Retrial for man accused of killing choir teacher begins Wednesday


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man accused of killing an Austin choir teacher is facing a new trial Wednesday, almost four years since the woman was murdered. Shawn 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, according to the Travis County District Attorney.

Gant-Benalcazar, 34, is accused of killing Kathy Blair, a choir teacher with the Christian Choral Society of Austin, during a robbery attempt in December 2014. She was stabbed and strangled.

In a 2015 interview, he confessed to killing her, but his lawyers argued his statements were coerced. The first jury heard the confession tape during his first trial.

During opening statements Wednesday morning, both the prosecution and defense addressed the jury and informed them of what they should expect during the course of this trial. 

The prosecution said, “This is a case about cold senseless and brutal murder. The evidence will speak for itself.” 

The state argued that evidence proves Gant-Benalcazar stabbed the choir teacher to death during a burglary at her home. 

“He went in the back door of her house. It was unlocked. He went to her door. He found her asleep and that a struggle ensued and that she lunged at him,” said Andrea Austin, an assistant district attorney with Travis County. “She had wounds, stab wounds all over her body, primarily in her neck and there was a lot of blood.” 

The defense told the jury about Timothy Parlin, 52, saying Parlin 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. 

“[Parlin] developed this relationship with Shawn because he wanted Shawn to help him and he offered small favors in return. And, in the end, he convinced Shawn to commit a burglary. He convinced Shawn to go into a lady’s house and take something from her, take jewelry from her, and he did. And I’ll tell you, that lady’s name is … not Kathy Blair.” 

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 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.

The defendant will take the witness stand to testify in his own defense. 

The trial is set to reconvene Thursday at 9 a.m. 

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