By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – The first trial in the homicide of Vanessa Melson began on Tuesday, Aug. 22 with jury selection in the case against Robert David Mobley.
Mobley is on trial for aggravated kidnapping related to the death of Vanessa Melson in the summer of 2015.
The state is represented by Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar and Assistant District Attorney Roger White. Mobley is represented by Palestine attorney Colin McFall.
The trial is being held in the 349th District Court with District Court Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding.
The first day of the legal proceedings began with jury selection. Approximately 70 perspective jurors were allowed in the courtroom for voir dire proceedings.
According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, voir dire is “… a preliminary examination to determine the competency of a witness or juror.”
The district judge began the process and asked all the prospective jurors several questions. Among the questions posed by Fletcher included how a prospective juror might feel if a defendant chose not to testify on his own behalf.
She also asked if jurors would be able to distinguish between an absolute certainty and “beyond reasonable doubt,” the threshold needed for a conviction.
Fletcher further explained if a prospective juror was selected, he or she would only be tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of Mobley as it pertained to the evidence presented. She said an arrangement had been worked out between the prosecution and defense which would allow the judge to set the penalty should Mobley be found guilty of the crime.
Following the judge’s questions and explanation, Kaspar and McFall both had a chance to address the court as well as to question members of the juror pool.
Kaspar explained what the charge of aggravated kidnapping meant. According to Section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code Sec. “A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly abducts another person with the intent to: hold him for ransom or reward; use him as a shield or hostage; facilitate the commission of a felony or the flight after the attempt or commission of a felony; inflict bodily injury on him or violate or abuse him sexually; terrorize him or a third person; or interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.”
Once Kaspar concluded, McFall addressed the prospective jurors and explained to find his client guilty all elements of the crime must be proved within a reasonable doubt or Mobley should be set free.
After the attorneys had questioned all potential jurors, the jury was selected. Fourteen jurors were chosen with two of the 14 to be used as alternates. The jury is comprised of five males and nine females.
Mobley was arrested in the fall/winter of 2015 and indicted on the kidnapping charges in early 2016.
According to arrest reports and probable cause warrants filed in the case, Mobley allegedly abducted Vanessa Melson from her father’s home in Grapeland on the night of June 16, 2015.
After leaving the Grapeland location at approximately 11 p.m., the affidavit indicated Mobley and Vanessa Melson arrived at a residence shared by James Eddie Henderson and Brenna Theurer at approximately 1 a.m.
As previously reported in The Messenger, it was stated Mobley and Melson “… were in a heated argument that began to escalate to being physical.”
Affidavits filed in the case reported as the assault on Melson became progressively more violent, “… Mobley told both Henderson and Theurer that Melson was a snitch and had to be dealt with so he could wash his hands of the matter. According to Henderson, he and Mobley went outside and Mobley told him he would kill him (Henderson) if he called law enforcement. Henderson, in fear of his life and in his words told Mobley to ‘… handle your business.’”
The documents also stated Theurer confronted Mobley as he continued the assault on Melson and “… according to Theurer, Mobley approached her and told her she would be next if she did not shut up and that he would kill her if she contacted law enforcement.”
The information in the report further indicated the assault on Melson ended later in the morning when Melson was no longer responsive and “… became silent.” Fearing for her life, Theurer fled the residence and was joined a short time later by Henderson.
Theurer is expected to be called as a witness for the prosecution while Henderson has also been indicted for aggravated kidnapping and is expected to go to trial in September.
According to the affidavits, on July 7, 2015, the body of Vanessa Melson was “… found on Henderson’s property approximately 115 yards south east of the residence.”
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.