Appeals court confirms death sentence for Jefferson County Courthouse shooter

Bartholomew Granger

Three years after a murderous rampage at the Jefferson County Courthouse left one dead and many wounded, the gun-wielding madman responsible lost an appeal that sought to relieve the current death row inmate of his mortal debt to society.

Attorneys for Bartholomew Granger, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in April 2013 for the March 2012 courthouse shoot-out, argued to the Court of Criminal Appeals a seven-point case, claiming “points of error,” including lack of proof that the defendant intended to kill his victim, insufficient evidence to convict, and prosecution’s on-the-record court assertion that Granger is “a murdering son of a bitch.”

However, the court’s ruling says, “After reviewing (Granger’s) points of error, we find them to be without merit. Consequently, we affirm the trial court’s judgment and sentence of death.”

Information from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office details the specifics of Granger’s crime, which took place in the 11 a.m. hour of Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

“Granger was on trial for sexually assaulting his daughter,” a release of information from the District Attorney’s Office reports. “His daughter and her mother had testified adversely to Granger the day before the shooting. Trial was scheduled to resume the next morning.

“Bartholomew Granger arrived at the courthouse early where he confronted and shot his daughter multiple times in the parking lot and then deliberately ran over her with his truck before fleeing the scene. Granger’s estranged wife was able to escape, but the daughter’s mother was shot as she ran for safety toward the courthouse.

“(Murder victim Minnie Ray Sebolt) suffered multiple gunshot wounds at the courthouse door and died at the scene. Another bystander was also injured.”

After running over his daughter, Granger fled the scene under a hail of gunfire from law enforcement.

“He eventually abandoned his truck, took refuge in a local business, and held several people hostage. After a brief standoff with police, the hostages were able to overcome Granger and he was taken into custody.

“The capital murder trial was held in Galveston, Texas after a change of venue. During trial, Granger claimed he could not have shot Mrs. Sebolt because he used all of his bullets on his daughter. The jury found Granger guilty of capital murder and he was sentenced to death.”

According to testimony from the office of Granger’s attorney in the sexual assault case, Granger showed signs of disturbance the day before the courthouse shooting. Chelle Warwick, the secretary for Granger’s attorney, Rife Kimler, said Granger called the law office the day prior to the shooting “angry, upset, and crying hysterically.” Warwick added that Granger was particularly upset with the judge overseeing the sexual assault case as well as witnesses who testified against him on the charges, including his ex-wife and daughter. Granger’s last words to Warwick that day, though at the time not as telling, are now haunting; he calmly expressed that he “would take care of it tomorrow.”

The following day, according to eyewitnesses at the scene of the shooting, Granger arrived at the courthouse between 8 and 9 a.m., where he watched from his parked truck until shortly before 11 a.m. when his ex-wife, daughter, and estranged wife arrived to testify. When the three witnesses crossed the street from the parking lot to the courthouse, Granger “approached and began firing at the trio with a semi-automatic rifle,” court documents affirm.

Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary expressed his disbelief to The Examiner shortly after the shooting when Granger, who suffered two gunshot wounds to his left side and a grazing to the side of his head during apprehension, was released from the hospital the same day.

“He took a lot of gunfire,” Singletary said. “It was a classic shootout.”

In all, more than 50 rounds were spent by both Granger and law enforcement, according to Examiner archives, with a healthy portion of those bullets punching holes in the 2001 GMC pickup Granger was driving.

Escaping with his life – but not by much – Granger drove about two blocks on a tire blown out by the gunplay. He then got out of his vehicle and, wounded, ran into the RCI building in the 1100 block of Neches, where he took employees of the company as his hostages.

Joe Smith, who worked at RCI at the time of the offense, said he was in his office when he heard a commotion.

“Everyone was running outside, and that is when I found out it was a hostage situation and some of our guys were still inside,” Smith told The Examiner in 2012. “At this point, I don’t know if they are OK.”

The hostages, as it would turn out, were OK as they were able to overtake Granger, subdue him and take his weapon. The Beaumont SWAT team quickly took over from there.

“This was an extensive crime scene,” Singletary said as his office was still collecting evidence. “This is one of the worst situations officers can be confronted with. You had an individual who was shooting at us and shooting like crazy. He took the stance that today was the day he was going to do some damage, and he did.”

Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth said the recent appellate court decision was not only a win for the victims of Granger’s crimes, it was a win for justice.

“We are very gratified not only that the Court of Appeals came out with this decision, but that they were expeditious in their decision as well,” Knauth said.

Knauth said that Granger’s case will likely see one more appeal in federal court, but he is confident the two state courts’ decisions will again be affirmed.

 

Call Jennifer Johnson at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or email jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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