On Wednesday morning in the hours before he was convicted of murder and sent away to prison for life, Brandon Warren took the stand in his own defense.
Warren, one of two young men jailed in the October 2016 strangulation slaying and stabbing of 18-year-old Samuel Poss, spoke in a monotone whisper.
Testifying at his trial here in Houston County Superior Court, the slight, dark-haired 20-year-old, whose rap sheet lists him as 5-foot-3 and less than 150 pounds, said little to help his own cause.
His victim’s parents, however, when it came their turn to explain the depths of their grief and agony, spoke volumes. They sat in the very witness box where Warren and his accomplice, Dakota White, had sat. And during Warren’s sentencing hearing they lowered the boom.
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Christian Poss, Sam’s father, spoke of his son’s “brutal murder” and described Warren and White as “cold-blooded, remorseless … animals.”
Christian Poss said Sam had hoped to become an interpreter in the Navy, and then use the money he earned in the service to attend college. Christian Poss said the void from his son’s killing has left him unable to sleep and untrusting of others.
He had nothing but disdain for the murderers.
“Monsters who would kill a friend like this certainly would not hesitate to kill a stranger,” Christian Poss said. “The world is a darker place without Sam in it. … His killers deserve to be in prison for the rest of their lives.”
Nicole Poss, Sam’s mother, told of the panic attacks she suffers and how she is confronted daily by the constant blows of the “incredible nightmare” Sam’s slaying continues to inflict.
“I haven’t taken a real breath,” she said, since learning Sam was dead.
Earlier in the afternoon on Wednesday, a jury of four women and eight men deliberated for about an hour and a half before returning a guilty verdict against Warren on all six charges he had faced, including malice murder and concealing a death.
Warren, when he testified, couldn’t explain away his role. He said he was afraid of White, his co-defendant, and that he feared for his life the night Poss was killed. Warren said the attack on Poss was White’s idea and that White alone was responsible.
White, 19, was convicted of murder and other charges last week. He testified against Warren on Tuesday and will be sentenced later.
Poss was killed in the wee hours of Oct. 15, 2016. He was lured out by White, an acquaintance from Perry High School, who had asked Poss to help him with a computer-game repair. Poss, who was handy with computers, agreed. The repair, though, was a ruse to get Poss outside and murder him.
Prosecutors have said Warren and White had a suicide pact, but before killing themselves they wanted to see what it felt like to take someone else’s life.
And Poss, prosecutors said, was their easy target.
He willingly went with Warren and White when the pair showed up at his house on the southeast side of Perry. Investigators said Warren drove them back to White’s grandparents’ house on nearby Tucker Road, and in the driveway inside the car Poss was strangled with a computer cord, asphyxiated and stabbed with a knife.
A few days later, with Poss having since been reported missing, White told a family member that Poss was dead. White was soon arrested. He directed the police to Poss’s body near Lake Joy and told on Warren.
On Wednesday, Warren, dressed in a white-collared shirt buttoned to the top, sobbed at times and didn’t always seem the most credible witness for himself as he answered questions from his lawyer and from prosecutor Greg Winters.
When Winters asked Warren repeatedly about an incriminating letter that Warren mailed to his parents from jail in the months after his arrest, Warren’s pat answer was, “I don’t remember writing this letter.”
The letter mentioned Warren being there and being in White’s Dodge Charger, the car where Poss was killed, and it also told how Warren went with White to dispose of Poss’s body.
In the letter, Warren wrote, “I obeyed,” that he went along with White for fear that White might kill him.
Warren testified that before the killing when White picked him up at his aunt’s house near Kathleen in the small hours of Oct. 15, 2016, that White “wanted to kill somebody. … He was so calm about it.”
As the night wore on, though, as Warren went along with White and when Poss became an unwitting target, prosecutors said Warren did nothing to thwart the killing.
Warren, on the stand, said he only watched some of the killing and that after the slaying White told him to “keep my mouth shut.”
When Warren’s lawyer, Jeff Grube, asked him about what happened when one of the cords White was using to choke Poss snapped, Warren testified that Poss asked what was going on and that White told him, “I’m killing you.”
Authorities have said that DNA was on the suspected murder weapon, a knife, one that Warren said he had given to White.
In his closing argument, Winters, the prosecutor, described White as “a vile, arrogant, evil, despicable human being — in spades.”
But White, Winters said, could be believed at least about the particulars of the slaying, details that Warren corroborated along with the undisputed fact that Poss’s body was ditched where White said it was.
After Warren was found guilty, as he returned to the courtroom for sentencing, he mouthed “I love you” to his mother, father and brothers seated in the front row.
Later, Warren, sounding as meek as his lawyer had described him to jurors the day before, stood and said, “I’m sorry. … There’s nothing I can do to fix it. There’s nothing I can do to take it back. I’m sorry.”
Houston Superior Court Judge Edward D. Lukemire seemed at a loss for trying to make sense of why Sam Poss was killed. Many murders, the judge said, are crimes of passion, slayings in the heat of the moment.
“Your blood was cold,” Lukemire told Warren.
The judge went on: “What penalty would speak to the crime? What is the just desert? I don’t sit here pretending to have the exact answer to that. But I know this, that a human being is gone because of the actions of two other human beings … in cold blood, done with no sane reason, just to see someone die.”
Then Lukemire paused and sighed: “Mr. Warren … I sentence you to life without the possibility of parole.”