What happened when neighbors testified in David Temple's retrial

What we know

HOUSTON – Jurors in the retrial of a former high school football coach accused of killing his wife heard key testimony Monday from a neighbor who was once a person of interest in the case.

David Temple is accused of killing his then-pregnant wife, Belinda Temple, at their home in Katy in January 1999. Temple maintains his innocence and on Monday jurors heard from the man who the defense has argued could have been the gunman.

Monday marked day one of week three for the retrial. A jury first convicted Temple in 2007, although that conviction was reversed in 2016. 

 Who testified Monday?

Three people testified Monday: 

1. Dwayne Wolf, deputy chief medical examiner for the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences. 

What did he say? 

Wolf testified the gun used to shoot Belinda Temple was placed directly on the back of her head. The shot killed her instantly. 

Cross examination

The defense questioned Wolf on his accuracy in determining Belinda Temple’s cause of death, attempting to get him to pinpoint Temple’s time of death. 

2. Riley Joe Sanders Jr., father of Riley Joe Sandra III, as well as neighbors David and Belinda Temple. 

What did he say?

The elder Sanders’ testimony acted as a buildup to his son’s testimony, which would come later Monday afternoon. 

The younger Sanders was once suspected in Belinda Temple’s murder, but was never charged in her death. David Temple’s defense team has argued Sanders could have been the gunman, killing Belinda Temple in retaliation for informing Sanders’ parents of his truancy. Sanders was a student of Belinda Temple’s at Katy High School. 

Sanders testified that while he didn’t know David or Belinda Temple well, his wife was friendly with Belinda. Sanders testified he once mowed the Temple’s front lawn after seeing a pregnant Belinda attempt to do so. 

Sanders testified on the evening of Belinda Temple’s murder, Jan. 11, 1999, he returned home from work to find police cars up and down his street. He entered his home to find his son asleep on the couch. 

Cross examination

Most of what the defense aimed to do is better explored in its cross examination of Riley Joe Sanders III. His father often appeared confused by defense attorney Stanley Schneider’s questions, aimed at getting the father to confirm, with accuracy, instances of his then-teenaged son’s of truancy, marijuana usage, and choice of friends. Mainly, Riley Joe Sanders Jr. responded with, “I don’t remember.” 

3. Riley Joe Sanders III 

What did he say? 

“She was the lady I’d go to for help,” Sanders III testified. 

In his testimony, Sanders said Belinda Temple was his tutor in a program meant to help him keep up with coursework he found difficult. He said Belinda was good to him.

Sanders said he never felt any animosity toward Belinda Temple, even after she had informed his parents of tendency to skip class. 

He said he knew nothing of Temple’s murder, until his father came home from work, waking him up to watch the scene from outside. 

Cross examination

Stanley Schneider, Temple’s defense attorney, questioned this positive relationship between Belinda Temple and Sanders. He brought up Sanders’ disciplinary issues, including truancy and marijuana consumption.

When asked how many times Belinda Temple told Sanders’ parents he was skipping school, Sanders said only once.

A troubled teen 

David Temple’s defense attempted to paint a picture of Riley Joe Sanders III as a class skipping, marijuana smoking, delinquent. A delinquent who hung out with other marijuana smoking delinquents — the same friends who smoked weed with Sanders the afternoon of Temple’s death and were scoping the neighborhood in search of more weed. 

Sanders testified he knew nothing and heard nothing. After returning home he fell asleep on the couch, he said. His father awoke him after that, he testified, telling him to come outside. 

Sanders testified he had nothing to do with Temple’s murder, swearing he never stepped foot into the Temple home. 

What happens Tuesday?

Sanders’ cross examination continues.