Pursuant a court order by the 40th Judicial District Court of Ellis County, Kent William Sprouse is scheduled for execution after 6:00 p.m. on April 9, 2015.
In 2004, an Ellis County jury found Sprouse guilty of murdering Ferris City Police Officer Harry Marvin Steinfeldt III while in the line of duty.
FACTS OF THE CASE
In its opinion on direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the facts relating to both guilt/innocence in the murder of Officer Steinfeldt:
On October 6, 2002, [Sprouse] stopped at a gas station and food mart in Ferris, Texas. When he entered the store to make his purchases he had a shotgun hanging from his shoulder. A short time after returning to his vehicle, [Sprouse] fired his weapon in the direction of two men at a pay telephone on the premises. Startled by the shot, another customer, Brad Carroll, asked [Sprouse] if he was “okay.” [Sprouse] responded that the gun was not real and asked Carroll if he would help him get his car started. Carroll agreed and pulled his truck in front of [Sprouse’s] car to use booster cables. While [Sprouse] was working on his car, Carroll noticed several boxes of buckshot in [Sprouse’s] vehicle, determined that the gun was real, and decided to leave. As Carroll drove away, he heard another gun shot. When he turned to look, he saw a bleeding man lying on the ground, and [Sprouse] was pointing his shotgun in the man’s direction. Just after he left the property, Carroll saw a police officer’s car pull into the station. He then heard two more shotgun blasts and pistol fire.
While waiting to get diesel gasoline, Brandon O’Neill saw [Sprouse] working on his vehicle and Pedro Moreno filling his truck with gas. O’Neill noticed that [Sprouse] appeared to speak to Moreno, but Moreno did not respond. [Sprouse] then reached into his vehicle, pulled out a gun, and shot Moreno.
In response to a 911 call, Officer Harry Marvin Steinfeldt, III, dressed in a police uniform and driving a police vehicle, responded to the shooting at the gas station. When he arrived at the station, Steinfeldt first noticed Moreno on the ground and then turned toward [Sprouse’s] car, at which time [Sprouse] shot Steinfeldt twice. Steinfeldt returned fire after he hit the ground. After Steinfeldt collapsed, [Sprouse] walked to the side of the food mart. As [Sprouse] was walking, a second officer, Brad Lindsey, arrived on the scene and managed to take him into custody.
Moreno and Steinfeldt both died from their injuries. Several witnesses stated that [Sprouse] showed no emotion and was rather nonchalant throughout the incident. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital to receive treatment for the wounds he suffered in the exchange of gunfire, [Sprouse] gave his name and address to the officer accompanying him. [Sprouse] then stated several times without prompting that he had killed an undercover officer at the gas pumps and had shot a second officer in uniform.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
In its opinion on direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the State’s additional evidence of Sprouse’s future dangerousness:
At punishment, the State called former Ellis County Deputy Sheriff Adam Irwinsky who testified that he and his trainee were called out to [Sprouse’s] home on July 22, 2002, with regard to a “disturbance with possibly a gun involved.” When Irwinsky asked [Sprouse] to step outside, [Sprouse] responded that he would not come out because they would jump on him. Irwinsky assured [Sprouse] that they would not jump on him, and [Sprouse] laid down a .357 magnum handgun he was holding and came out. [Sprouse] told the officers that he and his parents were having an argument that day. No arrests were made, no guns were seized, and [Sprouse] did leave the premises with a friend.
On Dec. 20, 2002, an Ellis County jury indicted Sprouse for the capital murder of Ferris City Police Officer Harry Marvin Steinfeldt, III.
On Feb. 27, 2004, having been convicted of capital murder, Sprouse was sentenced to death.
On Jan. 31, 2007, Sprouse’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal.
Sprouse’s application for state habeas relief was denied on Feb. 10, 2010, by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Sprouse filed petition for federal habeas corpus relief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The federal district court denied Sprouse’s petition on March 29, 2013. After oral argument, the Fifth Circuit rejected Sprouse’s appeal on April 7, 2014, and affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas relief. A petition for certiorari review filed in the U.S. Supreme Court was denied on Nov. 10, 2014.
On Nov. 19, 2014, the 40th Judicial District Court of Ellis Cournt scheduled Sprouse’s execution for April 9, 2015.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.