Victim’s partner says Torres was only suspect to express remorse for death of Whiteside
The third and final suspect in the 2006 murder of gay jeweler Robert Whiteside pleaded guilty to murder on Friday, March 27, in a Franklin County court.
A spokeswoman in District Attorney Martin Braddy’s office said this week Torres agreed to plead guilty and accept a 30-year sentence in Texas state prison to avoid facing a jury trial on capital murder charges and a possible death sentence.
Whiteside’s partner, Warren Butler, said in an e-mail to Dallas Voice that he is relieved "this whole criminal saga is finally over."
Still, he said, he is "bothered"" somewhat by what he thinks is a relatively light sentence for Torres.
"But from what I have been told, the weight of the evidence in the case would not support anything more severe for these last two guys [Jose Ivan Chavez and Torres]," Butler said. Yet, "The fact that Mr. Torres was at large for two years, leading a ‘normal’ life in the suburbs and basically ignoring or denying his involvement is incredulous and shows a complete lack of conscience."
However, Butler noted, Torres was the only one of the three to express regret for the murder during his sentencing.
"When the judge asked if he wished to address the court, he [Torres] said he wanted to address ‘Robert’s friend.’ At that point, he turned and looked me in the eye and apologized, saying he knew he would probably die in prison, but that he was not a bad person and prays for Robert and himself," Butler said.
"I know apologies in the face of a prison sentence come easily, but he is the only one of the three that demonstrated any remorse," Butler said.
Whiteside had lived in Dallas and was widely known for his work as a jeweler.
He was shot to death inside the bed-and-breakfast near Mount Vernon in East Texas that he owned and operated with Butler, on Oct. 31, 2006.
Butler, who had been on an overnight trip to Dallas, found Whiteside’s body the next day.
Two suspects, Mark Aaron Rains and Jose Ivan Chavez, were arrested shortly after the murder. Investigators knew at the time there was a third suspect, who was called "Cuz" and was apparently related to Chavez. But they had been unable to identify Torres until last fall. Chavez, who is Torres’ wife’s uncle, had refused to identify his relative as the third suspect.
Franklin County Sheriff Chuck White said last October that his investigators had eventually managed to identify Torres as the third suspect through interviews with other people who identified him in a photo lineup. Officers with White’s department arrested Torres on Oct. 28 in Cockrell Hill.
Rains, who investigators said was the person who actually shot Whiteside, pleaded guilty to murder in July 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.
Chavez pleaded guilty last November and was also sentenced to 30 years in prison.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 3, 2009.