Cass County man who killed 2, burned bodies gets life
CASS COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - On Thursday, a Cass County judge sentenced an Atlanta man to life in prison after a jury convicted him of shooting a man and a woman and then burning their bodies in September 2018.
According to a press release from the Cass County District Attorney’s Office, Kevin Shepard was convicted of capital murder. After the conviction, Fifth District Judge Biller Miller sentenced Shepard to an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“We are extremely grateful to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Texas Department of Public Safety for their assistance in this investigation and to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for their assistance in the prosecution,” Cass County Criminal District Attorney Courtney Shelton said in the press release, “But what I am especially proud of is the strength and courage of our eyewitness who finally came forward and was able to give the Arnold and Combs families the closure they deserved.”
Shelton added that Shepard committed a “heinous crime” and that she is grateful the jury could see the truth.
Kevin Shepard committed a heinous crime in our county, and I am grateful that the jury could see the truth and did not reward him for attempting to destroy the evidence.”
The case was tried by special prosecutors Geoff Barr and Aurora Perez with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Texarkana attorney Butch Dunbar represented Shepard, the press release stated.
The victims in the case were Donnie Combs and Cynthia Arnold.
“The evidence showed that the last time either family had heard from Donnie Combs or Cynthia Arnold was on September 25, 2018,” the press release stated. “A missing person’s report was filed with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, and on September 30, 2018, Marion County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Alisha Riehl testified that she responded to a burned truck on a county road in Marion County.”
Further investigation revealed that the truck belonged to Arnold.
During the trial, Texas Ranger Josh Mason, who assisted the Cass County Sheriff’s Office stated that Kevin Shepard was a name that was always “of interest” in the case, the press release stated. Authorities followed several leads, but, ultimately, the case went cold in July 2019. At that point, an eyewitness came forward.
On Tuesday, the eyewitness testified that sometime in late September of 2018, a mutual friend introduced her to Shepard, the press release stated. She was not from East Texas, and she was unfamiliar with the area.
The witness told the jury that Shepard took her to a trailer with no electricity and no running water, the press release stated. She admitted that they smoked meth and said that she thought they stayed there for about a week.
While there, she met Combs and Arnold on two separate occasions. The second time they were at the trailer, Combs and Shepard were outside shooting guns near a fire in a trash pit, the press release stated.
At that time, Arnold and the witness were inside the trailer. Arnold said she was tired and went to lie down in her truck, the press release stated. The witness testified that she went outside and sat in a chair in a nearby shop.
“She testified that Shepard said, ‘Watch this’ and shot Arnold in the head,” the press release stated. Shepard then stated, ‘I got something for you, too’ and shot Combs as well.”
When Combs got up and ran, Shepard chased him, the witness said. She told the jury that she heard more gunshots and what sounded like someone getting beaten with a gun.
When Shepard came back without Combs, he said, “He wouldn’t go down.”
According to the press release, the witness said Shepard left again and came back with a rolled-up carpet with a person’s boots hanging out of the end. Shepard then threw Combs’ body into a large fire pit. Shepard then dragged Arnold’s body out of the truck, put it in a wheelbarrow, and wheeled it and the body into the fire pit.
“He threw tires and trash in the fire pit and burned the bodies,” the witness stated. “The witness stated at one point Shepard asked her to get in the pit with him to make sure there were no bones or teeth remaining, but she refused.”
The witness said Shepard made her follow him in his car to a county road “some distance away,” where he set Arnold’s truck on fire.
“A former member of the FBI’s Evidence Recovery Team testified that in 2020 they were requested by the Cass County District Attorney’s Office to dig and sift the fire pit area,” the press release stated. “She stated that items which appeared to be bones were collected and sent to the FBI forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.”
A forensic scientist from that team testified that four of the bones were confirmed to be human, and three were consistent with human bones. The scientist also said that there was significant thermal damage to the bones.
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