HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Jurors are now deliberating the fate of Antonio Armstrong Junior after two weeks of testimony. Armstrong is charged with capital murder, accused of killing his parents in 2016. His first capital murder trial ended in a hung jury back in 2019.
After powerful closing arguments on Monday, jurors in began deliberating just after 2 p.m.
"This case is a parents' worst nightmare to come to the realization that the person you brought into this world would end your life," Prosecutor Ryan Trask told jurors in closing arguments.
According to attorneys who are prosecuting Antonio Armstrong Jr., "All evidence, all evidence points to one person," said prosecutor John Jordan in closing arguments.
"The number of people who could have committed this crime is limited…It makes no sense that somebody outside the immediate household would bust into a house with the alarm system on and peruse the house to find the homeowner's gun, shoot the homeowners, find a pad in the kitchen, write a note and lock up the house after leaving," Trask adds.
Prosecutors say every door and window were closed and locked at the Armstrong's Bellaire home on July 29, 2016, when Antonio Armstrong Sr. and Dawn Armstrong were shot to death with their own gun as they slept. Prosecutors pointed to the alarm that was set at 9:52 p.m. and was never triggered. Also, alarm records show motion sensors set off in the house, but no exterior doors opening or closing.
"This is a garbage can. The alarm records are that, garbage," Defense Attorney Chris Collings told jurors as he held up a wastebasket and threw the alarm records in it.
"In the history of murders, no murderer has ever left a murder weapon behind," Jordan told jurors because the gun used to kill the Armstrong's was left on the kitchen counter along with a scribbled note that read "We’ve been watching you. So the killer is writing a note to the people he just killed. Does that make any sense?," Jordan asked jurors.
"Where’s the gunshot residue? Where’s the DNA? Where’s the blood spatter? Where’s the clothes, bloody clothes?" Collings asked.
"Where’s the evidence? It’s just not enough. It goes into reasonable doubt…We’re going to step aside now. We’re going to give him to you. He’s in your hands, and you have a serious decision to make, and I’m going to ask each of you to give him back to us. The evidence does not rise to the burden of reasonable doubt…You don’t want to convict an innocent young man of something he didn’t do. It’s hard for me to sit down now. I’ve been carrying him for six years. Give AJ back to us," Defense Attorney Rick Detoto told jurors.
In fact, defense attorneys are blaming AJ’s older brother, Josh, who was 19-years-old at the time and lived in an apartment down the street. The defense read from Josh's mental health records during closing.
"Homicidal ideations, angry, and you can go through these records, auditory hallucinations, a woman in his head he wanted to kill," Detoto read.
"I can’t help but wonder what Dawn Armstrong would think of what’s going on in this courtroom to see brother pit against brother...the person who committed these murders was not somebody suffering a psychotic episode. This was planned," says Trask.
"They want you to believe mental illness means murder. Aren't you offended?" Jordan asked.
"At some point you have to ask yourself did Josh do this in the throws of psychosis or was he Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, because it’s not both," says Trask.
Prosecutors also played a portion of Antonio Junior’s interview with police as he talked about his mom, after learning she was shot dead.
"Me and my mom like we, I mean me, my brother, and my sister had our issues with my mom," Antonio Jr. is heard saying. "Even in the moment that he realizes his mother is dead, he has so much disdain for her he can’t even say anything positive," says Jordan.
Antonio Armstrong Senior was shot once in the head. Dawn Armstrong was shot twice in the head.
Prosecutors also told jurors Antonio Jr. was constantly on his cell phone until just before his parents were murdered.
"These are just the text messages between him and his girlfriend that day," Trask told jurors while standing next to a stack of papers. "He was on his phone constantly that day. The only time he was not on his phone was in the 38 minutes his parents were getting murdered."