When Darnell Hartsfield saw the inside of a Texas prison cell for the first time in 1984, it was for an aggravated robbery the year before. Now, prosecutors accuse the Tyler man of a far more heinous crime just three days before his arrest for the September 1983 robbery that earned him 25 years in prison.
This week, the 47-year-old inmate goes on trial for his part in one of the state's oldest unresolved mass murder cases. That's the notorious slayings a quarter-century ago of five people taken from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the East Texas city of Kilgore.
About 140 prospective jurors gathered Monday at the Brazos County Courthouse in Bryan, where Hartsfield faces trial on five capital murder charges. The trial was moved to Bryan, about 150 miles southwest of Kilgore, because of local publicity.
Hartsfield's cousin and co-defendant, Romeo Pinkerton, took a plea deal midway through his capital murder trial near Texarkana, avoiding a possible death sentence by accepting five life prison terms. Hartsfield apparently isn't in any similar negotiations.
Killed in the 1983 KFC holdup were David Maxwell, Mary Tyler, Opie Ann Hughes, Joey Johnson and Monte Landers. All but Landers worked at the restaurant about 25 miles east of Tyler.
Landers was a friend of Maxwell and Johnson and was visiting them as the restaurant was closing for the night.