Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 2, 2013

Man sentenced for 2010 killing

Denton receives 20 years for death of woman whose body was burned near Brownsboro

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — A 47-year-old man was sentenced in 173rd District Court on Friday for killing a woman whose remains were discovered in a burn pile near Brownsboro three years ago.

Judge Dan Moore ordered Avery Lee Denton to serve 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division for manslaughter in the death of 50-year-old Sandra Gail Anderson. Moore ordered a pre-sentencing investigation before the defendant returned to court to learn his fate.

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony that carries a punishment range of two to 20 years. The Texas Penal Code defines the offense as “recklessly causing the death of a person.”

“I’m glad he got the maximum sentence for manslaughter,” McKee said. “I should compliment assistant DA Justin Weiner who presented the punishment phase of the trial on Wednesday and Thursday.”

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the case in July, 2010.  Sheriff Ray Nutt said the chain of events began when Dep. Tracy Dunnington took a missing person report from Michael Hurst, who said his sister-in-law, Sandra Anderson, hadn’t been seen in about three days. Anderson usually reported to work each day, Hurst said, but had been absent.

Dunnington became concerned and contacted Nutt and the command staff.  The officers went to a residence on County Road 3612 near Brownsboro. The officers spoke to Denton and discovered what appeared to be human remains in a burn pile. Denton admitted that the remains where those of Anderson, but did not say that he put her in the fire. Anderson had apparently been living with Denton at the residence, Nutt said.

Denton was arrested on July 29 and booked into the Henderson County Jail for tampering with physical evidence with intent to impair a human corpse. He remained in jail, with bond set at $200,000 as the investigation continued.

After obtaining a search warrant from County Court at Law Judge No. 2  Nancy Perryman, law officers returned to the residence to recover the remains. Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Sue Starnes conducted an inquest and ordered the body sent to Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas for an autopsy.  Nutt said at the time, the condition of the remains would make it difficult to determine the cause of death.

“The Sheriff’s office did a good job investigating the case and the Department of Public Safety Lab did excellent work in DNA testing and analysis to be able to identify the body,” McKee said. 

The HCSO, Texas Ranger’s Office and DA’s office continued to investigate the case. Ultimately, the evidence was turned over to McKee for prosecution.  A Henderson County Grand Jury indicted Denton for murder in November, 2011. McKee said his office was set for trial in May, when Denton opted to plead guilty to the manslaughter charge.