Jury Sees the Actual 'Big Bag of Crazy' in Strube Arson Trial
SAN ANGELO, TX -- A jury was seated Monday afternoon in the 'Big Bag of Crazy' arson trial of Chelsea Strube and the first evidence they saw was the actual 'Big Bag of Crazy' found in the back seat of Strube's red Ford Mustang when it was searched at her house in Sept. 2015.
The jury consists of 12 jurors and two alternates made up of nine men and five women. Jury selection began Monday morning at 9 a.m. in courtroom A in the Tom Green County courthouse.
The packed courtroom was uncomfortable because air conditioning at the courthouse failed over the weekend. The air conditioning was repaired but it was still warm in the building at the end of the day.
Prosecution and defense attorneys winnowed down the jury pool from about 70 potential jurors and the jury was seated at 3:10 p.m. after attorneys spent hours questioning individual jurors.
Once the jury was sworn in by visiting Senior District Judge Brock Jones, 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer arraigned Strube who stood with her attorney Gonzalo Rios.
The indictment charges Strube with one count of arson and states that on Sept. 8, 2015 Strube intentionally attempted to damage or destroy a vehicle by starting a fire near the gas tank. The gray four-door Volkswagen was parked in the side parking lot at the Deadhorse Bar at 210 S. Chadbourne St.
Strube loudly and firmly announced she was pleading not guilty when Judge Jones asked to enter a plea.
The trial then moved into opening arguments. Palmer told jurors there would be expert witness testimony and physical evidence. The veteran prosecutor told the jury they would hear from witnesses that Strube and her then live-in boyfriend broke up after a two-year relationship because he had multiple affairs.
Defense attorney Rios told jurors in his opening statement that there was no physical evidence linking Strube to the car fire at the Deadhorse and that there were no eyewitnesses.
Palmer's first witness called to the stand was San Angelo Police Department Crime Scene Investigator Jessica Stevens.
Palmer had Stevens lay the groundwork for the case by introducing dozens of photos from the scene of the attempted arson. There were pictures of the car's gas tank area which showed burn marks from the gas tank filler to the wheel well. There were photos of a piece of burned fabric that was possibly used to attempt to set the gas tank on fire. There were also photos of melted plastic on the ground by the car. Palmer then showed photos of the partially melted gas cap found on the trunk of the car.
CSI Stevens testified that she then went with other investigators to Strube's home in Veribest where they found her red Ford Mustang in a single car garage. At first, Stevens said Strube refused to give them permission to search the car. Then, after a phone conversation with an unidentified person, Strube gave permission for the search. As we reported earlier, the search revealed a white shoulder bag in the back seat of the Mustang which was labeled, 'Big Bag of Crazy.' Stevens provided pictures and an inventory of the bag and its contents.
The prosecutor's case then took a seriously interesting turn. CSI Stevens brought a wheeled cart to court with her. Palmer calmly and professionally went through a list of items found in the Mustang as CSI Stevens opened each evidence bag for the jury. They started with things like a white bic lighter found in the cup holder, a black bic lighter found in the console, a pair of purple kitchen gloves turned inside out, one in the front floor board and the other in the big bag of crazy along with a box cutter, some knives, two boxes of matches, a prying took, and screw drivers.
Then came the shocker: CSI Stevens opened the evidence bag containing the actual 'Big Bag of Crazy' itself and showed it to the jury. The white shoulder bag was stenciled with the words, "Big Bag of" in black fancy lettering then underneath was the word, "Crazy," in bright red fancy lettering.
Judge Jones then ordered a ten-minute break for the jury and told them they would wrap up after 5 p.m. Testimony is set to begin Tuesday morning in the courthouse and the trial is expected to last the remainder of the week.
For more on the 'Big Bag of Crazy' Arson Trial, see:
- "Big Bag of Crazy" Arson Trial is Underway (7/15/2019)
- Will Chelsea Jo Strube Walk in 'Big Bag of Crazy' Arson Case? (6/17/2019)
- A “Big Bag of Crazy” Found in Suspected Arson Case (11/10/2015)
- Big Bag of Crazy: D.A. Agrees Not to Use Seized Electronic Communications in Arson Trial (12/18/2018)
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.