By Michael Graczyk
GALVESTON — A Houston man accused in a shooting rampage outside a courthouse admitted Monday that he opened fire on his daughter for testifying against him in a sex assault case but denied killing a bystander.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, and jurors will then begin deciding whether to convict Bartholomew Granger, 42, in the death of 79-year-old Minnie Ray Sebolt.
“I didn’t kill her,” Granger testified Monday. “I didn’t have any more bullets. How could I have killed her?”
Granger faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty if convicted of capital murder. His daughter and her mother were among three others wounded in the attack last March outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Beaumont.
Granger’s mother, two brothers and his son were among other witnesses called in the single day of defense testimony.
They all supported his contention that his daughter’s mother pushed a false sexual assault case against him.
Prosecutors spent all last week building their case against Granger, who said he was a rap singer and former truck driver. Taking the stand in his defense, he said details of the shooting spree remain hazy.
“It was like I was on cruise control,” Granger said. “It was like I wasn’t even there.”
Told by Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Ed Shettle that bullets from his gun were found behind Sebolt’s body, he replied: “I don’t know that.”
Under testy cross-examination by Shettle, Granger asked the prosecutor: “Why do you got such hostility toward me? What did I do to you?”
“That little old lady bled to death,” the prosecutor replied. “That’s why there’s such animosity.”
Prosecutors allege Granger was furious with his daughter, her mother and his estranged wife because they had testified against him in a sexual assault trial taking place at the Jefferson County Courthouse at the time of the shooting.
They say Granger illegally bought what they say was an assault rifle, then waited in his truck for hours on the morning of the attack for the chance to take revenge.
He recalled running up to his daughter, that she said “Oh, my God” and then, “I pulled the trigger and the gun went off.”
She started running “and I pulled the gun again. She fell down and I fell down. She said: ‘Daddy, stop! I’ll tell the truth.’ I pulled the trigger again. … I tried to pull it again. There was no more bullets. I thought I was missing her all those times when I was shooting.
“I thought: Man, I really messed up. So I ran toward my truck.”
He said he saw police cars and thought how quickly they had responded, saw his daughter in the street and moving.
“I just pushed down the gas, the accelerator. And I angled, fixed the truck toward (her) and I hit her.”
Granger said all his gunfire from a 10-round magazine was directed at his daughter and that he couldn’t say he ran her over with her truck on purpose although a video played in court confirmed it.
“I did it,” he said. “You can’t deny it. You can see it on the film.”
Granger’s daughter, 22, spent three months in a coma.
Granger acknowledged that he signed a statement for police taking responsibility for the shootings but said the detectives “just misquoted me.”
As an accused sex offender, Granger wasn’t able to legally buy a gun, so he said he bought one from a gang member.
He testified that he couldn’t remember how he got to Beaumont from Houston on the day of the shooting and that he couldn’t recall taking hostages at a construction company where he was eventually arrested a few blocks from the courthouse.
Shettle referred to numerous recorded conversations an angry Granger had from jail with relatives, where he threatened judges involved in his case but said the notoriety of the courthouse shooting had made him a “superstar” and “making Texas history.” Granger accused the prosecutor of taking the conversations out of context.
A forensic pathologist called by Granger’s lawyers testified that she differed with the state pathologist’s findings about the fatal exit and entrance wound suffered by Sebolt, saying she thought the fatal bullet could have come from inside the courthouse. Granger was outside.
But Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg said the nature of Sebolt’s wounds were “not textbook at all” and “a difficult call.” She also said under cross-examination that her opinion was based on photos and video and that she had not examined Sebolt’s body.
One of Granger’s attorneys, Sonny Cribbs, has said he thinks Granger will be convicted but that he hopes jurors don’t sentence him to death.