A jury sentenced Jordan Marshall Spraggins of Sweetwater Thursday to 50 years in a Texas prison for the murder of Steven Seth Pharris of Abilene in 2020 on Interstate 20.
The panel of seven men and five women deliberated for 90 minutes starting Thursday morning. They had heard two days of testimony in 350th District Court at the Taylor County Courthouse, presided by Judge Thomas Wheeler.
Spraggins will be eligible for parole.
Pharris, 26, of Abilene was found with gunshot wounds at about 11 p.m. Sept. 21, 2020, at an Interstate 20 single-vehicle crash near the Fulwiler Road exit.
An autopsy showed one bullet struck his arm and went to his lung, and another bullet struck his neck. Police believe a third bullet struck the driver side of pickup truck Pharris was driving after leaving work.
Spraggins pleaded guilty to murder at the start of the trial Tuesday afternoon. The strategy for evidence presented by defense attorney Amos Keith was that the shooting occurred under sudden passion.
With that defense, the jury's sentencing guidelines ranged from two to 20 years in state prison plus an optional fine up to $10,000 if they found that the murder was committed during sudden passion.
If the jury did not find the evidence showed sudden passion, their sentencing options were five to 99 years or life, with a fine of up to $10,000.
In closing remarks, prosecutor Dan Joiner argued the evidence showed the shooting did not meet the definition of sudden passion because Spraggins planned the shooting.
"There was nothing sudden about this," Joiner said.
Keith said in closing remarks, "He didn't plan it, plot it. He fantasized about it at every turn, but that's understandable," Keith said, because Spraggin's marriage was falling apart, he hadn't seen his children in several weeks and his wife was involved with Pharris.
Spraggins and Pharris had worked at a truck stop in Tye when the affair started.
Keith had suggested in closing remarks that because there was no testimony that Spraggins was a risk for committing future crimes, a 10-year prison sentence was appropriate.
Joiner said what mattered was not a future risk but sending a message about the effect of the murder on the victim's mother, family and friends.
"The ripple effect of murder is so great that the penalty has to be great," Joiner said.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Jury sentences man to 50 years prison for fatal I-20 shooting