Jury deliberations begin in Kathy Blair murder trial

UPDATE: The jury deliberated for more than 9 hours on Wednesday before being sent home for the night. Since they could not reach a verdict, they will be back in court by 9:00 a.m. Thursday.

The defense attorney asked the judge for a mistrial but that was denied.



Shawn Gant-Benalcazar said nothing as his attorneys and the prosecutors wrapped up a week and a half of testimony into one final argument. "This defendant murdered Kathy Blair, there is no doubt about that," said Travis County assistant D.A. David Levingston.

Gant-Benalcazar is accused of killing Kathy Blair, a popular choir director, in 2014  while he allegedly burglarized her northwest Austin home. "They spin the physical evidence to make it fit, to fit, their preconceived notions," said defense attorney Darla Davis.

Read Testimony in Blair murder trail ends with surprise witness

There is no hard physical evidence linking him to the crime.

But a few weeks after the murder, at the end a interview that lasted over four hours, he confessed.

"She woke up, she lunged at me," said Gant-Benalcazar during the 2015 interview with police.

Read Confession video played for jury in Kathy Blair murder trial

Wednesday morning, defense attorneys told the jury that the sequence in the way Blair was killed, choked to the point passing out then stabbed, does not match his confession.  

It was argued the crime points to someone who knew her and someone who carried a grudge.

"The man walked in there to kill her, and to kill her slow and ugly, that's not random, that's not an unknown, that's personal that's torture," said defense attorney Ariel Payan.

On Tuesday when he took the stand, Gant-Benalcazar claimed he had never met Blair, was never in her home and learned details about her death from his alleged accomplice, Tim Parlin, who once did yard work at her house. "He thinks he is so smart," said Travis County assistant D.A. Andrea Austin.

In response, prosecutors showed the jury how in the confession video Gant-Benalcazar  reenacted the motion that matched they type of wound to Blair's neck.  

Austin also held up for the jury a mask recovered from the home of Gant-Benalcazar.

Read DNA provides link but no hard evidence in Kathy Blair murder trial

She urged the jury not to be distracted by claims someone else is responsible. "And you know the very last thing that she saw was that man wearing this mask, either choking her or using a pillow to keep her quiet and stabbing her multi times, that is the last thing she saw," said Austin.

As part of the charge, the jury was given four options to consider.

Acquittal. Capitol murder. Murder. Burglary.

If found guilty of capital murder, Gant-Benalcazar faces life in prison.

The death penalty was taken off the table before the trial began.