LUBBOCK, Texas – Closing statements and deliberations began Friday to decide the fate of a man on trial for capital murder stemming from an October 2015 double homicide at Buffalo Springs Lake. The trial took nearly two weeks and went to the jury just before noon for deliberations.
Just before 2:30 p.m. Mark Bethel was found guilty of capital murder multiple. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, so the punishment will be life in prison.
Shortly after the verdict when Mark came out of the courtroom, he told our photojournalist that he had nothing to do with the murders.
In those closing statements, the prosecution said this was an act of revenge and accused Bethel of intentionally causing the death of Jessica Payton. The second victim was Shawn Summers.
Court documents said David Bethel plotted with his cousin, Mark, to murder both victims after it was revealed Summers might have had an intimate relationship with Payton, who was Mark’s girlfriend.
The body of Payton was found in a small pool of water at County Road 3600 & East County Road 7300. Court records said her body was weighed down with cinder blocks. Summers’ body was found in a burning vehicle at East County Road 6700 (19th Street) near County Road 2800.
The neighbor of Mark took the stand and said he lived directly across the lake from Mark.
“I walked out on my porch and immediately heard, ‘I said shut up,’” the neighbor said. “I heard gunfire from inside the house, heard two pops, pause and two other pops. Then, I saw a curtain come back.”
Mark’s neighbor said he saw a man in the home look suspiciously back and forth.
“I knew what I saw and what I heard,” the neighbor said, “but I couldn’t believe it.”
Although the neighbor did not get involved in the situation, he made a call to the Buffalo Springs Lake office and asked the chief of police to call him.
“Mark is the reason that Jessica and Shawn were killed,” the prosecution said in court last week. “Mark picked her up from her job and took her to his house and killed her.”
State witness Jason Martinez was homeless in 2015, but eventually he rented a bedroom from David Bethel and his girlfriend in a trailer house off 86th Street. Martinez said he heard several gunshots the night of the double homicide.
Byron White, investigator with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, assisted in getting video downloaded from a surveillance camera on East 86th Street (Frosty Treats) and executed a search warrant for the trailer home on East 86th Street.
White said he took pictures of the trailer where he found two bullets on a table, a flip cellphone, black electrical tape, cowboy boots with another bullet next to them, a smart phone, a lady’s watch and a pile of clothes on top of a washer. There was also a pair of pants from the top of the washer with possible blood on them, White said.
Additional LCSO Investigator Ronald Chad Fielding was working an off-duty security assignment on the same night. Fielding went to 86th Street and Ash Avenue to locate possible spent shell casings. While searching the area of a gravel driveway, he found a cellphone in a field next to some fresh tire tracks.
Forensic analysis was conducted to find data on the cellphone and belonged to Summers, another state witness said.
Kristina Thoeny was considered a possible suspect to the murder of Summers. However, she was given immunity by the prosecution for the murder but not for perjury.
Thoeny said she began a romantic relationship with David in March 2014 and decided to move to Texas with him in 2015. She told the prosecution she and David moved to the trailer home on East 86th Street. Thoeny said Mark and Payton were lovers and tensions developed between them. Eventually, Thoeny said the tensions became physical, and Payton moved out of the lake home at Buffalo Springs.
Furthermore, Thoeny said David did not like Payton and that is when he brought up that she stole money from him.
Mark made some statement about how he was “going to kill that b****.” David said, “If you don’t do it, I will.”
It was not until Halloween 2015 that the situation became more serious, Thoeny said.
David pressed a gun to Thoeny’s head and said, “If you don’t do this, you’re gonna end up like that b**** in the lake.”
Thoeny said she had to text Summers and tell him David left her. She testified she had to say whatever it took to lure him to the trailer.
When the meeting between David and Summers occurred at 86th Street and Ash Avenue, Thoeny said she heard gunshots. “I was scared to death,” she said.
According to testimony from Battalion Chief of Training for Lubbock Fire and Rescue Kevin Ivy, the call for a vehicle fire came in at approximately 11:40 p.m. on October 31. The caller said the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames and another vehicle pulled away from it.
”When I pulled up, they pulled away, in one heck of a hurry,” the caller said. It appeared to be a Jeep that was on fire, and that it was a white pickup truck pulled away, the caller said.
According to officials, Summers’ body was burned, charred and not recognizable. He had two bullets recovered from his body, state witnesses said.
Payton had gunshot wounds to the head and numerous blunt force injuries to the head, according to a state witness.
When David got back to the trailer, Thoeny said he smelled like smoke.
Shortly after that, David ran from the trailer, and Thoeny picked him up at a Holiday Inn before they eventually made their way to Arizona.
The jury went into deliberations about Mark at 11:49 a.m. Friday.