Released murder suspect dies

Published 10:38 pm Monday, June 5, 2017

A Dallas County family feels like the justice system failed them after a 53-year-old Selma man that was released from jail while awaiting trial for murder passed away.

James Herrod, who died Friday, was arrested and charged on Feb. 26, 2015, in the death of 29-year-old Crystal Johnson.

“We get absolutely no comfort in knowing that he has passed away because it still leaves that openness without him standing trial,” said Sherilynn Leashore, Johnson’s aunt who spoke Monday on behalf of the family.

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“We basically feel like he kind of got away with it because he died surrounded by his loved ones and his family, whereas she died on the side of a road with paramedics and police officers.”

Johnson was found unconscious on the side of County Road 74 near Old Montgomery Highway on Feb. 23, 2015. Herrod allegedly hit her with his truck, killing her from blunt force trauma. She was seen riding with him in a truck earlier that day by witnesses and on surveillance footage.

According to court records, Herrod was set to go to trial next week on June 12 until his attorney, Cecil Fields Jr., withdrew from the case.

A new attorney, Kyra Sparks, was appointed to Herrod, and the trial was rescheduled for Oct. 23, 2017. Now, Herrod won’t stand trial at all

“That’s the end of the case,” said Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson. “It’s justice unserved.”

Herrod, who spent two years in the Dallas County Jail while awaiting trial, was released from custody in March due to a severe illness.

Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman requested his released due to the cost of Herrod’s medical bills, which were being paid for by the county. Huffman said the county had already spent over $200,000 on medical treatments, which was well over budget.

“It’s been just a terrible, horrible, ongoing almost two-year ordeal with this,” Leashore said. “We feel like the system just failed us because they let him sit out in the county jail for almost two years, and we were basically made aware of the fact that he was going to be released like a day or two before he was actually released.”

Even though Herrod is dead, she said the family is still left without closure.

“We are devastated that it worked out this way because we did want him to stand trial for what he did to her,” she said. “It does provide some closure in the fact that it’s over, but we just feel like justice was not served because he did not go to trial for what he did. Our family is still real torn up about it.”

Leashore said she hopes no other families have to go through what they did, and that something can be done to speed up the trial process.

“He should have been tried before,” Jackson said. “The case shouldn’t have been continued as many times as it did, and he never should have been let out of jail. This defendant will be judged by a higher judge now.”