Trial for man who shot, killed elderly WilCo woman begins next month

The trial for Joshua Gilbreath is set for July 2024, and the insanity defense also sets up the courtroom battle, which is rarely seen in Williamson County. Gilbreath is charged with murdering an elderly woman back in August 2022.

There is a new layer of asphalt on CR 245. But for some who pass by one of the driveways along the road just southwest of Florence, there is still the reminder this spot was a crime scene.  

"I just think about the unfairness that such a sweet soul was taken," said Elaine Eddings, who works in the Florence library.

Eddings remembers her friend Diana Lynn Pier as a loyal volunteer who frequently read to the local children. Pier was considered by many as the town’s grandmother.

"Her legacy should be what she did for the Florence community. With children, reading for the children for so long. It is hard to find someone so dedicated, to providing that resource for the families, to be a storyteller and be dependable," said Eddings.

Diana Pier was killed in August 2022 near Florence.

Joshua Anthony Gilbreath is charged with the murder of Diana Pier. The motive for the shooting remains unclear. 

Back in October 2023, the judge hearing the case determined that Gilbreath was competent to stand trial after he completed a treatment program. In a court document titled Notice of Intent, Gilbreath’s attorneys revealed a claim of insanity would be their defense strategy. 

Court documents said Joshua Gilbreath admitted to his friend he had shot someone.

In a statement sent to FOX 7, Defense attorney Jeremy Sylestine said they believe evidence will show Gilbreath was insane at the time of the offense. Sylestine concluded his client is "therefore not guilty by reason of insanity." 

The evidence prosecutors have includes cell phone data that places Gilbreath at the crime scene, a shell casing linked to him and the claim of a confession. The case goes to trial in late July and the jury will be asked to not only decide between guilt and innocence, but also mental competency.


To counter the insanity plea, Williamson County District Attorney Shaw Dick is expected to bring in his own experts. In a statement sent to FOX 7, the district attorney noted the insanity defense filing and said, "every defendant has a right to a defense, and it is our responsibility to evaluate the evidence and law accordingly and justly. We have been diligently working to get this case to trial and intend to try this case as scheduled next month."

In Florence, the legal defense maneuver is no surprise.

"I saw it coming because they're pretty much out of other avenues to get him out," said librarian Jean Flahive.

Flahive understands the coming trial will be focused on the man who allegedly killed her friend. But as she walked to the children’s reading area, and around the books donated in the memory of Diana Pier, Flahive told FOX 7 her prayer is for healing.

"That they get resolution, for the family. Peace to everybody. And whatever is due for the suspect, may it be just," said Flahive.