A former Kyle resident has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his estranged girlfriend.
James Craig Keen, 52, killed Erin Wright, who was 39 at the time of her death on March 26, 2016. It happened in her kitchen and one of her young daughters testified that she saw the two arguing before Keen climbed up on a counter and grabbed a gun that had been on top of a cabinet. The girl told jurors she saw him point the gun at her mother and shoot, saying she also remembered holding her mother’s hand afterward.
The couple have one child together and had a history of domestic abuse. Wright had moved away when their baby was just months old, but moved back from Oregon early in the month Wright was killed in order that Keen could get to know his daughter, then nine. District Attorney Wes Mau’s office noted in its press release that the murder occurred “only three weeks after Wright and her two daughters had moved in with Keen.”
Testimony in the trial in District Judge Bill Henry’s courtroom began Sept. 23. On Sept. 30, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Two days later, jurors returned with their sentence of life behind bars, the maximum, in addition to a fine of $10,000.
Witnesses during the punishment phase included Keen’s ex-wife, who told jurors he had been abusive throughout their 30-year on-again, off-again relationship. Keen had been convicted of assaulting his first wife in Tarrant County in 1996; and he had been placed on deferred probation for a 2007 assault on Wright that occurred in Dallas County. The child the couple shared also took the stand.
The guilty verdict came on the same day that county officials held a press conference to call attention to the fact that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Mau referenced that in his remarks.
“This trial is another reminder – especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month – that the escalating cycle of domestic violence can and too often does culminate in murder. This jury’s verdict and resounding life sentence echo my own feelings: domestic abusers have no place in our society,” he said. “Ms. Wright’s family, having endured this painful journey – which for them will never be over – remain living reminders of the heart-rending toll domestic violence leaves not only on its victims, but on everyone around them.”
He singled out Detective Diana Talamantes of the Kyle Police Department, along with Sgt. Tracy Vrana and former Detective Adam Watson, to thank them for their roles in the investigation.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Arnold headed up the prosecution.