AUSTIN (KXAN) — Family and friends of a mother shot and killed the day after Christmas two years ago embraced in an Austin courtroom Friday as they heard the man accused of firing the gun was sentenced to 50 years in prison on a felony murder charge.
Xavier Lewis, 21, also faces 40 years for two aggravated assault-robbery charges. He’s accused of going on a Christmas Day robbery spree in 2017 and shooting and killing Ebony Sheppard that next day as she was preparing to leave a family gathering at an east Austin apartment. His sentences will be served concurrently.
“In my heart of hearts, I know now that Ebony can rest in peace,” said Sheppard’s aunt, Andrea Brown.
At the time, Lewis was out on bond after being charged in 2016 with robbing a Sonic in north Austin at gunpoint and shooting a store manager in the leg. Sheppard’s family has told KXAN they don’t understand why he was allowed to be released on bond, and the case featured in a 2018 KXAN investigation into a series of high-risk defendants accused of committing crimes while out on bond. Another KXAN investigation from that year explored how efficiently Travis County’s felony court system is working, using Lewis’ cases as examples.
On Friday, family and friends filled the courtroom, some wearing shirts with Sheppard’s photo. The woman whose house Sheppard had been leaving with leftovers when she was shot was there.
Brown said while there’s “no sentence that will make [Sheppard’s death] right,” she was pleased with the sentence handed down. Sheppard’s parents spoke during the sentencing hearing, and at one point Lewis teared up.
“[Her mother] wanted him to know that she forgave him, you know, that despite all the ugly all the bad things he did, it’s in her heart to have to forgive him,” Brown said. “But now what goes on in his life is between him and God.”