Defendant gets life in murder of disabled man

Published on Thursday, 31 October 2013 00:00 - Written by By Phillip Williams Special Correspondent

GILMER — Daniel Paul Jones, one of three defendants in a capital murder case, was sentenced to life without parole Wednesday after pleading guilty in an emotion-charged court proceeding in which the victim’s mother termed him “a demon of the devil.”

Jones, 20, of Longview, looked down as three relatives of Ronnie Joe Gammage emotionally condemned him in victim impact statements after State District Judge Lauren Parish sentenced him on a plea bargain before an overflowing crowd in her 115th District Court. The co-defendants remain jailed, and no trial date for them has been set, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.

Gammage, 27, of Longview, was killed Dec. 5, 2012, when he was abducted, purportedly in Gregg County, and his throat was cut before his body was set afire, Byrd said. Jones and the other defendants, Sarah Haslam, of Longview, and Andrew Conrad Norwine, of Arlington, were arrested in December after the remains were found on a pasture in Martin Road in the Diana community of Upshur County on Dec. 19, Byrd said.

In pleading guilty, Jones avoided the possibility of the death penalty by injection. Under Texas law, life without parole is the only other sentence for capital murder, and Jones waived his right to appeal it.

Before the victim’s mother, Frankie Gammage, addressed Jones, Ronnie Joe Gammage’s brother, Charles Ramsey, and sister, Angela Dees, denounced the defendant, who sat quietly several feet away while handcuffed and shackled in an orange jail-issue jumpsuit. A large color photo of the victim, wearing a cowboy hat, was displayed on an easel in the courtroom. So emotional that he had difficulty starting his statement, “I’m gonna forgive you, but I’m not gonna forgive what you did,” said Ramsey. Earlier, he told Jones he had killed a “good young man” who visited his mother daily despite having several disabilities, and that Jones had not only hurt the victim’s family, but “look what you’ve done to your family,” who “will live with this every day.”

The victim’s sister, Angela Dees, cried as she spoke and told Jones, “I have nothing but pure hatred toward you.”

She expressed hope he would endure the “pain and suffering” he brought her brother.

“As far as I’m concerned, you have received a death sentence because where you are going, life as you know it no longer exists,” Ms. Dees said.

Mrs. Gammage issued the stro-ngest condemnation of all, telling Jones “You’re not a human … not fit to even be in this world.” She concluded by saying the death penalty would have been too easy because she wanted him to suffer “‘til you take your last breath…”

She said everyone loved her son, who would sometimes call her a dozen times a day, and she told Jones, “You chose him because he was easy, disabled. (You would) take his money every month, what little he got.”

“You will have the wrath of God upon you. I will never forgive you —never — and I don’t think God will … You need to go to the deepest pit … and burn for eternity,” Mrs. Gammage said.