CONROE – Closing arguments are expected Thursday morning in the 9th District Court of Judge Fred Edwards in the trial of a Magnolia man charged with causing the deaths of five people and the serious injury of another. The court heard from the defendant himself on Wednesday, as the defense took the unusual strategy of placing the accused on the stand.
Brandon Lee Ferguson, 23, of Magnolia, is charged with five counts of manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault in connection with the Jan. 10, 2009 automobile crash that killed family members Donald Lee Sexton, 60, of College Station; Curtis Charles Edwards, 70, of Pinehurst; 83-year-olds Lloyd and Catherine Edwards, of Salina, Oklahoma; in addition to Ferguson’s girlfriend and only passenger, 18-year-old Kayla Ann Pratorius of Magnolia. Karla Sexton, 59, of College Station was ejected from the van and seriously injured, but she survived.
Click the arrow to watch Wednesday trial video including Ferguson on the stand.
The crash occurred at the intersection of FM 249 and Patridge Circle where Ferguson’s Chevy Cobalt t-boned a mini-van at a high rate of speed, causing it to burst into flames. The two women riding in the van were ejected in the crash, but the three men were trapped inside as it burned. Forensic evidence presented during the trial proved the men were still alive when the van was burning.
It was also revealed that the outing was in celebration of Curtis Edwards’ birthday and the others were taking him to lunch to try and lift his spirits because he lost his wife shortly before and it was to be his first birthday without her.
Defense attorney Don Lambright maintains Ferguson was speeding because he was late for work. During testimony, Lambright made repeated unsuccessful attempts to find a direction to shift blame away from his client.
On Wednesday, Assistant Montgomery County District Attorney Warren Diepraam skillfully grilled one defense witness after another, some of whom wound up sounding more like tools of the prosecution.
Diepraam presented evidence that Ferguson was northbound on SH 249 at 135 miles per hour approaching the Patridge Circle intersection when he saw the packed mini van. Traveling at such a high rate of speed, Diepraam Ferguson only had time to drop his speed to 117 miles per hour before impact. The victims in the mini-van were crossing SH 249 and never even saw the Cobalt coming for them, Diepraam said.
Through witness testimony and investigation, prosecutors determined Ferguson was trying to race a motorcycle that was a little ahead of his car at the time of impact. In fact, the prosecution painted a picture of a spoiled 22-year-old who enjoyed street racing and was unconcerned with the consequences because his family had helped him by paying at least four traffic citations and assisted in purchasing fast and powerful automobiles to the tune of one vehicle about every 10 months.
Diepraam called Ferguson’s Chevy Cobalt a “high performance vehicle” that was built for racing, with after market parts added solely to increase speed and had “no business being on the streets of Montgomery County or anywhere in that sort of a manner.”
Ferguson and his mother, Gail Graham, insisted the car was chosen because it was fuel efficient. However, neither offered information on the miles per gallon used traveling at around 135 miles per hour.
Witnesses testified about Ferguson’s struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder and Bipolar Disorder for which he has been counseled and medicated since childhood.
Ferguson testified that he has a problem with “deciphering what the outcomes would be,” when he has bad impulses. And, in fact, a little forethought might have made him a more sympathetic witness since Diepraam was able to point out, with no objection from the defense, that the one and only time Ferguson shed a tear during the trial was when he spoke about his own ordeal.
Diepraam said the crash was the worst in Montgomery County history and one of the worst racing fatality cases in the state. He said he hopes the jury will send a message that there will be consequences for such reckless conduct and it will not be tolerated in Montgomery County.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Information will be posted as it becomes available.