ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - A 31-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for viciously stabbing a woman who wanted him to pay child support and then setting fire to his illegitimate son, killing them both.
After hearing several weeks of testimony, jurors deliberated about 5 1⁄2 hours on Thursday before convicting Thomas Olivas of capital murder for killing 26-year-old Mechelle Gandy and her 1-year-old son, Asher Olivas. Since prosecutors waived the death penalty, Olivas received an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole.
During the trial in state district Judge Scott Wisch's court, prosecutors Kevin Rousseau and Tamla Ray presented evidence that on the night of March 20, 2011, emergency officials responded to an apartment fire in the 2200 block of President's Corner Drive in Arlington. Inside, they quickly discovered the body of Gandy who suffered numerous stab wounds. Several hours later, they found little Asher among layers of ashes and debris near the springs of his burned up crib.
Investigators quickly learned that Gandy was having an on-going child dispute with Asher's father, Thomas Olivas, who had not acknowledged or supported his son in any way. Detectives contacted Olivas who agreed to talk to them. During a lengthy video-taped interview, he admitted that he and Gandy had planned to meet at her Arlington apartment on the night of the slayings to discuss paternity paperwork.
Olivas claimed that he drove from Grapevine to Arlington, but got lost and drove for hours around the area where she lived. He said he never went to Gandy's apartment. Detectives observed scratches and bruises on his hand and torso. When questioned about them, Olivas claimed that he had eczema, which causes him to scratch himself.
Detectives later searched the inside of the vehicle Olivas was driving that night and observed a strong odor of gasoline. Olivas stated he didn't know why it smelled like gasoline. Later, police questioned the owner of the vehicle who said she had let Thomas borrow her car and he had told her that a lawn mower had leaked gasoline in it.
Police also spoke to Olivas' current girlfriend with whom he also had a child. She told police that Olivas had recently thrown her and the kids out after they argued about Olivas alleged infidelity and whether he was the father of Asher. She testified that she had been communicating with Gandy in the days and weeks before her death to try and learn the truth about her relationship with Olivas—conversations which infuriated Olivas.
The girlfriend testified that Olivas "hated" Gandy and referred to Asher as the "devil's child."
Detectives also interviewed numerous friends and coworkers of Olivas. One testified that Olivas asked him to take a paternity test for him. Another told police that Olivas had asked him about getting an untraceable firearm with a silencer. One friend said Olivas asked him to lie to police about his whereabouts on the night of the killings.
Olivas was eventually arrested and charged with capital murder in Gandy and Asher's slayings and, this week, he was convicted of killing them.
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