Judge sentences Lindale man to life in prison for 2021 shooting
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A Lindale man accused of shooting a woman before fleeing the scene was given two life sentences Tuesday morning.
Samuel Salas, 35, appeared in the 114th District Court in front of Judge Austin Reeve Jackson where he plead guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. In March 2021, Salas was the subject of a manhunt that began following the shooting and wounding of a woman in Lindale. Salas was apprehended in Wood County four days later.
After Salas pleaded guilty to the charges and acknowledged his past convictions, Judge Jackson accepted the plea.
Salas’ defense attorney, Charles Cowan, then began his opening statements and tried to paint a picture of a young man who had been abused by his violent and alcoholic father.
“The man has a checkered past, here and in Mexico. Cowan explained that Salas spent most of his life incarcerated in institutions whether they be mental or criminal institutions,” Cowan said.
Cowan pleaded not only that the punishment fit the crime, but to serve justice. The defense continued that Salas would have to serve half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Cowan then called Salas’ mother, Mayra Navarez, to the stand as a character witness.
“I don’t know how to go about this, but Samuel wouldn’t do this,” said Navarez.
Navarez recounted how she met Salas’ father, who she said would later become abusive toward their children.
“I remember my son was a happy kid he used to play on his truck, one day I came home and he said if he wants to play on my truck this is how he is going to play,” said Navarez.
Navarez began to describe how the father had tied Salas up to his truck upside down and paraded up and down the road with him tied to the truck.
“I tried to stop him but he drug me about a quarter-mile to the stop sign. He knew he was dragging me. I lost my shoes and the bottom of my feet began peeling from scraping on the concrete,” said Navarez.
According to Navarez, the only reason he stopped was that traffic was coming and he didn’t want to get caught. Navarez also acknowledged that Salas was bleeding from his forehead after the incident and that this was not the first time his father hurt him.
Cowan asked Navarez if Salas had ever been taught to be violent by his father, or if he had ever received any treatment in any mental or criminal institution.
“He spent a few months in the Austin State Hospital and then he was sent to the Andrews Center for help,” said Navarez.
When the state cross-examined Navarez she was asked if she knew why her son was on trial. She responded saying she understood the incident to be an accident.
Before the incident in question, Salas spent four years in prison. Before his incarceration, he met Angela Stringer who is the mother to his daughter.
The prosecution questioned the relationship between Salas and Stringer.
“He is loving, the pregnancy was unexpected but we decided to keep the child,” said Stringer. “He was excited to know of our daughter and he was present in her life.”
Stringer testified that they were together with the victim of the shooting the night before the shooting and that she couldn’t believe this happened.
“They have been best friends since before I met him,” said Stringer. “I actually took care of her children not too long ago and she told me she knows it was an accident.”
The state argued that Salas’ actions were not reckless behavior or an accident due to the number of shell casings found at the scene. The state also argued that Salas’ criminal record with four felonies merits a life sentence.
In his closing statement, Cowan reiterated that everyone, including the victim, believes the incident was an accident. The defense asked for a minimum of 25 years as a fitting punishment.
“He pleads guilty because he knows he’s guilty. Let’s not throw the book at him, let the punishment fit the crime,” Cowan said.
The state argued that the incident was not an accident and that Salas exhibited guilt by running from the scene and was not remorseful.
Jackson acknowledged and said he empathized with what Salas and his mother went through. However, Jackson ultimately agreed with the state and sentenced Salas to life in prison.
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