Prosecution, defense rest in sentencing hearing for mall shooter - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Prosecution, defense rest in sentencing hearing for mall shooter

Ricky Neal Jr. (Source: Smith County Jail) Ricky Neal Jr. (Source: Smith County Jail)
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Ricky Neal Jr. was found guilty on Wednesday of murdering 23-year-old Christopher Mass in the parking lot of the Broadway Square Mall in February 2013.

His sentencing hearing is underway.

5:00 p.m.:

Tamara Norris, Neal's girlfriend of four years, is the last defense witness.

We had talked about marriage. We spend a lot of time with each other and with his kids. He's a good person.

She said he's never been violent towards her.

He loves his kids. He'd do anything for them. He's a good father to those children.

She said he's not a member of a gang. His tattoos don't mean that he's part of a gang.

He's a good person that made a bad decision. She said he can overcome the mistake he's made.

The prosecutor asked Ms. Norris about Ricky's prior convictions and stated, "That's why they call him slick rick isn't it?" Norris said she was not with him at that time.

The prosecutor asked her why she told officers that Neal was "probably" in a gang in Henderson. She said she does not remember.

I really didn't know he was a Blood.

Prosecutor: Why don't you just come out and say he's a blood or associated with a blood? Ms. Norris said she did not know.

I don't remember seeing anyone that he hung around with that was a gangster.

I was terrified [at the scene]. I didn't know what to think or do.

The defense rested and both sides have closed.

The jury has been released. They will come back at 8:30 on Tuesday of next week.

3:49 p.m.:

Ms. Melinda Jones is the next defense witness. She was Neal's youth director. She has known him his entire life. Ricky was always respectful. I never had a problem with Ricky while he was in church. I knew Ricky pretty well from the church. I do believe he deserves a second chance.

The prosecutor asked her if she was aware that Neal had been charged with burglary, evading arrest and possession of marijuana. She said she was not aware.

He was a very smart young child. He had good diction an impressed the entire congregation.

Ms. Jones is released.

Next, the defense called Shontrean McGee. She said she and Neal grew up together. She knows him from church. She said that most of the time she's with him, he's always with his kids.

She said she's not aware of the misdemeanor convictions he has.

Ricky's a very strong person. He has faith in God.

We were always joking, laughing and spending time with family.

Ms. McGee is released.

3:33 p.m.: 

The first defense witness is Javar Williams, Neal's first cousin. He's known him all his life, 26 years. I've spent a lot of time with him. We're extremely close. My role in his life was of a brother bc I never had a brother. I was like his older brother.

He's a strong foundation and a core within our family. He's an outstanding father to his children. He has a nine year old and a five year old.

I feel that leniency should be offered to him so that he can have an opportunity to be a father to his children.

William is excused.

Laquithia Davis

Defense's next witness is Laquithia Davis, Neal's first cousin. She is wearing the same T-shirt as Williams. She is in the Navy. She said she helped to raise Neal. He was active in the church as well as in school and athletics. He is a good father.

I believe he can benefit society in a positive way.

The prosecutor asked her if Neal has seven children with five different women. She said yes and that two of the children live with him.

Prosecutor asked her if she's aware that he's failed to pay child support numerous times. She said she was aware, but he still loves them and supports them in other ways.

She said someone in her family tattooed Neal. She doesn't know if he bought the gun he used on the day of the incident.

Ms. Davis is excused.

3:10 p.m.:

Prosecutor Jeff Wood showed Latrice Mass a photo of Chris at her younger son, Ash's, graduation. Ms. Mass said he played football and basketball in high school. He had an opportunity to play at a higher level, but he tore his ACL and signed with SFA. Chris was 23 when he was taken from her.

That day, my daughter woke up early and I took her to Ross to buy a blouse for my grand dad's birthday party. I was talking to him while I was on the loop. As soon as I hung up with him, my daughter and I heard some pops.

One of Chris' friends called while she was at Ross and told her to get to the mall bc Chris had been shot. I got to the mall as quick as I could, but by the time I got there, there was crime scene tape. My daughter tried to call him, but he didn't answer. I could see his polo boots bc his body was not fully covered. My daughter told me "this is on Facebook already." My cousins in Houston found out about it on Facebook. My phone was ringing and I was getting text messages while I was there. That day was the last time I heard his voice.

Chris has a daughter that's 5 and a son that was born on Father's Day last year. Chris never got to meet his son. His daughter is different. She wanted to know and she still asks about Chris. She says all he had to do was ask daddy what his name was and he would've said Chris and he wouldn't have shot him. She wishes her brother could've known him. She has dreams about this and she sees him in her dreams.

Chris planned to finish school and transfer to UT. He wanted to be a PE coach and teach history.

We're going to get a scrapbook together for his son.

I have to go to counseling. I don't sleep well. It's taken away part of me. A part of all of us died that day.

We're looking for this big boy to come through the door and he's not coming. He used to call me early in the morning bc he was excited to go to work.

We've all taken it pretty bad. It's been very very hard to deal with, minute by minute. You pray for strength every minute. You just always want to know why.

Defense had no questions for this witness. State has rested.

2:20 p.m.:

Latrice Mass takes the stand.

Christopher Mass was her first born son. Ms. Mass started crying uncontrollably when the prosecutor showed her a photo of Mass. The court is now on a 25 minute break.

2:15 p.m.:

State's next witness is Det. Chris Miller of the Tyler PD. He's been with TPD since 1989 and is a member of the Texas Gang Investigators Association. He does all training for TPD.

Det. Miller said Tyler has all types of gangs. Piru Bloods are a regional gang. It is a set of the Bloods.

Factors he looks at to determine if someone is in a gang: no one thing by itself, but tattoos can be one factor.

The prosecutor showed Det. Miller some photos of Ricky Neal's tattoos.

Det. Miller said there's a "constant theme of the Blood set." The prosecutor showed the jury a photo depicting a five point star on Neal's chest as well as the words "Death B4 Dishonor." The "B" is colored red. Miller said that phrase is a military term that the Bloods have adopted.

Next, the prosecutor showed the jury a photo of the tattoos on Neal's arms. On the inside biceps, he has the number 51 on one side and 50 on the other. 5150 is a police code in California for mentally disturbed people. Next to the number 50, there is a caricature that Det. Miller says is common among gang members. It is a clown bandit with a smoking firearm.

The next photo is of Neal's right arm. He has "MOB" on it. He said it can mean "money over bitches" or "money over blood." Above that is the phrase "blood ties."

On the lower half of Neal's right arm are money signs and another caricature. On his right forearm, he has a red grim reaper. His right wrist has more money signs and some numbers.

Neal's upper shoulder has five stars. The numbers 2, 12, 15, 15, and 4 are tattooed inside the stars. These numbers, Det. Miller stated, correspond with the alphabet to spell out "Blood."

His right arm also has "PIRU" spelled out.

On his back, there is a large tattoo that says "SLICK RICK."

Miller said, "In my opinion, there is a high probability that Neal is in a street gang, namely the Piru Bloods."

Neal is not documented as a gang member in the city of Tyler. Other than his tattoos, there is no evidence he's in a gang.

Miller has been excused.

11:58 a.m.:

State's first witness, investigator Donald Malstrom, said Neal was found guilty of marijuana and evading arrest.

State's second witness, Miguel Harris has been in jail with Ricky Neal.

The following is what Neal told Harris:

He only told me that he shot once. He said he didn't shoot Dews bc he knew he couldn't prove it was self defense if he shot Dews when he had his back turned.

He saw Mass throw something in the car. He said he thought he was bad so he "burned" him. He said he went to the car "to burn their ass off." I don't know if he knew Mass.

He was thinking of "angles" to get self defense and discussing them with Harris.

Neal told Harris he was a "blood."

Harris has been convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance several times. He's also been convicted of felony theft of property two times. He has a robbery conviction that he served six years in prison for.

Davidson asked Harris if he received a deal for testifying in the case. He said he did not.

Break for lunch.

11:23 a.m.:

To begin his opening statement, prosecutor Jeff Wood thanked the jury for their service and decision.

From Chris Miller (ETx gang expert), you'll hear that he is a walking billboard of gang tattoos and affiliations.

From Latrice Mass, you'll hear that her son lost his life and that she was the last person to talk to him. She was driving on Broadway while talking to him and hear the gunshots.

Chris Mass was a father and never got to see his son.

This is the most senseless ruthless act I've ever seen.

Punishment range is 5-99 or life.

Neal took the lives of so many.

There's nothing less that he deserves than a life sentence.

Defense opened by stating that he respects the verdict.

My client has had trouble with the law but he's not a gang member.

He's a father himself and has a large family. Those family members that did not watch the trial will testify.

I ask you for a sentence of 20 years or less.

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