AUSTIN (KXAN) — The man accused of killing an Austin choir teacher in December 2014 testified Thursday in his retrial for capital murder in Travis County.
When asked if he killed Kathy Blair, Shawn Gant-Benalcazar said “No. I did not.” Instead, he put the blame on a co-defendant named Timothy Parlin, who has already been found guilty in her death and the deaths of two others.
The retrial for Gant-Benalcazar, 34, began last week. Gant-Benalcazar’s first trial in April ended in a mistrial when 11 of the jury members felt strongly to convict, but one did not.
Kathy Blair, 53, a choir teacher with the Christian Choral Society of Austin, was killed during a robbery attempt at her northwest Austin home. She was stabbed and strangled.
The prosecution says evidence from the scene proves Gant-Benalcazar stabbed Blair to death during a burglary.
The defense told the jury that Parlin, 52, developed a relationship with their client “deliberately” with the goal to get Gant-Benalcazar to help him and work with him. They said Parlin convinced Gant-Benalcazar to commit a burglary, but it wasn’t the burglary at Blair’s home. Gant-Benalcazar said Parlin threatened him, and told him he killed Blair.
“He said he stabbed her in the neck. He said that she had kicked him and you know, he grabbed her leg, pulled her off the bed,” Gant-Benalcazar said.
Authorities arrested and charged Parlin in connection with the burglary leading up to Blair’s death as well as two other murders days after Blair died.
In May, Parlin was found guilty of killing Blair in her northwest Austin home on Dec. 6, 2014 — as well as the deaths of Sidney and Billie Shelton, who were killed in their north Austin home Dec. 15, 2014. During closing arguments, the prosecutor called Parlin the “mastermind” behind the killings.
Gant-Benalcazar has pleaded not guilty. He said on the stand police pressured him to confess in a taped interview played for the jury in his first trial.
The prosecution tried to poke holes in his testimony, highlighting details about the case they say no one else knew at the time. Both the state and defense rested their case Thursday and closing arguments are expected Friday morning.