- Nolan Hicks American-Statesman Staff
A Travis County jury found Irwin “Ernie” Pentland guilty of capital murder in the 2015 slaying of retired IBM executive Phillip Liberty. Pentland was sentenced to life without parole.
The verdict came after a week-long trial in the 427th District Court, where jurors heard graphic testimony about how 75-year-old Liberty was discovered dead Nov. 19, 2015, in the garage of his three-story home in Austin’s Northwest Hills.
Prosecutors also alleged that Pentland stole thousands of dollars from Phillip Liberty with forged checks.
They presented a case based on evidence that was largely offered in an arrest affidavit made public when the murder charge was first filed in January 2016.
According to that court filing, Austin police detectives quickly zeroed in on Pentland as their prime suspect after he offered inconsistent accounts about why he picked up Liberty’s grandson from day care.
Prosecutors told jurors that Pentland took the child — even though he wasn’t on the list of the child’s guardians at the day care — and stashed him in his mother’s empty South Austin house, miles away from Liberty’s neighborhood.
According to the arrest affidavit, Pentland told officers at one point that Liberty asked him to pick up his grandson from day care but that he left the toddler in the South Austin home to hide him from Pentland’s wife.
He was initially arrested by Austin police on a charge of endangering the toddler on Dec. 2, 2015. Pentland’s criminal history included a charge of felony robbery, records show.
However, Pentland’s attorney, Jeff Senter, had argued that his client’s actions “frankly has little to do with the homicide, where there is no witness, no weapon and no confession.”