HOUSTON – The trial against Antonio “AJ” Armstrong Jr., who is accused of murdering his mother, Dawn, and father, Antonio Armstrong Sr., nearly seven years ago, has officially started.
Armstrong Jr. is facing trial for the third time in his parents’ 2016 deaths.
With both of his previous trials ending in hung juries, Armstrong Jr. continues to maintain his innocence.
What will come out in the third trial? Will new facts be presented?
KPRC 2 will be live daily inside the courtroom and will document new details along with everything you should know.
July 31 - 6:00 p.m.
The jury was dismissed for the day. The trial will resume Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
July 31 - 5:38 p.m.
The third and final witness for the day was called to the stand, Houston Fire Department Firefighter Jason Williams.
Williams responded to the scene when officers called for EMS and paramedics. He said when he initially took the call, he thought the couple was dead and he just needed to pronounce it when he arrived (standard protocol). But when he arrived at the scene, he realized Antonio Sr. was still alive. He said he then called for help from his team, which about eight to 10 other firefighters answered. They started trying to save Antonio Sr., but Williams said he was in really bad condition.
July 31 - 3:00 p.m.
The second witness, HPD Lt. Horelica, was called to the stand. He was a sergeant at the time of the murder and took the lead on the response of the other officers on the scene. He testified that he was dispatched to the scene at 1:43 a.m. and arrived at 1:53. He was the first officer to enter the home.
During his testimony he went through the night in detail, saying he instructed the officers how to move through the home. He said when he entered AJ’s parent’s room, he thought the parents were sleeping because he heard what sounded like snoring. He said he called Mr. Armstrong’s name numerous times but did not receive a response. He entered the bedroom and saw pillows placed over the couple’s heads. He said he then checked the bed for a weapon but did not find anything.
When asked about the behavior of AJ’s sister, who was also in the home the night of the murder, he said she was shocked and confused. Prosecutors showed an image of the girl, who was 13 years old at the time, with bags over her hands. Horelica said after realizing the weapon wasn’t in the bedroom and not seeing any signs of a break-in, he realized the suspect had to have been in the home. He then ordered AJ and his sister to be separated, bagged and handcuffed.
The officer then admitted to breaking protocol by removing the sister’s handcuffs and allowing her grandmother to sit in the back of the police vehicle with her. When asked why he broke protocol, he said he had a “gut” feeling she was not the suspect.
Prosecutors also showed an image of AJ from the night of the murder with bags over his hands. When asked about his demeanor that night, the officer said he acted “regular.”
The officer was then asked about the brother Josh, and he said when he arrived at the scene he was agitated and belligerent while trying to figure out what happened to his parents.
When questioned by the defense, they quickly pointed out the timeline when the officer said he realized the suspect had to have been inside the home and no break-in occurred. They also questioned him about interviewing neighbors, reviewing surveillance cameras of the neighbors and businesses nearby, and running license plates of vehicles that were outside the crime scene. The officer said he did not do any of those things because that wasn’t on his list of duties that night.
He was also asked about seeing blood on AJ when he first made contact with him. The officer testified that he did not see any blood.
July 31 - 1:50 p.m.
Judge Johnson called the first witness to the stand, HPD officer Larzo Maldonado, who was one of the officers who responded to the crime scene on the night of the murder.
Maldonado said he was dispatched to the Armstrong residence at 1:43 a.m. and arrived at 1:46 a.m. He testified that he and his partner were the first to arrive at the home. When he entered the home, he said he noticed a gun in the kitchen with a note next to it. He was then instructed to move upstairs, where he witnessed Antonio Sr. and Dawn in the bed. Maldonado said he was in charge of marking the evidence found inside the home for homicide detectives.
When talking about AJ, Maldonado said he remembers him being calm and emotionless.
“The only time he showed emotion was when his sister was being placed in the back of the patrol car,” he said.
July 31 - 12:22 p.m.
The defense begins opening statements. Here are the key takeaways:
- Pointed out the Houston Police Department’s lack of investigation of the crime scene.
- Josh Armstrong’s mental health. Mentioned how he was never investigated by police or questioned although he had a history of being homicidal and hearing voices. Claimed Josh cannot be accounted for the night of his parent’s murder. Claimed that Josh was with a friend on the night of the murder who was never questioned by police.
- Police did not speak with neighbors or check surveillance video from the night of the murder, which allegedly showed Josh’s vehicle parked outside his parent’s home before the shooting.
- Josh was in an argument with his parents days before the shooting and moved out into an apartment located two minutes away.
- Josh tried to burn down his grandparent’s home.
- No gunshot residue was found on AJ or his clothing.
- For seven years, no evidence was found on AJ’s clothing, but days before the trial, blood was found on a sticker that was placed on AJ’s shirt when he was taken to HPD headquarters after the murder.
- Sinks were dry. No evidence of anyone washing their hands or taking a shower after the murder.
- Video from the evidence room shows cross-contamination when officials were reviewing AJ’s clothing before the blood was found. Also, officials were allegedly blocking the camera’s view during certain times while examining the clothing.
- The alarm system, which the prosecutors claimed never went off on the night of the murder, had 77 different errors in the month of July.
July 31 - 11:07 a.m.
The prosecution begins opening statements. John Jordan, the Juvenile Division chief and assistant district attorney for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, made several key points during his 58-minute opening address to the jury. Here are the biggest takeaways:
- AJ’s text messages with his mother allegedly showed him lying about being with his girlfriend and his mother being frustrated with his behavior.
- Two days prior to his parent’s murder, he said evidence showed AJ attempted to set his parents’ home on fire with them inside.
- AJ searched “how to detonate a car bomb” on his iPad days before his parent’s murder.
- The weapon used in the murder was found on the kitchen counter. No forced entry into the home. The weapon was registered to Armstrong Sr., which he allegedly kept in his bedroom in his desk. AJ knew where the gun was kept and allegedly told officers this during the initial 911 call. The call will be played at some point during the trial.
- The mother, Dawn, was shot first.
- Antonio Sr. was still alive when officers arrived. He was breathing hard and snoring.
- A note was left next to the gun in the kitchen, which read: “I’ve been watching you for a very long time.”
- AJ allegedly admitted to shooting a gun before the murders, which is why there was a hole in his bedroom floor that led to his parent’s room.
- The 911 call was made by AJ.
- AJ was allegedly emotionless when he was interviewed by homicide detectives.
- AJ claimed he saw the shooter leaving his parent’s room. He described him as a 6-foot-tall Black man.
- AJ’s brother Josh’s mental health was addressed. Claimed Josh did not have mental issues until after his parents’ death, which affected him heavily.
- AJ’s phone timeline: allegedly his phone was locked at 1:02 a.m. and then unplugged at 1:08 a.m. One minute later, a sensor in the home close to his parent’s room was activated. AJ’s parents were killed between 1:08 a.m. and 1:25 a.m.
- New evidence was introduced: blood was found on a sticker that was placed on AJ after the murder of his parents when he was being interviewed by homicide detectives. The blood on the sticker was from Antonio Sr.
- Alarm was set and never went off.
July 31 - 11:07 a.m.
AJ pleads not guilty.
July 31 - 10:53 a.m.
Judge Johnson calls AJ to the front of the courtroom where his attorney explained the motion to use the DNA that was found on a sticker on a piece of AJ’s clothing days before the trial was initially set to begin in June. AJ agreed to allow the evidence into the court.
July 31 - 10:14 a.m.
Judge Kelli Johnson calls the court to order. AJ’s attorney asks to speak to the judge privately in her chambers. When Judge Kelli returned, she asked all witnesses or those who have been subpoenaed to leave the courtroom until they were called to testify. It’s not clear what exactly was discussed during the private session.