VIDEO: Second Upshur County capital murder defendant sentenced to life without parole in emotion-charged courtroom

Published on Thursday, 27 February 2014 17:08 - Written by BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS, Special Correspondent

GILMER -- Sarah Haslam became the second of three co-defendants in a capital murder case to be sentenced to life without parole Thursday after she pled guilty during an emotion-charged proceeding in which the victim's mother said she hoped the Longview woman would be attacked in prison and burn in hell.

Ms. Haslam, 21, of Longview, showed no emotion as three of Ronnie Joe Gammage Jr.'s relatives denounced her in victim impact statements for the Dec. 5, 2012, murder of the 27-year-old disabled Longview man. Judge Lauren Parish of 115th District Court pronounced the sentence, approving a plea bargain between the prosecution and defense.

Gammage was abducted, purportedly in Gregg County, before his throat was cut and his dead body was set afire, according to Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd. The remains were found Dec. 19, 2012, in a rural Upshur County pasture.

Ms. Haslam's plea came 24 days after Byrd had filed intent to seek the death penalty against her. During Thursday's 29-minute proceeding, he said the defense (represented by Mt. Pleasant attorney Charles Mac Cobb and Longview attorney Lance Larison) had since approached him about a plea bargain, and that Gammage's family approved it.

Another defendant in the case, Daniel Paul Jones, now 21, of Longview, also received a sentence of life without parole last Oct. 30 after pleading guilty. Byrd told the Tyler Paper on Thursday that he has no idea yet when the case of the third co-defendant, 22-year-old Andrew Conrad Norwine of Arlington, will go to court, but "we'll start working on him today."

Byrd said he could not yet discuss the motive for Gammage's killing since Norwine's case is still pending.

The capital murder indictment against Ms. Haslam alleged she killed Gammage "by cutting or slicing his throat or neck with a knife or sharp force object" while kidnapping him or attempting to. Under Texas law, a person is guilty of capital murder if he or she kills someone while committing another felony, such as kidnapping or attempted kidnapping. 

Capital murder in Texas is punishable only by lethal injection, or life imprisonment without parole. 

In statements at Thursday's sentencing, Gammage's brother, Jeff Ramsey, and sister, Angela Ramsey Dees, joined the victim's mother, Frankie Gammage, in harshly denouncing Ms. Haslam as the handcuffed and shackled defendant sat with her attorneys several feet away at the defense table.

Ms. Gammage, referring to a nearby large color photo of the victim displayed on an easel, told Ms. Haslam to "Look at him. That's who you arranged to kill. . .(but) you sit there and look at me with hatred."

"You have no remorse," said Ms. Gammage, who was emotional during her 3-minute statement. Accusing the defendant of being a "demon," she added "I want you to go straight to hell and burn and burn and burn."

She also expressed hope Ms. Haslam would be "kicked" and "slung around" in prison.