A Galveston County jury Tuesday found that Jesse Christian Dobbs, 23, didn’t act in sudden passion in the stabbing death of his 16-year-old girlfriend in November 2016, but only sentenced him to 45 years in prison.
“We obviously asked for a longer sentence,” Assistant Criminal District Attorney Bill Reed, the felony division chief, said. “But we are satisfied that the jury punished him, and we respect their verdict.”
Jurors had deliberated Dobbs’ sentence since Monday afternoon after hearing from more than 35 witnesses in order to determine how long he would serve time in prison.
Dobbs pleaded guilty in September to stabbing Kirsten Nicole Fritch, 16, more than 60 times in the late afternoon of Nov. 6, 2016.
Dobbs’ defense attorneys had argued that he acted in fear and sudden passion rather than premeditation, an argument that would have meant a punishment range of two to 20 years in prison instead of the normal five to 99 years for a murder conviction, officials said.
“We are not real happy with the verdict,” defense attorney Jyll Rekoff said. “We believe this was a sudden passion case. And he understands and has taken responsibility for it, so I think he’s had an easier time than me processing the decision.”
Prosecutors argued in court that Dobbs is a repeat criminal offender who they believe killed multiple people and had a history of pursuing younger women, such as Fritch.
Fritch’s mother, Cynthia Morris, 37, and Morris’s daughter, Breanna Pavlicek, 13, were found shot to death in their Baytown home Nov. 8, 2016. Their deaths prompted a search for Fritch which ended with the discovery of her body in a Texas City drainage ditch two days later.
Dobbs hasn’t been charged in connection to Morris’ or Pavlicek’s deaths.
Dobbs testified Monday that he broke down and stabbed Fritch to death in Texas City after she called him a rapist and said she would frame him for the deaths of her two family members.
Investigators launched a statewide search for Fritch on Nov. 8. Within hours, authorities tracked her family’s missing car to Shenanigans Sports Bar in the 800 block of 34th Street in Texas City.
Dobbs was arrested inside the bar on a resisting arrest charge.
More than 36 hours later, on Nov. 10, Texas EquuSearch volunteers found Fritch’s body in brush near a drainage ditch, Alvin Tips, a volunteer with the group, testified.
In addition to the prison sentence, Dobbs must also pay a $10,000 fine, Chief Assistant Criminal District Attorney Matthew Shawhan said.
Dobbs will be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence, Shawhan said.