Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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November 23, 2013

Convicted robbery suspect gets 70-year sentence

CHEROKEE COUNTY — A jury took 20 minutes to find Ray Hawkins Jr. guilty of an Aug. 28, 2009 aggravated robbery charge. And three hours to sentence him to 70 years in prison for the crime.

Hawkins, 29, will have to serve at least half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, authorities said. His trial took place this past week in the court of Judge Dwight Phifer of Cherokee County's Second Judicial District Court.

The guilty verdict was rendered Tuesday and the punishment phase on Wednesday.

Jacksonville Police Officers applauded the jury's decisions. Hawkins was said to have terrorized two women during the commission of the 2009 robbery of the now-defunct Fenny's Tortilla Factory, 1706 E. Rusk Street, in Jacksonville.

Hawkins and an accomplice entered that business, one of them producing a black colored handgun and holding it two female employees who were at the business at the time, according to reports.

"These ladies were deathly terrified," explained Jacksonville Police Department Det. Javier Guerra, who worked the case. "He helped rob two unarmed young ladies who had no expectation the day's turn of events would unfold the way they did. They knew they were being robbed but they did not completely understand the English language.

"They knew they had a gun pointed at their heads. They were hurtled into a storage facility inside of the business where they were working. The perpetrators indicated to the victims that if they tried to step out of the facility they would be shot."

The case was prosecuted by attorney Nancy Nemer of the Texas Attorney General's Office. Cherokee County District Attorney Rachel L. Patton had recused herself from the case because of "conflicting interests," Det. Guerra said.

It was not immediately clear if this had anything to do with Patton's previous career as a defense attorney prior to her election as Cherokee County district attorney.

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