Homicide at Sam Donaldson’s
Cody Posey faces life in prison for the shooting
deaths of his father, Delbert Paul Posey, stepmother Tryone and
stepsister Marilea on the Chavez Canyon Ranch owned by ABC newsman
Sam Donaldson. The 16-year-old has admitted his role in the July 5,
2004, shootings, but says the incident was precipitated by a
lifetime of physical and mental abuse at the hands of his father.
In his statement to police, Cody chronicled a
volatile relationship with his father that went back to early
childhood. According to the defense, Paul gave up parental rights to
Cody in 2000, when he went to live with his biological mother, but
the reunion was short-lived when, three months after his return,
Cody witnessed his mother's death in a car accident and was forced
to return to his father.
Paul Posey (middle) had worked and lived on
Donaldson's Hondo property as ranch foreman with his son, wife, and
stepdaughter for two years when the killings occurred. The entire
family contributed to the daily maintenance of the property, and in
interviews with the media, Donaldson characterized them as
hard-working people. He also noted that Paul was a little hard on
his son, but that he never saw him "raise his voice or his hand in
In a videotaped statement Cody Posey made to
police on July 7, 2004, the teen said he got along with his new
stepsister, Marilea (pictured), but not with his stepmother, and
often felt alienated from the rest of his family. He described a
bizarre family dynamic, claiming that every time he made a mistake,
Marilea was rewarded.
According to the defense, Tryone (right)
willingly participated in the abuse after she married Paul in 1999.
Cody's defense lawyer, Gary Mitchell, said his client's "breaking
point" occurred the night before the shootings, when the couple
attempted to force Cody (left) to have sex with Tryone and he
Cody told police that his father burned him with a welding
iron when he refused.
At the start of the 90-minute confession, Cody
maintained his innocence in the shootings and said he last saw his
family the morning of July 5, 2004, when he left following a fight
with his father over cleaning the corrals. When pressed by police,
however, he admitted to retrieving a gun from his sister's saddlebag
after the fight and returning to the home intending to kill his
Cody told police that he shot his father as Paul
was entering the home. He also said his stepsister Marilea (right)
was right behind his father as he came in, so he decided that he had
to shoot her also so she wouldn't tell anyone. Cody said that he
envied her intelligence and was jealous of the attention she
received from his parents.
Cody also told police that he shot his stepmother
Tryone (right) twice in the head as she sat reading a book on the
couch for being "mean" to him and for hitting him in the past. He
attempted to dispose of the bodies by loading them into a backhoe
and burying them in a manure pile, but investigators later followed
the tracks to the shallow grave.
ABC newsman Sam Donaldson was the first to report
a disturbance at the Posey home. He did not see the bodies, but
found the home littered with broken glass and blood spatter on July
6, 2004, and went to police.
After the killings, Cody changed his clothes and
left a note for police saying, "Sorry coppers I needed the kid to do
the dirty work." Before he left the ranch, he told police he turned
off the water and the electricity to avoid waste.
Cody (right) is being tried in Otero County's
Children Court as a youthful offender, which, under New Mexico law,
means that if he is convicted, a judge will decide whether to
subject him to juvenile or adult penalties for killing his family.
Cody Posey conferred with co-counsel Timothy Rose
on the second day of his trial, when jurors viewed chilling photos
of the crime scene.
ABC news correspondent Sam Donaldson described
the layout of the sprawling ranch where the Posey family lived and
worked as of 2001. Paul Posey was the foreman of the three ranches
located on the property, which were as far as 23 miles apart in some
Cody Posey maintained composure during the
proceedings until his defense lawyer, Gary Mitchell, gave his
emotional opening statement. The teen wiped his tears as Mitchell
described the death of Cody's mother, who was in a fatal car
accident with Cody and his stepfather as the family drove to
Washington to begin a new life.
Cody Posey's maternal aunt and guardian, Corliss
Clees, cried during her nephew's testimony. Cody said that despite
his efforts to please his father, he could never meet his
In his turn on the stand, Cody demonstrated how
his father allegedly nipped him on the back of the hand with a hay
hook for stumbling as he attempted to lift load bales of hay onto a
Cody Posey spent two days on the stand describing
how he learned early on in life to not tell anyone of the alleged
abuse his father meted out, out of fear of retribution. He also said
that he began to believe that he deserved the punishment for being
unable to ever "do right" by his father.
Speaking through an interpreter, Donaldson ranch
hand Isabel "Pilo" Vasquez testified about another incident with a
hay hook in which Paul Posey allegedly threatened to cut off his
son's "balls" if he popped the clutch while driving the ranch pickup
Cowboy W. Slim Britton, who also worked on the
Donaldson ranch with the Poseys, corroborated Cody's claim that Paul
Posey allegedly scratched his son with a hay hook as he attempted to
load bales of hay onto a truck.
Cody's cousin, Sherry Gensler, fought back tears
as she recalled the day of Cody's mother's funeral, when Cody begged
to not be returned to the custody of his father. A custody agreement
between Paul Posey and Cody's biological mother, Carla Brust, was
declared invalid after Brust's death in a car accident because Paul
Posey printed instead of signing his name on the document.
Paul Posey's second wife, Sandy Schmid, testified
that she would protect Cody from his father during the couple's
five-year marriage. She also claimed she saw Paul Posey surfing
pornography on the Internet, supporting defense claims that Paul
Posey had an "incest porn" fetish, although she did not specify what
kind of material she saw.
Cody listened to testimony from a defense
psychologist who said that he reached a "point of despair" the
morning of the shootings, which impaired his judgment.
The state recalled Paul Posey's brother, Verlin
Posey, in its rebuttal case to refute testimony from Cody and 37
other witnesses, who described numerous alleged instances of
physical, verbal and emotional abuse by Paul and Tryone Posey.
Verlin Posey testified that he never saw any marks or bruises on his
nephew and that he never witnessed any interactions between Paul and
Cody that would lead him to suspect an abusive relationship.
In the state's first closing argument, trial
attorney Janice Schryer labeled Cody's abuse claims an attempt "to
pile more and more manure on top of Paul, Tryone and Marilea," and
said he acted as judge, jury and executioner the day of the
Cody and his lawyer, Gary Mitchell, listened to
the prosecution closing argument as pictures of his family and the
burial site were projected on the wall for jurors.
In an emotional closing argument, Mitchell urged
jurors to put themselves in Cody's shoes and ask how much abuse they
would have tolerated before acting in self-defense, as he did.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell attempted to
console the normally stoic Cody, who sobbed as Judge Counts read
aloud guilty verdicts of first-degree murder for the death of
Marilea, second-degree murder for Tryone and voluntary manslaughter
for his father Paul.
Ellen Brust, the mother of Cody's former
stepfather, William Russell Brust, comforted Cody's cousin as Counts
announced the verdict.
Cody's maternal aunt and steadfast supporter,
Corliss Clees, broke down as the guilty verdicts were read.
Clees sobbed even after the courtroom was
Paramedics carried Clees out of the courtroom on