Teen sentenced to 40 years for deadly East Texas shooting

Teen sentenced to 40 years for deadly East Texas shooting

BOWIE COUNTY, TX (KSLA) - A Bowie County, Texas man says he can forgive, but not forget.

He just found out the teenager who killed his wife in January was not tried as an adult. Though the 16-year-old was sentenced to 40 years in prison, the victim's husband says justice was denied in this case.

Bullet holes remain visible in Lavester Hardiman's home as a reminder of the chaos that unfolded on Jan. 11.

"I felt the heat and she said 'I've been shot,' and that was the last words I heard her say, 'I've been shot,'" recalled Lavester Hardiman.

Soon after the shooting, Lavester Hardiman told KSLA News 12, "I was getting her, trying to go down the hall and shots rang out, a couple shots rang out, and I felt some stinging in my arm, but it didn't really bother me. I was concerned about my wife, and she said 'I've been shot.'"

Levester Hardiman says Brenda died in the hallway. They would have been married 10 years this June. He says he did not know the 16-year-old personally, he just recognized him from walking down their street before.

The teen was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase in a car he reportedly stole from the scene.

While fleeing, the teen reportedly struck the car of Constable Chris Lee.

"He side-swiped me. I turned around and chased him all the way back into Texarkana and he was driving at least 100 miles per hour or better," said Bowie County Constable Chris Lee.

According to police, the teen led them on a chase from there through Nash, TX. He was taken into custody in Wake Village, TX.

At the time, police said they believed the teen returned to a home on Fagen Lane after a previous argument, crawled underneath a house and fired at the house next door.

Prosecutors wanted to try the teen as an adult, but in court proceedings last Friday, it was decided the killer would instead be tried as a juvenile.

"My first thought was to have him serve as an adult, but the psychologist said he was not mentally competent," said Lavester Hardiman.

Hardiman also says he was not told prior to the hearing that it was a possibility for the teen to be sent to the Texas Department of Corrections after he reached his nineteenth birthday. Instead, he says he was told that he would be automatically sent to TDC after his nineteenth birthday, "and this is contrary to what the judge said at the last hearing."

The court sentenced the teen to 40 years behind bars for murder and burglary, among other charges. He will be required to serve the first 3 years in the juvenile system. After that, a hearing will be held to determine whether he will be transferred to the Texas Department of Corrections to serve the remainder of his time in an adult prison.

Hardiman says his understanding is that the teen could be released when he turns 19, depending on his conduct while in juvenile detention.

"This being the case, he would only serve time in the juvenile detention center, and this is the part that bothered me," explained Lavester Hardiman.

"At this point, I don't feel like justice has been served. At this point, I feel like justice has been denied,"

The Bowie County District Attorney declined to speak on camera about the case, but did say, "it was determined under current law the juvenile was not eligible for certification (as an adult)."

Still, the grieving husband says he plans to be in court after three years to make sure his wife's killer remains locked up in prison.

"I made the promise to my wife that I would fight for justice. She was a woman of peace," said Lavester Hardiman.

The 40 year sentence was the most the teenager could get for the charges against him. Because of his age, the teen's name has not been released.

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