HOUSTON - A story took a lot of people by surprise in a downtown Houston courtroom Thursday. Justin Parris was expected to plead guilty to murder charges in the death of his 81-year-old grandfather. But that's not what Parris decided to do when he arrived in court.
Four years after the brutal murder of 81-year-old Johnnie Gonzalez, many of his family members were hoping this day would bring justice. But they say, during a shocking court hearing, it didn't come.
"Today is a disappointing day for our family. We thought that my family would get closure," said the victim's aunt, Monica Shiel. "And now we're back to square one."
Parris, 26, previously pleaded guilty to killing his Gonzalez. The elderly man's body was found at home, stabbed and beheaded.
Family members walked into court believing Parris would be sentenced for the crime. But now Parris is changing his story, and saying he did not do it. It was an about-face that prosecutors say doesn't happen often at this late stage in the case.
"It is somewhat odd but occasionally it does," said John Jordan, Harris County Assistant District Attorney.
The only relative speaking out for Parris Thursday was his mother, who is also the victim's daughter. She believes someone else killed Gonzalez.
"I don't (think he's guilty). I think it was my older brother," said the defendant's mother and victim's daughter, Anna Parris.
This gruesome crime leaves a family divided as now Parris will stand trial.
"And we'll just have to have the jury trial in the spring and get 12 citizens of Harris County to tell Justin Parris that he is guilty," Jordan said.
"We're tired. We're wearing down but we're going to stay strong," Shiel said. "Support, get justice for my father."
The murder trial is scheduled to begin March 7 of next year.
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