Texas’ highest criminal court on Feb. 13 overturned the death sentence of a man who was convicted of capital murder for shooting five people, including his mother and aunt.
In October 2013 Charles Brownlow went on a shooting spree in Terrell, murdering his 61-year-old mother, his 55-year-old aunt, and three others.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals did not reverse Charles Brownlow’s conviction in the 2013 slaying of Luis Gerardo Leal-Carrillo, a convenience store clerk. But in its opinion, the court says the trial jury in North Texas’ Kaufman County wasn’t properly told how to determine whether Brownlow had an intellectual disability.
Brownlow was arrested in October 2013 after a series of killings in Terrell,
He was accused of killing his mother, Mary Brownlow, 61, and setting her body on fire in her home, then shooting other people in the area, including his aunt, Belinda Walker, 55; Jason Michael Wooden, 33; Kelleye Lynnette Sluder, 30; and Leal-Carrillo, 22.
He was tried and convicted for the death of Leal-Carrillo.
Experts during Brownlow´s sentencing testified that he had tested as intellectually disabled when he was five years old and that he had been diagnosed with several psychological disorders.
The appeals court says the judge and prosecutors applied the state standard correctly at the time of his May 2016 sentencing, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 2017 opinion that rejected that standard, requiring a new hearing.
A conviction of capital murder in Texas carries either a death sentence or mandatory life in prison without parole.
The 2013 murders began at the homes of Belinda and Robert Walker.
About 30 minutes later, fire units responded to a blaze at Mary Brownlow’s house a few blocks away. When the fire was extinguished, crews found her body in the smoldering wreckage.
Later that night, police responded to a report of a shooting at another home and found Wooden and Sluder dead.
Brownlow’s criminal record dates back to 1995 and includes convictions for drug possession, burglary and assaulting a family member in 2011.