Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 23, 2013

Convicted robbery suspect gets 70-year sentence

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

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.

After the 2009 crime was committed, the two suspects were later apprehended by Jacksonville police based on the descriptions of the victims.

The other suspect in this crime, Desmond Thompson, is now serving 18 years in the Texas Department of Corrections in connection to the crime, reports show.. He was tried for his part of the crime about eight months ago, Det. Guerra said.

Hawkins appeared to be visibly upset after such a quick verdict, according to reports. At least one officer noticed him shedding a tear.

During the punishment phase he faced 15 to 99 years or life because the charge against him was aggravated.

The two female victims, one 38 and one 27, testified against Hawkins at the trial

During the punishment phase, much of Hawkins extensive criminal history was disclosed to the jury. The 29-year-old man was said to have been dodging the law in connection with crimes he had committed since age 13.

Det. Guerra said he is very satisfied with the verdict.

"The people of Cherokee County do not need to live with fear," the detective said. "The current district attorney's office is doing anything and everything possible to protect the people of Cherokee County."