A Cuero man pled guilty to manslaughter Tuesday in an August 2020 shooting death of a Victoria woman.
Justin Taylor Reynolds, 39, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine was assessed for the “reckless shooting death” of Ashley Gainer, 23, according to a news release from the Victoria County District Attorney’s Office.
The guilty plea comes more than a year after a Victoria County grand jury issued an indictment charging Reynolds with murder, which is a first-degree felony punishable by 5 - 99 years in prison.
In lieu of going to trial, prosecutors offered Reynolds a deal to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, according to Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Constance Filley Johnson and the news release.
“The plea bargain took into consideration that the events leading up to the shooting involved a drug transaction between the parties. There were numerous poor decisions made on the part of everyone involved. Ultimately, the state felt that a rational jury would likely believe Mr. Reynolds’ actions were reckless instead of intentional, and would have convicted him of manslaughter,” Filley Johnson said. “As a result, a negotiated plea to the maximum sentence on the lesser included offense seemed like a just outcome.”
About 9:20 a.m. Aug. 19, 2020, Victoria County sheriff’s deputies were called to a stretch of U.S. 87 between Cottonwood Drive and Oliver Road about 4 miles northeast of Victoria.
The shooting was initially reported as a major vehicle crash. However, a preliminary investigation determined someone had shot into Gainer’s vehicle and then fled north into DeWitt County, Chief Deputy Will Franklin told the Victoria Advocate in August 2020.
After receiving a request for assistance, DeWitt County deputies later located and arrested Reynolds and another woman, Michelle Helge, on Golly Road.
The state will not pursue charges against Helge in regard to the shooting, Filley Johnson said.
Several members of Gainer’s family were present in court and addressed Reynolds after his guilty plea, according to the news release.
“Ashley Gainer’s family met with us on multiple occasions and supported our decision to resolve the case in this way,” Filley Johnson said. “We are grateful for their support and will continue to keep them in our prayers.”
This case was investigated by the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by Filley Johnson. Defense attorney Keith Weiser represented Reynolds. District Judge Eli Garza presided over the case.