Witness speaks for first time after death of Austin architect


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE


Posted on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 12 at 7:32 AM

AUSTIN -- After four days of testimony in the trial of Preston Sharpnack, the homeless man accused of fatally punching Austin architect Matt Casey, the jury has been dismissed to decide a verdict.

The family of Matt Casey says they will not talk to the media until after the verdict is announced.

However, for the first time Wednesday, jurors heard from a friend of Sharpnack who was with him on Labor Day weekend in 2012, the night Sharpnack punched Casey.

Surveillance video from 6th Street shows Preston Sharpnack and his female friend Renee Jones asking for money.

"Preston asked a couple guys on the crosswalk if they had a dollar they could spare,” said Jones.

Jones claims Casey said something rude to them, and Casey “went ballistic,” so she punched him on camera.

Detectives say Casey and a friend then walked away from 6th Street toward 7th Street where they found the homeless couple a second time.

“He followed us for a block, and that's when Preston hit him,” said Jones.

Jones claims it was self-defense.

“Preston cared enough about me to defend me, and I love him for that."

Whatever the verdict, Sharpnack's mother Bettie tells KVUE she believes alcohol was a big part of the problem.

“He didn't get that way by himself,” she said, referring to Casey’s alleged intoxication the night of the incident.

“I think that was a huge contributing factor in the things that were said, the way that people treated each other. Because I think that without the alcohol, he was a very nice man."

She hopes this case will change what she calls “the downtown culture,” so this doesn't happen to anyone else.

To convict Sharpnack, the jury must be convinced that he knowingly and recklessly injured Casey.

The jury must also decide whether he was doing it in self-defense or in defense of another person.