Man sentenced to 60 years for killing grandmother

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Aug. 23, 2017 at 10:06 p.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2017 at 6 a.m.

James Derek Salyer Jr.

James Derek Salyer Jr.   contributed photo for The Victoria Advocate

GOLIAD - A Goliad man accused of shooting his grandmother in the back with a shotgun and video- recording the killing was sentenced to prison Wednesday.

"I just hope the family can put it behind them because it was horrible," said District Attorney Rob Lassmann. "Killing your grandma, shooting her in the back - I can't imagine."

James Derek Salyer Jr., 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday and was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder of Jeanette Sutherland Salyer, 79, according to court documents.

Plea deal accepted by James Derek Salyer Jr. by Jon Wilcox on Scribd

Salyer must serve 30 years of that time before he is eligible for parole consideration, Lassmann said. The agreement also restricts him from pursuing appeal or going to trial. Salyer's attorney, Elliott Costas, did not return phone calls requesting comment Wednesday.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Salyer at his grandmother's Franke Road home in eastern Goliad County on Jan. 14 after she failed to answer phone calls from a concerned family member.

Deputies found the deceased grandmother inside her bedroom with a shotgun wound. They found Salyer locked inside another bedroom.

The victim's younger brother, 59-year-old Bill Sutherland, of Victoria, said in March that Salyer was temporarily staying at the home.

He did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Indictment for James Derek Salyer Jr. by Jon Wilcox on Scribd

Although prosecutors planned to bring Salyer to trial in early 2018, Lassmann said, they are satisfied with Salyer's plea.

The deal offered to Salyer saves taxpayers' money by avoiding a trial, which would likely result in a murder conviction, Lassmann said.

"We had good evidence," he said.

A video recorded by Salyer as he fired a shotgun into his grandmother's back was chief among prosecutors' evidence, Lassmann said.

"He recorded a murder," Lassmann said.

Additionally, claims by Salyer that he heard voices telling him to do the killing were dismissed by a forensic psychologist who found him competent to stand trial.

Instead, the forensic psychologist determined the voices were likely the result of illegal drug use, Lassmann said.

The competency report remained sealed Wednesday.

"I think (the forensic psychologist) clearly showed that he was being manipulative," Lassmann said.


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