Craft Family Reacts To Life Sentence - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/17/07

Craft Family Reacts To Life Sentence

The man convicted of murdering a Tulia preacher is behind bars, the start of a life sentence.  

Wednesday afternoon, a Lubbock County jury found Saul Mendez guilty of murder in the death of Ozell Craft Junior.

Testimony revealed Mendez stabbed craft 60 times in Craft's Lubbock home last September. He then took Craft's SUV and drove around town, before setting it on fire and fleeing to Chicago.

It was testimony the Craft family had to hear twice, after Judge Brad Underwood declared a mistrial last week.  Judge Underwood stopped that trial, after a witness claimed that Mendez almost killed her.  Underwood told jury members the statement violated Mendez's right to a fair trial.

That left Craft's family in tears, and Wednesday they left the courtroom in tears again, but for a very different reason.

"He will never forget my husband, because he's an unforgettable person. The smile that he carried. He was a friend. There was no one that I knew that he didn't love," Ozell Craft's wife Wanda Craft said. 

Wanda Craft left the courtroom Wednesday believing a higher power brought her to this point.

"I always believed that God would bring us through this, and that he would bring the best verdict for us," Craft said. 

Craft says she never wanted the death penalty, because she doesn't believe in it.  She just wanted a sense of justice.

"I feel like it was today," Craft said. 

Craft's sister-in-law describes their loss as missing a link in the family chain.

"I could sit here and probably talk to you all for 30 minutes, maybe more, hours, and I wouldn't be able to ever explain the pain and the chunk he's taken from our lives," Gladys Craft said. 

Mendez left the court room, covering his face with a folder knowing the rest of his life will be spent in a prison cell.  A thought Craft's family takes some comfort in.

"He will have plenty of time to think about what he's done," Craft said.

Mendez's defense attorney declined comment Wednesday afternoon.  Mendez remained in the Lubbock County Jail Wednesday night, awaiting transfer to a state prison.

10/9/07
Mistrial Declared in Saul Mendez Murder Trial
An outburst in the courtroom led to a mistrial in the Saul Mendez murder case on its first day of testimony.

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