Jury convicts Austin man in 2015 murder of retired IBM executive


Highlights

A Travis County jury convicted Irwin Pentland of capital murder in the 2015 killing of Phillip Liberty.

Pentland’s attorney promised to appeal after his client was sentenced to life in prison.

Pentland’s own daughter condemned him after his conviction and sentencing.

A Travis County jury convicted Irwin “Ernie” Pentland of capital murder in the 2015 slaying of a retired IBM executive Wednesday.

The verdict came after four hours of deliberations, putting an end to the weeklong trial in which jurors heard testimony about the death of 75-year-old Phillip Liberty, whose body was found by police in the garage of his three-story home in Austin’s Northwest Hills.

Pentland was sentenced to life without parole.

Clad in a black suit and a blue shirt with an open collar, Pentland showed little reaction as state District Judge Tamara Needles read the jury’s verdict and announced Pentland’s sentence.

Pentland’s demeanor was in contrast with the tears that streamed down the faces of some of Liberty’s friends and family, who packed into the courtroom to hear Wednesday’s verdict. He shook his head and occasionally glanced away as his daughter Anne and Liberty’s ex-wife, Spring, read statements condemning him.

“There’s something wrong with you,” Anne Pentland told the court after her father’s sentencing, her voice cracking with emotion. “I don’t think you’ll ever realize the pain that you caused.”

She added: “I’m not even 20 yet, I’ve been through things — so many of us have been through things that we should not have had to go through because of you.”

Irwin Pentland’s attorney, Jeff Senter, said his client plans to appeal.

The jury’s decision comes two years after police responding to a welfare call found Liberty dead, shot through his right eye at his house on Nov. 19, 2015.

During their opening statements, prosecutors portrayed Pentland as a conman desperate for money.

Three decades apart in age, the two men had met in a support group years earlier and became close friends. That relationship was at the center of prosecutors’ case as it provided them with a motive to explain the crime. They argued that Pentland forged and cashed at least $20,000 in checks from Liberty’s accounts in the days just before and after the shooting. However, prosecutors admitted it was unknown if Liberty knew of the theft at the time of his death.

In his opening statements, Senter highlighted the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case.

“The evidence will show there’s not going to be a weapon; the evidence will show there’s not going to be a witness,” Senter said. “There’s not going to be a confession.”

Police zeroed in on Pentland as their prime suspect after he offered a series of seemingly conflicting statements about why he had picked up Liberty’s grandson from day care the day before police found Liberty’s body.

Pentland — who was not listed as one of the toddler’s approved guardians — took the child to an empty South Austin house that Pentland’s mother owned, miles from his grandfather’s home. He initially told police he did it to hide the child from his wife.

Austin police initially charged Pentland with child endangerment in December 2015 before charging him with Liberty’s homicide a month later.

Liberty’s grandson “lost his innocence at age 2,” Spring Liberty told the court Tuesday. “He says, ‘Grandpa is in my heart.’”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

In visit to Austin, federal officials note Texas’ help in immigration
In visit to Austin, federal officials note Texas’ help in immigration

Federal immigration authorities say they are satisfied with the way most Texas law enforcement agencies have cooperated to assist in the removal of people who are suspected of living in the country illegally. As for Austin, there’s work to be done, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen. Nielsen, who was in...
Austin attorney Reposa won’t serve 6 months in jail after all
Austin attorney Reposa won’t serve 6 months in jail after all

With prosecutors and the judge agreeing to back off from an unusually stiff sentence, defense attorney Adam Reposa will apparently get out of jail early on his contempt of court conviction. Reposa’s release date had not yet been set on Tuesday, but his lawyers are confident that if he behaves he’ll be home for Christmas, well before his...
Austin attorney Reposa won’t serve 6 months in jail after all
Austin attorney Reposa won’t serve 6 months in jail after all

With prosecutors and the judge agreeing to back off from an unusually stiff sentence, defense attorney Adam Reposa will apparently get out of jail early on his contempt of court conviction. Reposa’s release date had not yet been set on Tuesday, but his lawyers are confident that if he behaves he’ll be home for Christmas, well before his...
Cedar Park teacher accused of assault of child she met at church

CEDAR PARK Teacher accused of assault of child A former Cedar Park Middle School teacher has been accused of having an improper relationship with a minor she met at a church in Austin, according to the Williamson County sheriff’s office. The victim did not attend the Cedar Park school, officials said. Nicole Marie Faires Andrews was charged with...
Travis County joins other counties, cities suing over opioid crisis
Travis County joins other counties, cities suing over opioid crisis

Travis County will join dozens of other counties and cities throughout the country attempting to recover costs from the opioid epidemic by suing manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the prescription drugs. “This has been a long time coming,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said Tuesday. “This puts a very big strain on our...
More Stories