A state district judge last week set a $5 million bond for Alvin Charles McKnight Jr., charged with capital murder in the Nov. 4 alleged shooting deaths of two Gilmer women.
115th District Judge Dean Fowler set the bond in an arraignment proceeding which was closed to the media. He also appointed Dallas attorney Lalon Peale to represent McKnight, and Longview attorney Natalie Anderson (a former Upshur County assistant DA) to assist Peale.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said Monday he wouldn’t announce whether he will seek the death penalty until and unless McKnight is indicted, which Byrd said law requires occur within 90 days of the suspect’s Nov. 15 arrest in San Bernardino, Calif.
Fowler told The Mirror shortly before the Dec. 6 arraignment 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, had been brought to Gilmer one day earlier from San Bernardino, Calif., where city police captured him 20 days earlier. He waived extradition.
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 after they left California.
McKnight was handcuffed the entire flight and “didn’t give us any trouble,” Hazel said on the day of the arraignment. The suspect had been arrested without incident.
The chief deputy announced the bond amount in a press release shortly after Fowler arraigned McKnight, who was lodged in the Upshur County Jail.
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.
At a joint Nov. 16 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,” Byrd pledged.
– By Phillip Williams