Salazar Gets 99 Years for Grape Creek Murder

 

After approximately one hour of deliberations, the jury in the Grape Creek murder trial of Matthew Salazar returned a sentence of 99 years imprisonment.

Members of the victims family were present and stated they felt the sentence “did justice.”

Salazar’s family, members of which had been present for most of the trial, had left the courtroom during the deliberations, and were not present when the judge read back the verdict.

At the conclusion of the trial, Assistant District Attorney Bryan Clayton spoke on the outcome, stating the jury's decision was just. 

"This is probably the 22nd or 3rd murder case I've tried in my career," he said. "I've gotten death sentences before. A 99-year sentence is something that you kind of expect when you have a murder that's this blatant and this easy to prove up. People don't want that going on in their community." 

Asked if he had suspected the jury would turn around such a high sentence, Clayton said he never second guesses the jury or their reasoning, but he's glad they decided what they did. 

"I think it was a just verdict," he said. "The point i guess we make with a verdict like this coming from the jury is that we're telling folks that we don't settle our differences with guns. If you have a problem, you need to deal with it appropriately. You don't just go out and kill someone because you're not happy with them."

Defense Attorney John Stacey Young said the outcome was bittersweet. He and assisting defense attorney James P. Sadler believe that Salazar snapped when he walked into that house, but respect the jury's decision in seeing that differently.

"This is a horrible, horrible tragedy," he said. "We acknowledged going in--Mathew's acknowledged responsibility for this tragedy. We didn't believe it was a capital case from the beginning, and the jury found that indeed it was not. But we believe that Matthew's life--the good things outweighed some of the bad things. You can never outweigh a life, and i understand that. So we're disappointed with the 99-year verdict, but we also understand that that's the jury's verdict and we respect that. It's a difficult case.As you heard in the courtroom, those children lost their mother. The mother lost her daughter, that's a difficult thing to assess. You can't put a number on a life, and I understand that."

After hearing the verdict, Young said his client was solemn, but also felt a sense of peace.

"Matthew has--I think it's not out of line for me to say--devoted himself to trying to perfect his relationship with his God," Young said. "I think he is at peace on some level. I think he knew he would be punished. I think that he accepts the verdict of the jury and accepts it with some sense of peace. Not happiness, but with some sense of peace. And we hope that Heather's family can find some peacefulness and closure in the verdict."

Salazar will be eligible for parole on Aug. 31, 2043. He will be 62 years old. Heather Felts would have been 31 this year. She has two boys, both under the age of 10. Salazar's two children, a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, are in the custody of their mother, Melanie Flores. 

The Grape Creek Murder Trial, as it unfolded in the Tom Green County Courthouse in August 2014:

 

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