Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 12:00 amA Hempstead man accused of serving as a lookout during the 2009 killing of a Navasota store owner accepted a plea deal Thursday.
Joshua Ragston, who was 17 at the time of the robbery, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison days before jury selection was set to start.
Investigators believed Ragston was the lookout outside Stolz's liquor store at 307 W. Washington Ave. when Christopher Boulds allegedly robbed the store, shooting and killing Stolz, who was 57.
Both men were arrested in June 2012 after Boulds, who was reportedly high on PCP, implicated himself during a 911 call, authorities said. A follow-up conversation with Boulds led to a confession and placed Ragston at the scene, Grimes County District Attorney Tuck McLain said following the arrests.
Ragston will be eligible for parole in 15 years, but, in a statement, McLain said it's "virtually unheard of for a murder defendant to make parole that early."
"Most murder defendants serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before being allowed to parole. I will be surprised if he breathes free air in less than 25 years," he said.
Ragston was originally charged with capital murder, first-degree murder and aggravated robbery but was offered a plea deal after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an automatic life sentence without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional. At the time, the only punishment possible for a minor convicted of capital murder in Texas was life in prison without parole. The law was rewritten in 2013 to provide a punishment of life with parole after 40 years for anyone younger than 18.
Although McLain said he believed the "fix of the statute" would pass constitutional muster, he recommended a plea deal to avoid the appeals process and because it would be difficult to prove whether Ragston knew Boulds had a weapon with him when he went into the liquor store.
"[Nancy Stolz] has lost so much and, even though this plea is probably not what she really would have liked to have seen, I hope and pray it gives her and the family some degree of closure," McLain said. "They have been so very patient, supportive and understanding over these years."
Ragston's defense attorneys, Bill Bennett and Frank Blazek, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Boulds remains at the Grimes County Jail awaiting trial on capital murder charges. He was found incompetent to stand trial late last year but has since been treated at Rusk State Hospital. A trial date will be set if a jury finds Boulds competent to stand trial, McLain said.
|CHRISTOPHER BERNARD BOULDS|