Kyle man sentenced to life in prison for murdering estranged girlfriend in front of her daughter

A Kyle man has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing his estranged girlfriend in front of her daughter in 2016.

James Craig Keen, 52, shot and killed Erin Wright, 39, in the kitchen of his Kyle home on March 26, 2016 after an argument, according to a release from Hays County Criminal District Attorney Wes Mau.

One of Wright's daughters, age nine now, testified that she witnessed Keen and Wright arguing when Keen climbed on the kitchen counter, grabbed a firearm from atop a cabinet and pointed it at Wright, shooting her. The little girl remembered holding her mom's hand when he shot her.

Wright and Keen were estranged due to previous incidents of domestic abuse. Wright had moved away from Keen when their daughter was only months old, but moved back as she hoped to allow Keen to rekindle a relationship with their child, says the release.

The shooting happened only three weeks after Wright and her two daughters moved back in with Keen.

Keen's ex-wife testified during the trial's punishment phase that Keen abused her over their thirty-year on-and-off-again relationship. Keen had been convicted of assault in Tarrant County in 1996 for abusing his first wife, and court documents showed that Keen had been on deferred probation for assaulting Wright in Dallas County in 2007.

The jury returned a guilty verdict Oct. 1 and sentenced Keen to life in prison with a $10,000 fine, the maximum sentence, on Oct. 2.

“This trial is another reminder—especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month—that the escalating cycle of domestic violence can and too often does culminate in murder," Mau said in the release. "This jury’s verdict and resounding life sentence echo my own feelings: domestic abusers have no place in our society. Ms. Wright’s family, having endured this painful journey—which for them will never be over—remain living reminders of the heart-rending toll domestic violence leaves not only on its victims, but on everyone around them.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, Wright was one of 146 women killed by a male partner in 55 Texas counties in 2016, with 77 percent of them killed at home like Wright. Sixty-eight percent were killed by a firearm like Wright.  

In 2018, which is the most recent data available from the council, 174 women were killed by a male partner in 64 counties in 2018, the highest number killed in the last decade. Fifty-nine percent of all victims were killed with a firearm.