- By Claire Osborn American-Statesman Staff
A jury on Thursday found Colby Williamson guilty of the 2015 murder of Hutto police Sgt. Chris Kelley after two days of emotional testimony and about three hours of deliberation.
Kelley died of head injuries on June 24, 2015, after Williamson ran over him with the sergeant’s patrol car. He was the first Hutto officer ever killed in the line of duty.
Kelley’s relatives and friends in the courtroom, which was packed with more than 70 people, hugged each other and prosecutors quietly after the verdict.
The punishment phase of the trial will start Monday. Williamson, 29, faces up to 99 years in prison.
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick declined to comment about the verdict or the length of the sentence prosecutors will be seeking.
Kelley’s relatives also declined to comment about the verdict.
“You saw them in court,” Dick said to reporters outside the courtroom. “This is obviously a very emotional moment for them. We are glad we got this part done. We are looking forward to presenting our case Monday and hopefully completing the justice Sgt. Kelley has been waiting for.”
Kelley, 38, was married with two children when he was killed.
Witnesses and prosecutors said during the trial that Williamson was high on methamphetamine when a police officer tried to stop him for speeding in Hutto. Williamson sped away and crashed into a fire hydrant in a nearby neighborhood before fleeing on foot.
Kelley found Williamson a short time later sitting on the doorstep of a house and tried to handcuff him, but Williamson flipped the sergeant over onto his back and ran to Kelley’s still-running unmarked patrol car.
Williamson and Kelley got into a struggle inside Kelley’s car with the door open until Williamson put the vehicle in reverse and Kelley was struck by the door and fell. Williamson then ran over Kelley’s head, prosecutors said.
Other officers arrived at the scene in time to witness the struggle, according to trial testimony. Williamson drove Kelley’s car a short distance after striking him and then jumped out and ran before being arrested.
Defense attorney Joe James Sawyer, who presented no witnesses, argued throughout the trial that Williamson was behaving irrationally because everything happened so fast and that what he did was unintentional. Sawyer also said Williamson never ran over the sergeant’s head but that Kelley received his fatal injuries when he was knocked to the ground and hit his head while struggling with Williamson.
Sawyer said prosecutors never called a Texas Ranger involved in the investigation, Cody Mitchell, to testify. If Mitchell had testified, someone could have asked him if a DNA test was done on the tires of Kelley’s car, Sawyer said in his closing argument Thursday morning.
If Mitchell had testified, he could have been asked if a test had been done to see how fast Kelley’s patrol car was going when it hit him and when he fell, Sawyer said.
Prosecutor Danny Smith said during his closing argument that DNA didn’t have anything to do with the case because eyewitnesses saw what happened and the event was captured on video from a police patrol car, which was shown to the jurors.
One of the multiple skull fractures Kelley received was so severe that the sergeant could not have gotten it just from falling and hitting his head on the ground, Smith said, repeating testimony from a medical examiner.
Prosecutor Dee McWilliams said in his closing argument that even if Williamson had not run over Kelley’s head, Williamson would still be guilty of murder. According to the law, he said, a murder is committed if a person in the act of committing a felony commits another act dangerous to human life and kills someone.
Williamson committed a felony by stealing Kelley’s car and driving it over or onto Kelley, McWilliams said.