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WACO

Arabie Jr. convicted of murder, sentenced to life in prison

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WACO -

A jury found John Carl Arabie Jr. guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison Thursday. The jury took about 15 minutes to deliberate on the conviction and less than 15 minutes for the sentence.

Arabie shot 74-year-old Waco resident David Lloyd Sanders in October of 2011 after Arabie bought a car from Sanders for $850 and experienced mechanical problems. Sanders was shot once in the head while answering Arabie's knock at his door.

Before the trial resumed on Thursday morning, defense attorneys for Arabie requested he change out of the striped jail jumpsuit he had been wearing during the trial and into his own clothing, including a floor-length white fur coat. Courthouse deputies told Judge Matt Johnson the coat was inappropriate for security reasons, and Judge Johnson didn't let Arabie wear it. Instead, he wore a yellow button-down shirt and khaki pants on his 34th birthday.

State prosecutors called Dallas County medical examiner Joni McClain to the stand to discuss Sanders' autopsy. McClain explained his manner of death was homicide, saying a bullet entered his right eye and exited the back of his skull. Sanders died within seconds, McClain estimated.

Arabie's defense attorneys did not call any witnesses.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Vik Deivanayagam said Arabie was drunk the night of the murder and didn't have a plan that he thought through. However, state attorney Lauren McLeod argued drunkenness was not a defense.

The state also said Arabie was at Midas in Waco getting an oil change and courtesy inspection just 36 hours before the murder. Midas owner and operator Eric Murry testified on Wednesday that Arabie was furious about problems with the steering components and other less urgent issues.

The state showed the jury a map indicating the close proximity of a gun and magazine that were found near the murder scene and Arabie himself, who was standing in the parking lot of a tax office behind Sanders' Hubby Ave. home soon after the crime.

McLeod reminded the jury of the testimony of expert witnesses who found gunshot residue on Arabie's hands and matched DNA from a gun near the murder scene to Arabie's DNA profile.

However, Arabie's attorneys told the jury the DNA analyst didn't find much DNA on the gun, and that test couldn't prove Arabie held the weapon.

McLeod said police saw Arabie after the murder making a motion with his hand similar to wiping off a gun. That motion could have removed some skin cells and prevented a lot of DNA from remaining on the gun.

Defense attorney Rod Goble asked the jury to not let any bias from sympathy for the victim come into play during deliberations, and reminded the jury of presumption of innocence for Arabie.

"Happy birthday," state prosecutor Brandon Luce said to Arabie. "He gets to have birthdays still," adding that Sanders will never celebrate another birthday.

Luce and McLeod asked the jury to sentence Arabie to life, pointing out his extensive criminal history, including charges of failure to stop and render aid, burglary of a habitation and evading arrest. Arabie had been released from jail one year before Sanders' murder.

Deivanayagam asked the jury to give Arabie 40 years in prison. By the time of his release in 40 years, he would be 74 years old, the same age as Sanders.

Sanders' widow, Joy Sanders, whom he married in 1998, took the stand in the punishment phase of the trial, crying and calling her husband "very gentle, kind, caring for others."

She said she and her husband participated in their church's Disciple Program, welcoming new people to their community.

After the jury returned a life sentence, Luce read a victim impact statement from David Lloyd Sanders' son, David G. Sanders, who lives out of town.

"David Sanders was a victim of a callous, senseless and needless crime - carried out by a cowardly individual," he said, adding that his brother, Chris, who has Down Syndrome and lives in a Robinson group home, no longer has any local family members who can visit regularly now that his father is dead.

McLeod told the jury they sent a message when they took only 15 minutes to convict Arabie.

Deivanayagam said he will be filing an appeal for Arabie on Friday morning, and Judge Johnson said Arabie would be assigned an attorney for the appellate process.