GALVESTON — Capital murder defendant Bartholomew Granger pleaded not guilty Monday before a Galveston jury, as prosecutors seek the death penalty for a deadly shooting outside the Jefferson County Courthouse last year.
To impanel an impartial jury, Granger’s defense team and prosecutors agreed to move the case from Beaumont to the Galveston County Justice Center in Galveston.
Granger, 42, was accused of the March 14, 2012, rifle ambush of his daughter and her mother as they returned to the courthouse for testimony against Granger in a sexual assault trial.
“They both survived the shooting, but Minnie Ray Seaboldt, 79, a bystander, was killed,” Prosecutor Ed Shettle said. “Seaboldt suffered a gunshot wound to the femoral artery, a large vessel running through the leg, as she entered the courthouse door amid a hail of gunfire.”
Seaboldt lived in Deweyville, a small town about 30 miles northeast of Beaumont, her daughter, Deborah Ray Holst, said Monday. Seaboldt had gone to the courthouse with a relative to help her register for veterans benefits, Holst said.
“I hope justice is served and he gets what I want,” Holst said Monday outside the courthouse. “If I had my choice, he’d be found guilty and given the death penalty and next week, they’d give him the needle.”
Prosecutors called District Court Judge John Stevens and Chelle Warrick — an assistant to Granger’s defense attorney in the sexual assault case — to describe what occurred in the hours before the shooting.
Warrick testified that Granger called her, saying he was upset that Stevens wouldn’t allow evidence before the jury that could help his case. He wanted a different judge and change of venue, she said.
Warrick told Granger to talk with his attorney at the courthouse before the trial resumed the next day.
“He said he would take care of it tomorrow,” Warrick said Granger told her in a normal tone of conversation.
‘They’re shooting downstairs!”
On the day of the shooting, Stevens had a full morning docket and scheduled Granger’s trial for 1 p.m. Stevens released one of the defendants on the docket, and shortly thereafter he ran into the courtroom.
“He came bursting through the door, hollering, ‘They’re shooting downstairs!’” Stevens said.
Stevens’ bailiffs left to guard the courtroom’s perimeter, and he told everyone to remain inside. Stevens left to retrieve his weapon.
Stevens then saw Claudia Jackson, the mother of Granger’s daughter, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the buttocks. He’d recognized her from the previous day’s testimony. She was lying on her stomach in one of the courthouse offices.
“A bullet does a terrible thing,” Stevens said. “It just exploded. It was like an explosion happened … I asked her, ‘Who shot you?’ and she told me.”
‘Lay in wait’
In his opening statement, first assistant Shettle told the jury of nine women and three men that Granger drove to the courthouse before it opened.
“He sat out in his pickup truck and lay in wait for hours on people he felt betrayed him,” Shettle said. “This was calculated. Well thought out. It took a long time for this crime to proceed.”
Prosecutors showed the jury video from the Jefferson County Courthouse and Beaumont police station. It showed Granger’s pickup arriving at the courthouse parking lot at 7:20 a.m.
Shettle accused Granger of jumping out of his truck with a military-style rifle as Jackson and his daughter arrived in the courthouse parking lot.
“First, he shot his 20-year-old daughter three times,” Shettle said. “Then, as Claudia Jackson was running toward the courthouse, he began to shoot at her.”
Granger continued firing the rifle, striking Seaboldt as she tried to go through the courthouse’s revolving door.
“She was laying in a pool of blood,” Shettle said. “Jackson was shot in the hip.”
The video captured Seaboldt and two others falling to the ground at the courthouse door where she died.
Evidence would show Granger ran toward his pickup but he didn’t try to escape.
“His little girl was sitting in the driveway, bleeding,” Shettle said. “Rather than leave the scene, he crossed the street and ran over his daughter with his truck.”
The video also showed Beaumont police rushing to the scene from the nearby police station and officers firing on the truck as it left the courthouse parking lot. The gunfire disabled Granger’s pickup, which only made it a couple of blocks from the courthouse.
Business held hostage
Authorities never lost sight of Granger, who despite suffering three superficial gunshot wounds, carried his rifle into a business called RCI, which had a lot of blue-collar workers inside.
“He took hostages with an assault rifle and threatened all of them,” Shettle said.
Granger might have been in shock and took out his cellphone to call his relatives. A police negotiator spoke with one of the hostages, revealing when they want to speak with relatives, that’s generally when things really go bad.
“There was one brave man who had an opportunity, and he took the opportunity to kick the hell out of this guy,” Shettle said. “He disarmed him.”
The hostage situation lasted less than 30 minutes, Beaumont police Chief James P. Singletary testified. Police entered the building, and Granger was taken to the hospital.
Granger was treated and released, but prosecutors have 7,000 pages of medical records for his daughter, who survived the ordeal and is expected to testify.
When the trial ends, Shettle asked the jury to send Granger to death row. Granger’s defense team reserved its opening statement until it begins its case.
Testimony was expected to continue today in the Galveston’s Constitutional County Courtroom, with judge Bob Wortham of Jefferson County’s 58th District Court presiding.
Granger remained at the Galveston County Jail on a $3.8 million bond.