Ronald Haskell found guilty of capital murder in slayings of Stay family

By Brandon Walker - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - A jury convicted a man Thursday of killing six members of a Spring family five years ago.

Ronald Haskell, 39, of Utah, was found guilty of capital murder in the 2014 shooting deaths of Katie and Stephen Stay, and their children Bryan, Emily, Rebecca and Zach. Their fifth child, Cassidy, was shot but survived her injuries.

During the trial, prosecutors painted Haskell as a man seeking vengeance against his ex-wife and her family and formulated a plan to carry out the murders.

"There was never a reasonable doubt that Haskell meticulously planned and carried out the slaughter of the Stay family," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement.

The defense argued that Haskell was insane and heard voices that led him to kill his ex-wife’s sister, her sister's husband and four of their children on July 9, 2014.

Haskell hung his head after the verdict was read.

"I think he took it as best as you could expect," said Doug Durham, one of Haskell's defense attorneys. "He was aware that this was a strong possibility."

Cassidy Stay, who testified during the trial, was surrounded by family as she appeared to be praying just before the verdict was announced. Afterward, she appeared relieved.

The jury will now have to decide whether Haskell should die for his crimes. The penalty phase begins Monday morning.

"We want to save his life. That's our job," said Neil Davis III, another of Haskell's defense attorneys.

Haskell's defense conceded doing so will not be easy, although they don't believe their client poses a danger to anyone.

"He's been institutionalized. He's been in jail for five years. There have been no problems in the jail. He's been medicated. His mental health issues have been treated," Davis said.

Still, the very jury that didn't buy the argument that Haskell wasn't in control of his actions will be left to decide whether he lives or dies. Haskell's defense plans to have several witnesses take the stand during the punishment phase, including Haskell's relatives, friends and an expert who "will talk about why Ron Haskell will not be a future danger," Davis said.

Haskell's mental state is slated to take center stage yet again when testimony begins Monday in his punishment phase.

"Obviously [jurors] looked through the evidence carefully and I'm hoping that part of that was the medical records and that they see he's got a history of mental illnesses and I hope they find that mitigating," Durham said.

Haskell's defense expects the punishment phase to last 2 1/2 weeks or so.

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