A jury in Texas is expected to begin deliberations Friday over the fate of Ronald Haskell, the man accused of methodically executing his ex-wife’s sister’s family in their Houston home.
Haskell, who supposedly dressed up as a FedEx deliveryman and gunned down his ex-wife’s sister, Katie Stay, and her husband, Stephen Stay, as well as their four children, faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Haskell was found guilty of the 2014 killings on Sept. 26. The sentencing phase of the trial was dragged out while prosecutors and Haskell’s defense team sparred over his mental state and whether the 39-year-old posed a danger to others if imprisoned.
But the convicted killer’s brother, Robert Haskell, told the court in the trial's final week that his sibling “still has good in him,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
“I think that Ronnie can help other people,” Robert said.
A forensic psychologist also testified this week that there was a “very low” chance that Haskell would be violent if locked up for life, according to the Texas newspaper.
“Based on certain factors, including his age, his past criminal history, his community involvement — he would not pose a future danger,” Haskell’s attorney, Neal Davis III, told Oxygen.com.
But prosecutors argued differently, citing a 2018 incident where Haskell allegedly threatened a jail guard. They also pointed to more than a decade of abuse he reportedly inflicted upon his ex-wife Melannie Lyon, who had left him roughly a year prior to the grisly murders. Haskell told doctors he had wanted to shoot Lyon in the back of the head because he had “so much hate and anger,” prosecutor Lauren Bard said last month, CBS reported.
"He said he felt good about killing Katie [Stay]," Bard also claimed.
Davis confirmed the threat on the jail guard but said his client was “driven by mental illness,” and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in prison. The Houston criminal defense attorney admitted Haskell told the corrections officer he would “stab him in the ear,” but noted “no shank” was found and that it had likely been a baseless threat.
He blamed the confrontation on his client’s psychological condition, saying, "The threat was probably because his meds needed to be adjusted."
Davis said a psychological evaluation was carried out in the following days and his client’s medications were subsequently adjusted.
“Nothing else has happened,” he added. “I think all the evidence supports that he would not be a future danger.”
Haskell’s brother also said that if his sibling is properly mediated, he doesn’t pose a violent risk.
Haskell’s defense team had previously argued he carried out the killings of the Stays and their children because he had heard voices in his head. But some medical professionals noted Haskell may have been lying about the extent of his alleged psychological condition.
Robert Haskell also claimed his brother had expressed remorse for the slayings over the phone and believed he had driven from California to Texas not with murderous intentions — but rather to reunite with his children.
“I don’t think he has a full understanding of the actual events that transpired,” Robert Haskell said, according to the Chronicle.
However, prosecutors said they combed through more than 200 recorded phone calls Haskell made from jail and weren’t able to find any instance of the 39-year-old admitting regret for carrying out the family massacre.
County prosecutors also suggested that if Haskell gets loose, he may enact further vengeance on his ex-wife’s family, although they acknowledged prison escapes are rare.
The Stays' daughter Cassidy, who was shot in the head during the attack, was the only survivor of the 2014 shooting. She supposedly "played dead" after Haskell rounded the whole family up and began shooting them one by one with a semi-automatic pistol, according to charging documents obtained by Oxygen.com. She testified during the trial, telling jurors how she begged for her life in the moments before Haskell unloaded round after round on her family members.
Closing arguments are expected to wrap up on Friday.
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