Mark Bethel found guilty of capital murder, sentenced to life without parole
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A jury has decided 59-year-old Mark Bethel is guilty of the capital murders of 35-year-old Jessica Ann Payton and 37-year-old Shawn Dehn Summers. Jessica and Shawn were murdered on Halloween night in 2015. Officials believe it all started at the house Mark and Jessica lived in together at Buffalo Springs Lake.
A capital murder verdict means Bethel has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
The trial began 11 days ago. The jury was selected on Oct. 25 and opening statements began on Tuesday.
During opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors say the case took a turn when Jessica allegedly stole money and started dating Shawn Summers. The state accused Mark of killing Jessica in their home and using her phone to lure Shawn on Halloween night.
Later that night, Jessica’s body was found north of Slaton in a small body of water in the area of CR 3600 & E CR 7300. Payton’s body was wrapped in a comforter bound by electrical tape and a white plastic bag around her head. Her body had been weighted down by a chain and cinder blocks.
Summers’s body was found after a call of “shots fired” that was received at 9:20 p.m. Halloween night in the 8500 blk. of Ash Ave, SE Lubbock County, in which the male caller believed to be Summers stated that he thought he “might have been shot” and that he was in the area of 82nd St. and Ash Ave. The call was disconnected and no further contact with this caller was established. Initial responding officers searched the area but were unable to locate Summers or the exact location of the reported incident.
Shortly before Midnight, Halloween, the Sheriff’s Office was notified of a vehicle fire on E 19th St., approximately 1.5 miles east of Loop 289 in east Lubbock. It was there that an unidentified body was discovered inside the fully engulfed vehicle. The vehicle had sustained several bullet holes. That body was later identified as Shawn Dehn Summers.
Although Mark dated Jessica, the defense claims stories have changed and there is not enough evidence pointing to Mark. His attorney says Mark was at work at the time of the murder, while his brother ran off to Arizona.
Mark’s cousin David confessed to his involvement in Shawn’s murder after he was found in Arizona with the murder weapon. But the defense says David’s confession does not detail Mark’s involvement. David took a plea deal in 2015 and pleaded guilty to Shawn’s murder. He was sentenced to 40 years for the crime. David was not a suspect in the murder of Jessica Payton.
Jurors were presented with 911 calls; one from Shawn saying he had been shot, then there were several minutes of muffled noises and soft arguing in the distance. Another 911 call was from a man who witness the car “engulfed in flames” and a man leaving the scene “in a heck of a hurry.”
Both calls were made on the night of Shawn’s murder, Halloween 2015.
Firefighters who responded to the car fire that night took the stand today. Jurors were shown images of bullet holes in the truck and an image of Shawn’s corpse in the truck. A firefighter testified the body was leaning towards the passenger side and the door was open.
The scene of the shooting was at a trailer home, belonging to Mark’s cousin, David, and his girlfriend Christine. Their roommate, who was unloading groceries, said he heard fireworks or several controlled pops come from the trailer on Halloween night. Then he saw Christine come out of the home crying. Later that night, Shawn’s body was found in his pickup truck.
On Wednesday, November 4, police executed a search warrant for Payton and Bethel’s residence on Pony Express Trail in Buffalo Springs Lake. Officers found evidence including a pair of pillow shams that was found to be a match to the comforter that Payton’s body was wrapped in when her body was discovered. They also found electrical tape, pants with small bloodstains, and at least four loose bullets.
David and Christine left the state. Mark’s defense attorney says during closing arguments David ran off to Missouri then went to Arizona. In Arizona, he had a stand-off with police where they had to bring him down with non-lethal rounds. The defense says Mark has yet to be tied into the murders of both Jessica and Shawn. The defense made the argument that Mark willingly came in and cooperated with law enforcement. In the days following the murders, Mark went to work and continued with his day-to-day life, where David ran.
Prosecutors, in closing arguments, ask the jury to think about what the witnesses said during the trial. One witness saw Mark’s truck and heard someone say “shut up” and then heard shots come from his home. The witness said he later saw two trucks return to the home, one of which he saw earlier. He knew something wasn’t right and called the police.
Prosecutors also ask the jury to remember what Mark started telling people. He said he hadn’t seen (Jessica) in weeks, and that she stole his “stuff.” He also said, “good riddance, she is gone.” Then prosecutors pointed out what David Bethel said in his interview. “I’m not going to say anything about Mark. I love him to death. People make their choices, some good - some bad, but they make their own choices.”
Prosecutors also pointed out how Mark acted like he couldn’t remember Jessica’s name. He never mentioned the fact he knew she was cheating on him. “Mark Bethel is responsible for two murders. A man that was shot and burned beyond recognition. A woman was beaten, shot, and then her body bricked and thrown out like trash. Find Mark Bethel guilty of capital murder,” said the prosecution.
The jury was handed the case at 11:50 a.m. Around 2:15 p.m., the jury notified the court it had reached a verdict.
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