BURNET — A Burnet County jury on Dec. 12 convicted Garrett Ballard, 23, of capital murder of multiple persons in the 2014 killings of Elijah Benson, 17, and Travis Fox, 26.
Burnet County District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee did not seek the death penalty in the case; thus, under Texas law, Ballard will get a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
On Aug. 19, 2014, Ballard, Benson, and Fox were celebrating a birthday at the home of Ballard’s parents in the 5800 block of CR 340 south in Burnet County. Ballard used his father’s rifle in the murders of the two young men. Ballard’s father is Burnet County Precinct 3 Constable James “Jimmy” Ballard. Neither parent was home at the time of the killings.
Garrett Ballard admitted in the trial, which started Dec. 5 in State District Judge Allan Garrett’s courtroom, that he had used LSD prior to the two murders.
While drug use might have played a part in the crime, McAfee said it wasn’t the cause.
“The cause was the defendant, who made a clear choice,” the district attorney said. “He made a clear choice to kill those two young men.”
McAfee was aided during the trial by assistant district attorneys Kristen Sharpe and Peter Keim, whom he praised for their effort. But, McAfee said, the conviction was the work of many people, starting with the law enforcement officers who investigated the murders and ending with the jurors, who listened to the prosecution and defense before rendering a verdict.
“I’m really pleased with the jury’s verdict,” McAfee said. “The jury listened intently during the entire trial, hearing all the evidence and the facts. Then, they were able to use those facts to determine the defendant was guilty in the murder of Eli Benson and Travis Fox.”
Throughout the entire process, McAfee said the families of the two victims were continuously supportive of his office and law enforcement.
“It’s just a terrible loss for them, and they’ve been so strong,” the district attorney said. “The murders of Eli Benson and Travis Fox, it was a loss for the entire community. Murders are hard on everyone, the entire community.”
Though McAfee believes Garrett Ballard is responsible for the murders of Fox and Benson, the district attorney pointed out that the case also shows the harm drugs do in society, even locally.
“We just have to remain vigilant as a community when it comes to the use of drugs and how they destroy lives,” McAfee said.