Mark Bethel capital murder trial underway
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The capital murder trial of 59-year-old Mark Bethel is underway. He’s accused of the 2015 deaths of 35-year-old Jessica Ann Payton and 37-year-old Shawn Dehn Summers on Halloween Night at Buffalo Springs Lake. If convicted, he faces life without the possibility of parole, or death.
During opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors say the case took a turn when Jessica allegedly stole money and started dating Sean Summers. The state accused Mark of killing Jessica in their home and using her phone to lure Sean on Halloween night.
Later that night, Jessica’s body was found at Buffalo Springs Lake. Hours later, Sean’s body was found burning in his own pickup truck.
Although Mark dated Jessica, the defense claims stories have changed and there is not enough evidence pointing to Mark. His attorney says Mark was at work at the time of the murder, while his brother ran off to Arizona.
Mark’s cousin David confessed to his involvement in Sean’s murder after he was found in Arizona with the murder weapon. But the defense says David’s confession does not detail Mark’s involvement. David took a plea deal in 2015 and pleaded guilty to Sean’s murder. He was sentenced to 40 years for the crime. David was not a suspect in the murder of Jessica Payton.
Jurors have been presented with 911 calls; one from Sean saying he had been shot, then there were several minutes of muffled noises and soft arguing in the distance. Another 911 call was from a man who witness the car “engulfed in flames” and a man leaving the scene “in a heck of a hurry.”
Both calls were made on the night of Sean’s murder, Halloween 2015.
Firefighters who responded to the car fire that night took the stand today. Jurors were shown images of bullet holes in the truck and an image of Sean’s corpse in the truck. A firefighter testified the body was leaning towards the passenger side and the door was open.
The scene of the shooting was at a trailer home, belonging to Mark’s cousin, David, and his girlfriend Christine. Their roommate, who was unloading groceries, said he heard fireworks or several controlled pops come from the trailer on Halloween night. Then he saw Christine come out of the home crying. Later that night, Sean’s body was found in his pickup truck.
The next morning, investigators went to the trailer and did not find David, Christine, or Sean Summers. But they did find electrical tape, pants with small bloodstains, and at least four loose bullets.
David and Christine left the state and went to Arizona.
The defense says Mark has yet to be tied into the murders of both Jessica and Sean.
Prosecutors are expected to present more of their case against Mark Bethel on Wednesday morning.
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