Jurors in Judge Scott McKee's 392nd District Court decided the fate of Robert Clayton Bradley around 8 p.m. Tuesday and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Bradley, 30, was convicted Tuesday of murdering his “friend” Rodney Abbott by hitting him with his pickup truck May 2018 in Eustace. Abbott's girlfriend Ashley Holmes was also in the vehicle.
In a late evening deliberation, members of law enforcement, family and friends were waiting for the jury to deliver the punishment. The courtroom was emotionally charged with tears shed on both sides as the sentence was read. The maximum sentence would have been life in prison.
Jurors said they felt it was in some sense a “crime of sudden passion.”
“This was a truly horrible and senseless crime,” Henderson County District Attorney Mark Hall stated, “By all accounts, these two had been friends for a while, and although there was some animosity between them over a girl both men were having a relationship with, I think the real common denominator was their use of methamphetamines”. Meth destroyed both of them. It cost Rodney his life and Bradley his freedom .”
"I really thank the jury because this was a tough case," Defense attorney J. Paxton Adams said.
The victim's mother, Terry Grinie, spoke to the court during the victim impact statement.
Grinie explained the moment she found out about her son's death.
“I received the worst call I could receive,” she said. “I had to pull over I couldn’t believe it.”
She spoke candidly to Bradley about her arrival on scene only to be told it would not be best for her to see her son in his condition and that he was already deceased.
“This was hard not to see your son one last time,” Grinie said. “I wondered what was on his mind when he was run down by his friend. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of Rodney. I think of the fear and pain he must have experienced as your one ton truck ripped him apart.”
The defendant appeared affected by the words of his friend's mother.
“The last text was from the day before,” she said. “I still have it, our last words were I love you.” Grinie said. This was the way they ended every conversation she explained.
Abbott's mother went on to tell of the great person he was, how he returned from an overseas military tour alive, yet couldn't survive a friendship with Bradley.
“He called you a friend but you weren’t,” said Grinie. “His time in jail does not compare to the sentence Rodney has been given or the pain his family has to live with.”
Abbott was born August 1987 in Corsicana, but was raised in Eustace where he graduated and joined the Air Force. Abbott served in Afghanistan and was stationed in North Carolina. When he returned from active duty, he married his wife Lauren, the couple had four children.
According to his obituary, Rodney was fun loving, extremely competitive and loved his friends. He also enjoyed football which he played in high school, even with broken bones. He would do anything for anybody. He was generous to a fault. “I am sure Jesus is looking after him now,” his mother said.