By Phillip Williams
A state district judge in Gilmer on Wednesday set a $5 million bond for Alvin Charles McKnight Jr., charged with capital murder in the Nov. 4 apparent shooting deaths of two Gilmer women.
115th District Judge Dean Fowler set the bond in an arraignment proceeding that was closed to the media. Fowler told The Gladewater Mirror on Wednesday morning he excluded news organizations because McKnight did not yet have an attorney, and the judge said he wanted to “limit his exposure to the media” until he appointed a lawyer for McKnight.
“I expect that hearings in the future will be open to the media,” Fowler added.
McKnight, 41, of Gilmer, was brought to Gilmer one day earlier from San Bernardino, Calif., where police captured him Nov. 15.
Upshur County Sheriff Larry Webb, Chief Deputy David Hazel, Sheriff’s Investigator Rob Bowen, and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel were with the suspect on a DPS plane which landed at Gregg County Airport.
McKnight was handcuffed the entire flight and “didn’t give us any trouble,” Hazel said Wednesday.
Hazel announced the bond amount in a press release after Fowler arraigned McKnight Wednesday afternoon.
The defendant is charged with killing sisters Mandy Ray, 35, and Dermetrica Dashaunda Waters, 37, both of Gilmer, at Ray’s home on U.S. 271 south of Gilmer, said Webb’s office. Hazel has said the slayings are considered an act of domestic violence.
McKnight lived with Waters until recently, and fathered a child by one of the sisters, authorities said.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said at a Nov. 16 press conference that he would wait until McKnight returned to Upshur County before announcing whether he would seek the death penalty in the case.
Capital murder is punishable in Texas only by lethal injection or life imprisonment without parole.
McKnight’s truck was found by Gladewater police on Tenery Street shortly after the nighttime homicides, and he was arrested without resistance in California.
At the joint press conference with Webb, Byrd alluded to the Dec. 11 arrest of McKnight’s sister, Laquesha Monique McKnight, on a charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution of her brother, and said authorities believe others helped him avoid arrest.
“I will prosecute each and every one of these people,” he pledged.