Court

Fate of Armstrong double-murder case in limbo after Harris County judge declares second mistrial

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has not indicated whether it will pursue a third trial after jurors could not agree whether to convict Antonio Armstrong Jr. of murdering his parents when he was a teenager in 2016.

Harris County Courthouse
The Harris County Criminal Justice Center is located in downtown Houston.

It has been more than five years since Antonio Armstrong Jr. was arrested and accused of killing his parents as they slept in their Houston home.

He likely will learn in a matter of days whether he'll be cleared of capital murder charges or face a third trial – and potentially a punishment of life in prison – in the deaths of Dawn and Antonio Armstrong Sr.

Judge Kelli Johnson declared a second mistrial Wednesday after jurors – who heard more than 33 hours of testimony and then deliberated for nearly 18 hours – could not come to a consensus about whether Armstrong Jr., now 22 years old, shot his parents to death in their Bellaire-area townhome during the early morning hours of July 29, 2016. A different set of jurors also could not reach unanimous agreement in April 2019, when Johnson first ordered a mistrial in the case.

As of Thursday afternoon, the office of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had not indicated whether prosecutors intend to try the case a third time.

Rick DeToto, the lead defense attorney for Armstrong Jr., said in a text message he expected a decision to be made in a matter of days.

"They said next week sometime," DeToto said Thursday, referring to the DA's office.

Dane Schiller, a spokesperson for Ogg, opted not to answer on Thursday if a third trial would be sought or when that decision might be made. He instead said the office was "limiting our public comment at this point" to a statement released Wednesday.

"We followed the evidence and stood up for Antonio Armstrong Sr. and Dawn Armstrong, who were murdered in their bed," Ogg said in the statement. "We appreciate the time, effort and diligence of jurors as they were presented all the evidence in this brutal attack."

Armstrong Jr. remains out of jail on bond, according to Harris County court records, which lists the next court date related to the case as scheduled for Jan. 4, 2023.

Dawn and Antonio Armstrong Sr., the latter of whom was an All-American football player at Texas A&M University before a brief career in the NFL, both were shot in the head with a .22-caliber pistol owned by Armstrong Sr., according to a probable cause affidavit filed in court. Their son, who goes by A.J., called 911 on the morning they were shot. He said he was in a closet in his third-floor bedroom and had heard gunshots coming from his parents' bedroom on the second floor, court records show.

Responding officers found no signs of forced entry, or any open entry or exit points at the home, according to court documents, which show the murder weapon was left on a kitchen table on the first floor and was accompanied by a handwritten note that said, "I HAVE BEEN WATCHING FOR A LONG TIME. GET ME." No fingerprints or DNA were found on the gun, court records show.

Investigators also found a bullet hole on the ceiling of the second floor, which corresponded to a hole on the floor of Armstrong Jr.'s bedroom that was covered with a pile of socks, according to the probable cause affidavit. A pillow and comforter with .22-caliber bullet holes also were found in Armstrong Jr.'s closet, according to court documents, with prosecutors alleging the findings illustrated that Armstrong Jr. had practiced using his father's gun.

Among other arguments intended to establish reasonable doubt, defense attorneys in court theorized Armstrong Jr.'s estranged older brother could have committed the murders.

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