Update: A Polk County jury found Frank Dolezal not guilty Wednesday in trial over aggravated assault charges. See below for trial coverage.
LIVINGSTON — Jurors heard from the final witness Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Frank Andrew Dolezal, 63, a former Livingston resident, for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the 411th District Court Tuesday before District Judge Kaycee Jones.
Dolezal was indicted on that charge March 29, 2018, after an incident that occurred on Liberty Drive Feb. 6, 2018.
Witnesses say they saw Dolezal carrying a machete while riding his bicycle from the intersection of Liberty and South Washington, eastbound heading toward Texas 146 (Houston St.)
Dolezal was living at the Escapees Park at that time.
Cassie Taylor told jurors she had just returned home with her children from a quick trip to the grocery store to buy them a treat for good behavior that day.
Her common-law husband, David Howell, remained at home watching television.
Howell described himself as a paraplegic with limited use of his arms and head after a motorcycle crash June 15, 2015.
Howell uses a power chair to move around his home. Taylor is his primary caregiver.
They have three small children.
Taylor testified she was away from home about 10-15 minutes and returned home. She went into the house to check on Howell, then returned to the van, with her youngest child following her.
Outside, Taylor said she saw a man in front of her house on a bicycle pull something from his backpack and swing it.
“I moved my son just in time so that the man missed my son,” Taylor said.
She said she later learned it was a machete.
Howell said he heard his wife yelling and a male voice yelling back so he came outside and down the ramp from his porch to confront the man.
Taylor said her husband hit the man with his power chair.
Howell testified that the man yelled that he was going to kill the family’s dog, a pit bull chained in the front yard.
Taylor and Howell questioned Dolezal’s claims that their dogs bit the man, saying that the dogs are chained so that they cannot reach the street.
Howell said when he confronted the man, he swung at him and broke the device that attaches his cell phone to the power chair within his reach.
They both testified that the man was chased out of the yard into the street.
Howell said he ran over Dolezal again after the phone was busted.
“I’m paralyzed what more can he do to me,” Howell said.
At that time a car drove up and stopped, unable to continue down Liberty because Dolezal and his bicycle were in the street.
The white Ford Focus was driven by Anna Craig of Livingston. Craig’s daughter Savanna Obannon was riding in the front passenger seat as the two women back to Craig’s home after taking Obannon’s daughter to her (other) grandparents’ house.
The first thing Obannon saw after she notice the bike laying down in the middle of the road was a man wearing sweatpants and a hoodie came up to her mother’s window and asked the two women if they saw what just took place.
“He was shaken up,” Obannon said. “I think he had the machete in his hand the whole time.
She also saw the man in the power chair and his wife at the end of their driveway.
The man holding the machete walked away and the man in the wheelchair started arguing with him.
Then another vehicle pulled up behind the women and two men jumped out.
Obannon recognized the men as Jerry Mullins, a friend from high school, and Cody Sonnier, the brother of one of her good friends. At many points during witness testimony, Francis Jerry Mullins is referred to as “Little Jerry” to distinguish him from his father, who is also known as Jerry Mullins and lives in the same residence with his son on Liberty Ave.
“They jumped out of the car, ran up to the man that had the machete and they all started arguing,” Obannon said. “Then Jerry yanked the machete away from under his arm.”
Obannon said the man did not seem to be aggressive to her, that it seemed like “Jerry and Cody were trying to start something.”
At that point, Obannon began to cry recalling the incident.
In response to questions from defense attorney Dana Williams, Obannon said she never saw Dolezal raise the machete or swing it.
Obannon also repeated that she saw Howell ram his chair into Dolezal before Cody and Jerry arrived in front of the Howell home.
She told Williams and the jury that it seemed to her that Howell was instigating the trouble, urging Dolezal to come into his yard.
Obannon also said she believe Howell and Taylor could have returned to their home as Dolezal walked away from them, towards Godtel, a faith-based organization at the corner of Liberty and S. Washington that offers food and shelter to the homeless and others.
Obannon described Jerry taking the machete away from Dolezal and throwing it into the woods.
Craig called 911, her daughter said.
Then Cody and Jerry begin hitting and kicking Dolezal.
She described the beating as “pretty horrible” and it prompted her to leave the vehicle and try to stop the two men.
Obannon described the number of blows from Sonnier and Mullins as “too many to count.”
Craig remained on the phone with the 911 operator at Livingston Police Department until officers arrived.
The two women saw Mullins and Sonnier run back to their vehicle and leave the scene.
Later, they provided written statements to officers.
During their time in the witness chair, both Mullins and Sonnier said they came to the aid of Mullins’ neighbor, Howell.
Mullins said he went to Walmart with Sonnier and was returning home in Cody’s vehicle as it was getting dark.
Mullins said he lives further down Liberty Ave., closer to Texas 146 than the Howells.
He said his first thought was that a bicyclist had been hit when they saw the bike in the road. Then he saw David Howell reversing his wheelchair as fast as he could in the street in front of his house.
They exited Sonnier’s vehicle.
“Cody said something and the man swung at Cody,” Mullins testified. “I grabbed the machete and threw it into the woods.”
When asked if he could identify that unknown man in the courtroom, Mullins said no.
“Everything happened so fast, in just a couple of seconds.”
Mullins said both he and Cody hit the man and Mullins remembers kicking him when Savanna screamed at them to stop.
Then he went to his house. Mullins remembers seeing a lot of blood and being scared.
Later that evening, Mullins said he remembers Det. Marty Drake knocking on his door and taking photos. Mullins also said he gave a written statement and called Cody at Drake’s request.
Mullins said he punched the man two times and kicked him two times.
He said he also went to the hospital for an injury to his foot and ankle, but none of the police officers who testified knew of anyone other than Dolezal seeking medical treatment.
Next, Billy Duke, an investigator with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Police Department testified that he came to the scene of the incident when he heard the call dispatched on the radio shortly after he dropped off a subject at the Polk County Jail.
Duke said he saw the defendant on the ground with officers standing over him.
He saw blood on the ground and heard lots of screaming.
Duke was then asked to attempt to locate the missing machete, which he found on the north side of the roadway approximately 10-12 feet off the roadway in tall grass.
He added that he turned the weapon over to Livingston Police and did not do a written report.
Sgt. Chad Ward and Officer Adam Williford arrived at the Liberty Ave. location almost simultaneously.
When Criminal District Attorney Lee Hon played patrol car video for the jury, they could see two Livingston Police cars traveling to the scene, one just a few car lengths in front of the other.
Williford testified that he has been with LPD for 10 years and saw more blood loss at that scene than on any other call for service he has responded to.
When he arrived, Williford described the man in the wheelchair was screaming and the other guy had been standing in the road, but began walking toward Williford, covered in blood.
Williford told the man two or three times to stop walking and put both hands on the patrol vehicle, but he continued to approach.
Williford removed his taser from the holster and again ordered the man to stop, putting the taser’s red laser target on the man’s upper torso.
When he kept walking, Williford tased him.
The officer also testified he ultimately began providing first aid to the man he had just tased, due to a delayed response from EMS.
Sgt. Ward called detective Marty Drake as he and Williford continued trying to discern what had taken place.
Williford said he applied a tourniquet to Dolezal’s left upper arm to control bleeding, since a large amount of blood was already soaking the man’s clothes, and onto his patrol vehicle.
Williford testified that none of the LPD officers had been issued body cameras at the time of this incident, and in his rush to exit the vehicle, he did not activate a microphone that records sound to accompany the onboard video.
On that patrol car video, jurors heard the defendant tell Williford that “two people beat the hell out of me. THey’ve got a criminal record a mile long, I can guarantee.”
Williford also can be heard saying that every single time he rides his bicycle on city streets, he’s attacked by dogs running at large.
He told Ward and Williford that he had made a complaint that day to Matt Parrish, a lieutenant at LPD, who Dolezal also referred to at times as the chief deputy and other titles in attempts to describe an elevated position in the department’s chain of command.
“The man in the wheelchair said he’s gonna get his gun and kill me, and that’s a quote,” Dolezal said.
When Det. Drake took the stand he told the jury blood and tissue was found on the machete after it was recovered.
In response to questions from the defense, Drake indicated that he did not speak to Craig or Obannon, but did take statements from Howell, Taylor, Mullins and Sonnier. Those statements matched physical evidence he found, according to Drake.
Drake also said no evidence of injury was seen on Mullins or Sonnier.
Drake also said he was not aware of Howell hitting Dolezal with his wheelchair.
When Williams asked why charges were not filed on Mullins and Sonnier, Drake said Dolezal never made a complaint.
“Did you watch the video?” Williams asked.
Hon then provided the written statements from Obannon and Craig and instructed Drake to read them.
In response to further questions from Hon, Drake agreed with the prosecutor that actions taken by Mullins and Sonnier did not seem relevant to whether Dolezal threatened Howell and Taylor or their child or dog with the machete.
Jones ended proceeding Tuesday with both sides discussing the jury charge outside the presence of the jury.
On Wednesday, jurors were expected to hear closing arguments and deliberate on Dolezal’s guilt or innocence.
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