Ragan’s videotaped interview with investigators played during his trial, he admitted shooting Sabin and at one point told them, “It’s murder.”
Berry told the jury that the case is a co-conspiracy, and Milwicz “is just as guilty as the one who pulled the trigger,” then added, “It was because of Kimberly Milwicz that this was a murder. Although she wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, she is responsible for the death of Ormand Gene Sabin.”
Brandy Shirley, the employee who found Sabin in a fetal position on the floor after he had been shot in the neck with a 9mm firearm, testified Monday that she went to a nearby convenience store to call 911 because the phone cord at T.J.’s had been ripped out.
First, she said, she put her hand on his neck to check for a pulse.
“I didn’t feel anything,” said Shirley, whose chilling 911 call was placed at 6:24 a.m. according to dispatch records. At the time, she testified, she did not realize Sabin had been shot but knew that he had suffered a stroke on Aug. 14 – three days before his death.
Brian Sabin, one of Sabin’s two sons, testified that he visited his father and tried to convince him to go to a hospital that Saturday.
“He couldn’t speak (and) he had trouble writing. He had trouble hearing,” Brian Sabin said.
His father, a former member of the Army and the Army National Guard, refused to go. Instead, he indicated he planned to see a doctor at his V.A. hospital on Tuesday – which turned out to be the day he was killed.
The manager of the convenience store from where Shirley called 911 testified that she knew Lewis, an Oak Trail Shores resident, and saw him in the store between 5-5:30 a.m. – approximately an hour before Shirley came in to make her frantic emergency call. The store manager said she remembered speaking to Lewis that morning because “his mother had hot checks,” given at the store.
Shirley told the jurors she thought Sabin “was an awesome person,” and added that he let Milwicz “borrow money sometimes. He let her move into the house with him so she could get back on her feet.”
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