Luckenbach pleads guilty, gets life for Horseshoe Bay murders
James Joseph Luckenbach was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to capital murder of multiple persons on Thursday, May 18. The 34-year-old Lampasas man was convicted in the August 2021 killings of Amanda and Frank Whittemore in Horseshoe Bay.
District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee of the 33rd and 424th Judicial District was seeking the death penalty for Luckenbach in a jury trial that was set for July 17. The prosecution, defense, and 33rd Judicial District Judge J. Allan Garrett were in the midst of a lengthy jury selection process when Luckenbach chose to take a plea deal.
“One minute before the deadline, (Luckenbach) decided to enter the plea,” McAfee told DailyTrib.com.
The DA set a hard deadline for a plea agreement during the jury selection after he and Luckenbach’s defense attorney, Austin Shell, discussed the potential plea bargain, he said.
Capital murder is the only crime in Texas punishable by the death penalty and is differentiated from murder by an aggravating factor; in Luckenbach’s case, it was the killing of more than one person.
“Mr. Luckenbach, after careful consideration, elected to accept life in prison without parole,” Shell told DailyTrib.com. “He had his family’s help and involvement in making that decision.”
However, Luckenbach has retained his right to appeal past decisions of the court, leaving room for future developments in the case.
“We’re appealing the denial of a motion to suppress statements that were allegedly made by Mr. Luckenbach,” Shell said.
These “alleged statements” are a confession, according to McAfee, who said he was unconcerned about the appeal and confident in the judge’s original ruling.
If Luckenbach were to win his appeal, the case would proceed to trial.
The victims’ families were giving impact statements on Friday, May 19, during which they will have the opportunity to face Luckenbach in court and tell him how his crimes have affected them.