AJ Armstrong found guilty of Capital Murder, sentenced to life in prison

AJ Armstrong has been found guilty of Capital Murder for the 2016 murder of his parents by a Harris County jury.

Armstrong was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years. 

This was the third time he was tried for the murder. The first two trials ended with hung juries. In 2019, the jury was hung, in a deadlock, unable to agree on Arsmstrong's guilt or innocence after two weeks of testimony. In the second trial in 2022, the jury also couldn't agree on a verdict, and the judge declared a mistrial.

On July 29, 2016, Dawn and Antonio Armstrong Sr. were shot dead inside their bed at their home in Bellaire.

Armstrong, who was 16 at the time, was the one who made the 911 call in 2016 and in the 2019 trial, a key part of the call people focused on, was him saying, "It's all my fault."

He was arrested by Houston Police Department officers after his story about seeing a masked man in the home didn't match the evidence presented.

Authorities say they found no sign of a struggle, no sign of forced entry but no sign of family strife either the night of the murders. The house alarm was still set when police arrives and Antonio Sr.'s gun was found on the kitchen counter.

In the first trial, prosecutors argue he was the person who held a pillow over his mother and father's faces and shot them both, which Armstrong denied.

A medical examiner said that Antonio's mother Dawn suffered two gunshots. One behind her ear, the other through it, about an inch apart. One of the rounds destroyed her brain stem, causing instant death. 

Antonio Sr. suffered one shot, but the bullet broke apart. One part left his head, and the other stayed inside, causing catastrophic damage. He was able to live long enough to donate most of his organs before he died at Memorial Hermann Hospital - Texas Medical Center.

Prosecutors have also argued that before the murders, Armstrong shot a practice show into his bedroom floor. They claim he also attempted to light his house on fire and looked up how to rig a car so it explodes when turned on.

The relationship between Armstrong and his parents became really strained leading up to the murders, due to the 16-year-old at the time lying to his parents, failing classes in school, getting in detention or grounded, doing drugs, and recklessly driving his car.

Text messages mentioned in the third trial show the tension Dawn and Antonio Sr. had towards their son. Messages such as "I am sick of getting reports about silly crap you’re doing…last warning", "son blow smoke to someone else", and his mom saying AJ is a "bold-faced liar."

During the third trial, the focus shifted to Armstrong's home alarm system. The home security representatives told jurors both companies receive data every time an alarm is turned on, off, is set off and anytime a window or door is opened.

FOX 26 Houston is now on the FOX LOCAL app available through Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Roku and Google Android TV!

Both testified records from the Armstrong alarm the night the parents were murdered show the alarm was set at 9:52 p.m., a motion sensor was set off on the second floor where the parents' bedroom is at 1:09 a.m., a sensor tripped on the first floor where the murder weapon was found at 1:25 a.m., and after Antonio Armstrong Jr called 911 to report his parents had been shot, the alarm was disarmed at 1:56 a.m. as AJ and his sister met police officers outside their Bellaire home.

Armstrong's older brother, Josh, was also mentioned during the second trial due to his reported mental health. There’s a line in Josh's medical records saying, "patient reports witnessing his parents' murders." 

According to medical records after the murders, Josh was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was "hallucinating, hearing voices, had a plan to sacrifice an animal, and had homicidal ideations."

The main focus of the third trial, which ended in the guilty verdict, was the two specks of blood found on Armstrong's shirt, seven years later.

Initially, the t-shirt the 16-year-old at the time was wearing, was taken in for evidence and extensively tested by Houston Forensic Science Center, the lawsuit states, and no DNA evidence was reported to be found.

Seven years later, Harris County DA stated two pieces of blood belonging to Antonio Armstrong Sr., were found on the back or under a nametag sticker the police put on AJ’s t-shirt when he was arrested the night of the murder.

Multiple HPD officials who testified during the trial said they saw no blood on Armstrong when he was arrested, the lawsuit said.

Defense Attorney Rick Detoto says the dried blood is likely there seven years later as a result of cross-contamination.

On Tuesday, Armstrong filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston.

In the lawsuit, it claims blood flakes later found on the t-shirt taken from Armstrong by Houston police for evidence "was planted by, or in conspiracy with, one or more persons at the HPD in order to try and convict Armstrong of capital murder and to taint his reputation in the mind of the public."