Refugio County jury sentences a Houston man to 75 years in prision

A Houston man received a 75-year prison sentence on Wednesday from a Refugio County jury, almost a year after he led deputies on a high speed chase in a stolen vehicle.

Kenneth Whitley, 51, was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and evading arrest with a vehicle. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the unauthorized motor vehicle charge and 75 years in prison plus a $5,000 fine for the evading arrest with a vehicle charge. He will serve both sentences concurrently.

On April 4, 2018, Whitley led deputies from the Refugio County Sheriff’s Office on a high-speed chase in a stolen Kia Sorento after they tried to conduct a traffic stop. Officials were able to apprehend Whitley after he drove into private property at the end of Commons Street and crashed into a sheriff’s patrol unit, said Robert Lassmann, of the DeWitt County District Attorney’s Office. The incident took place just days after he was paroled.

Prosecutors Tim Poynter and Lassmann presented evidence at trial that Whitley reached speeds of up to 91 mph on Commons Street.

Whitley was indicted by a grand jury in August 2018 on one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle; one count of criminal mischief; one count of evading arrest in a vehicle; and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon toward a public servant. The jury found that Whitley used the Kia as “a deadly weapon” during the offense, so Whitley will have to serve 37½ years before he is eligible for parole, Lassmann said.

Before the April arrest, Whitley had served 32 years of a 45-year sentence for a conviction of two prior prison sentences for aggravated sexual assault of a child and failure to register as a sex offender. He was released on parole on March 28, 2018 – a week before the pursuit.

His 75-year sentence will not take effect until his previous conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a child is discharged, Lassmann said.

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