LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – A Lufkin man is going to jail for his role in the drive-by shooting death of 63 year old Joseph Cooper last January.
Elton "June" Gibson, 20, was originally charged with murder. Thursday he stood before visiting State District Judge Gerald Goodwin and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with serious bodily injury in connection with the 2010 shooting, according to Katrina Carswell, Angelina County Assistant District Attorney. Gibson was sentenced to six years in prison. His plea was the result of a deal with prosecutors to testify against the co-defendants in this case.
"He also received five years for violating his probation. The charge was failure to stop and render aid in a 2009 case against him," said Carswell.
Gibson is one of three defendants and the last to be prosecuted for Cooper's death. Johnx Greer, the suspected triggerman, had already accepted a plea deal for his role. Under the deal, Greer pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault and is serving 20 years in prison.
The 20-year-old was said to have been in the car with Greer and Kendall Thompson when the deadly shooting occurred. Thompson escaped conviction last month when jurors returned a not guilty verdict in her favor. The trial in its final days had turned into a case of "he-said, she-said," pitting co-defendants against each other. There were conflicting claims about who was driving the car- Gibson or Thompson.
Prosecutors had theorized that Cooper's shooting death was an act of revenge to protect Thompson's honor, committed by Greer, and involving both Thompson and her then-boyfriend Elton Gibson, Junior. Defense attorneys said Thompson was "only a witness to the murder" and was not driving the car when the shooting happened. Jurors sided with the defense.
Less than a month after her murder acquittal, Thompson was back in court facing drug charges. She is accused of trying to smuggle drugs into the Angelina County Jail. Prosecutors said she was caught with two pills stuffed in her bra. She was there on misdemeanor charges of drug paraphernalia possession. A non-jury trial for the new drug charges is scheduled for July 13.
The shooting of Joseph Cooper happened on the 700 block of Cotton Belt Street about 1:30 a.m. on January 19, 2010. According to police, Cooper died from a single gunshot wound to the upper torso area. Neighbors had reported hearing two sets of gunshots that night. Original reports said Cooper had gone outside his home after hearing gunshots when he was hit by one of the bullets.
In an interview with KTRE last April, Cooper's sister Mary Houston had described her brother as someone who tried to help people. "I have to forgive them for what they did, even though I don't understand," Houston had said.