Plato August Splawn Jr. showed the kind of regretful emotion in court Thursday that witnesses said he was lacking on the day he tried to gun down his estranged wife and murdered her lover.
While the jury watched and listened to a recording of his taped confession to the Texas Rangers, Splawn began sobbing as he heard himself describe in detail what happened Dec. 6, 2011 at his Walker County home on Sunrise Loop near Riverside.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Splawn told Rangers Steve Jeter and Wesley Doolittle the afternoon of the shooting. “They should have left me alone. Don’t poke me, (expletive). It wasn’t like I was mad.”
The confession recording was the highlight of day two of testimony during the punishment phase of Splawn’s attempted capital murder trial. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to the offense and a jury will decide his punishment, which could range from probation to up to 99 years in prison.
The trial was postponed today due to inclement weather. It is scheduled to resume Tuesday.
Splawn confessed to murdering 25-year-old Edwin Garcia and shooting his ex-wife, Sandra Kenbel, during a confrontation about an alleged affair. Griselda Campa-Madera, Garcia’s estranged girlfriend and mother of his two children, was also present inside the Sunrise Loop home at the time of the shooting but was able to escape unharmed with her infant son.
In the recording, Splawn told the Rangers that he had received a phone call from Campa-Madera on the morning of the shooting. She said she needed to talk to him because she had found out Garcia and Kenbel, who had filed for divorce from Splawn in September 2011, were in a relationship.
All four were sitting in the living room when Kenbel and Campa-Madera started arguing. Splawn said in the taped confession he left the room to get a dip of tobacco when he remembered he had a gun in his dresser.
“I guess I was going to threaten Edwin with it,” Splawn told the Rangers.
Splawn, who is legally blind, said he walked back into the living room, saw a “dark image” and shot. He said that Kenbel then got up and he “started shooting in that direction.”
Garcia was shot in the head and back and was pronounced dead at the scene. Kenbel was struck with a bullet in the back, but managed to escape out the back door. She was later located by law enforcement officers on the porch of a neighbor’s house and flown to a Houston hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Splawn did not sound remorseful in the recording when he described encountering Garcia, who was dying on the floor, after the shooting.
“I told him I was going to shoot him if he ever fooled around with my wife,” Splawn said. “Well, I guess I did it. I thought about that when I was walking back in the house ...
“I walked by him and I told him, ‘I told you (expletive) I was going to shoot you.’”
Splawn said he felt betrayed by Garcia, who worked for the Splawns at their vending machine business on an off for seven years. He compared shooting Garcia to scolding a child for doing something wrong.
“It’s like when you tell a little kid not to do something and they do it, so you give them a little slap on the hand,” Splawn said. “That’s what I did to Edwin.”
Splawn also made a reference to hunting when he told the Rangers about firing the gun multiple times at Kenbel as she tried to getaway.
“It’s just like when you are hunting and you miss something — you just keep firing,” he said.
The defense tried to paint Splawn as a broken man with insecurities who snapped because he was losing everything — his wife, kids, health and business.
Dr. Roger Saunders, a physiologist testifying for the defense, said medical records showed Splawn was battling depression and anxiety as far back as 2009 and was prescribed medication for it.
Defense attorney Frank Blazek asked Saunders if problems with health and infidelity by Kenbel could have pushed Splawn over the edge because of his depression.
Dr. Bob Jones testified Thursday that records showed Splawn had been diagnosed with heart disease that could not be corrected by surgery in 2011. Patients with that type of heart condition have a life expectancy of five to 10 years, Jones said.
“I believe they were definitely factors to impair his judgment on how to handle that situation,” Saunders said.
Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Stroud asked Saunders about the possibility of Splawn not being on his depression medication. Saunders said that patients have more success controlling their anxiety and depression when they are medicated, but there is no way to guarantee that they take it.
“It is one of the problems we deal with,” Saunders said. “Oftentimes patients with depression are not compliant (with treatment).”