DALLAS - The sentencing phase will continue Wednesday for a former Texas A&M football player who was convicted of using a machete to murder a Dallas jogger.
It took a Dallas County jury less than 15 minutes on Tuesday to find Thomas Johnson guilty of murdering 53-year-old Dave Stevens on the White Rock Creek Trail in 2015.
Witnesses testified that they saw Johnson swing a machete down onto a person who was lying face down.
"At the time it looked like somebody was hitting somebody with a baseball bat. As I got closer, 25 feet maybe, I could tell it was a machete and there was some... I mean, it was pretty intense," Brandon Davenport said.
“He didn’t say a word. He glared. I’m just saying it was a very evil, evil look,” Sharon Callison told jurors.
After the gruesome attack, Johnson reportedly told police he is schizophrenic and was not taking his medication. He spent time in a mental facility following the attack and was later found competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors argued the evidence against Johnson is overwhelming, pointing to witness testimony, a confession and DNA evidence.
The defense rested without calling any witnesses. And during closing arguments, Johnson’s attorney said he wouldn’t argue over whether the state proved its case. He instead told jurors the trial wasn’t over with the guilt/innocence phase and asked them to return ready to hear the rest of the case.
Johnson’s defense team called witnesses during the punishment phase that began Tuesday afternoon that talked more about his struggles with schizophrenia.
A key witness for the defense was Johnson’s father, who said his son was a good kid growing up but started acting oddly at the end of high school. He testified his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia after going missing from Texas A&M University.
Johnson's son was a wide receiver on the Texas A&M football team in 2012, but left the program because of his troubles before the end of his freshman season.
Johnson's father said he and his son’s maternal aunt tried getting him help but the boy’s mother resisted.
Linda Hanks testified her son didn’t reach out to her for help and his behavior, in her opinion, wasn’t a steady decline but a sudden change.
“I saw nothing. I saw a well-rounded happy young man. I saw nothing. It’s like he went to sleep one day and woke up a different person. He was mad and he was quiet. And it was like the joy had left him,” Hanks said.
Mark Stevens, the victim's brother, testified for the state about the profound impact his brother’s murder has had on their family. He believes it caused the suicide of Dave’s wife Patti, who was left alone and heartbroken.
Johnson could receive anything from five years to life in prison.