As he sat on the witness stand Friday, not far from a teen girl facing punishment in the robbery and murder of his son, Richard Walker held in his hands a laminated index card.
It is a card, he would explain to the court, that he received while working as a substitute teacher in the Mansfield school district after the death of his son, Ethan Walker.
As they left class that October day, the fifth- and sixth-grade students had been asked to write on an index card an answer to the question, "If I had one wish, I would wish ...."
"There was one boy ... in fifth grade who wrote, 'If I had one wish, I would wish for Mr. Walker's son to be alive," Richard Walker said, struggling to talk through his tears. "He had seen us on television when we were interviewed. This is from a fifth-grader with a conscience and character."
But Richard and his wife, Roberta Walker, contend that the teen girl in the courtroom Friday had no conscience when she hatched the idea for and helped plan the home invasion that ultimately took their son's life.
Adopted by the Walkers when he was 7, Ethan Walker was fatally shot at the age of 21. He is survived by a young daughter and the biological brothers and sisters that he'd never met.
"They got their first look at him in the casket," Roberta Walker testified.
The 17-year-old girl is not being identified by the Star-Telegram because she was a juvenile when the crime was committed.
She “did not pull the trigger that ended Ethan’s life but she was an integral factor,” Richard Walker told the judge. “If you take (the girl) out of this equation, I seriously doubt this home invasion gone wrong would have happened and maybe our son Ethan would still be alive."
A petite, pretty blonde whose social media posts indicate had once been an athlete at an Arlington high school, the girl had claimed she was a human trafficking victim who'd been forced to commit the robbery under duress. As such, her attorney, Frank Adler, had asked state District Judge Timothy Menikos to set aside the girl's convictions in juvenile court so she could get help, or at least consider that as a mitigating factor in the case when assessing punishment.
The teen sat emotionless throughout Friday's hearing, even during the tearful testimony from Walker's parents. She only broke into tears upon hearing Menikos announce her sentence — 20 years' confinement.
As she was led from the courtroom, her father called out to her, "I love you," and her mother wailed.
Adler says the teen plans to appeal.
Roberta Walker said she and her husband are "comfortable" with the sentence given.
"We would have been more comfortable with 40, but given the fact that she's been out on a (electronic) monitor this whole time, we were relieved it wasn't probation," she said.
The national attention
In all, three juveniles and four adults were arrested in the deadly home invasion in Mansfield in July 2016.
But it is the alleged involvement of a local rapper, Taymor "Tay-K 47" McIntyre — that prompted the case to draw national attention. McIntyre became the focus of a national manhunt after he and a second juvenile suspect in the case, Jalen Bell, cut off their ankle monitors while awaiting their certification hearings and fled.
While on the loose, officials allege McIntyre and Bell were involved in the April robbery and fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man at a Chick-fil-A in San Antonio for which both are now held on a separate capital murder charge.
The next month, officials allege McIntyre committed another violent crime, viciously attacking and robbing 65-year-old Skip Pepe as he walked along Fish Creek Trail in Arlington’s Cravens Park.
While on the run, McIntyre was still posting on social media and even released a song titled "The Race," a music video in which he poses in front of his own wanted poster.
Since his arrest in June in New Jersey, his music has only grown in popularity. While locked up in the Tarrant County Jail awaiting trial, the now 17-year-old rapper released a new song and has reportedly signed a multimillion-dollar record deal. Photographs of him in jail have also been tweeted out on his Twitter account.
He and Bell have both been certified to stand trial as adults in Walker's case. In addition, McIntyre was certified as an adult in the Arlington aggravated robbery case.
The four adults accused in the robbery and slaying of Walker — Megan Holt, Ariana Bharrat, Latharian Merritt and Sean Robinson — also remained in the Tarrant County Jail Friday, awaiting their own trials.
Court documents indicate prosecutors have reached a deal with Holt.
Under the agreement, the now 21-year-old woman will testify truthfully against her co-defendants in exchange for the state waiving the capital murder charge against her. Instead, Holt will plead guilty to aggravated robbery and receive 20 years in prison.
The deal will not be finalized until after the trials of the other suspects, the documents state.
The teen girl — the only juvenile in the Walker case not certified as an adult by Menikos — became the first to go on trial earlier this month.
According to testimony and evidence presented during her trial, officials contended it was the teen girl who first had the idea to steal drugs and money from Zachary Beloate, with whom she'd been romantically involved.
But after a failed attempt by her and the two other female suspects a month before Walker's death, they recruited the help of the male suspects because they needed guns, officials allege.
On the night of Walker's slaying, the three female suspects had gone to Beloate's house, where Walker also lived, to set up the home invasion, but they called it off because there were too many people in the home. They returned later that night and one of the female suspects quietly unlocked the front door so that the male accomplices could barge in.
Once inside, the suspects were unable to find drugs and money like they'd hoped, but did demand cellphones.
Walker was sitting on the floor as instructed when he was shot in the stomach by one of the suspects, according to testimony in the trial.
Beloate was also shot in the robbery and scuffled with suspects, but survived and ran to a neighbor's to get help.
Despite her human-trafficking claims, the teen girl was found guilt by a jury of three delinquent conduct charges: capital murder and two aggravated robbery charges.
Roberta Walker said she saw the girl's true colors when, after the verdict was read and the jury had left, the teen girl looked at Tarrant County prosecutors Riley Shaw and Jim Hudson and cussed at them, calling them "mother f------."
During Friday's hearing, prosecutors outlined the teen girl's previous referrals to the juvenile court — from accusations of possessing marijuana in 2013, to allegedly stealing a girl's wallet in school.
Though neither of those cases was adjudicated, the teen received probation for assaulting a girl as another person recorded the planned attack.
While on probation, a court intake specialist testified, the teen continued to have problems, occasionally failing drug tests and refusing to participate in ordered services or attending education classes.
Roughly 70 days after her probation ended, Walker was killed.
Prosecutors had asked for Menikos to sentence the teen to the maximum sentence of 40 years.
"This was a tragic case on many levels and we are very happy to have gotten some measure of justice for the Walker and Beloate families in this case," Shaw said after the sentencing.
The teen will be incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility. She could be paroled at age 19 or the Texas Juvenile Justice Department could request a transfer hearing before her 19th birthday.
If a transfer hearing is requested, a juvenile judge would decide whether she should be paroled or transferred to adult prison to complete her sentence. If sent to adult prison, she'd have to serve at least half of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
'One thing has been forgotten'
In their testimony Friday, Roberta and Richard Walker shared stories about their son and the impact his death has had on others.
"One thing has been forgotten — Ethan," Richard Walker said.
Roberta Walker told of how the couple had adopted their son through Child Protective Services just before his 8th birthday. She said he'd been abandoned after a previous adoption. She said he also had a long-term foster family before being adopted by the Walkers.
"They are devastated by this," Roberta Walker said, staring directly at the teen girl as she spoke. "They have a hole in their hearts forever."
At the time of his death, Roberta Walker said, her son had just reached the age where his birth family was allowed to reach out to him.
"Ethan had a whole set of brothers and sisters that he never got to meet," she testified.
Roberta Walker described her son as loving and gentle.
She said he doted on his young daughter — only 3 when her father died — always insisting on being the one to change the girl's diapers and giving her baths when she was at the family's home. She laughed as Hudson, the prosecutor, showed her a photograph of her son and the girl — among the last photos the daddy and daughter took together.
"It's a picture I keep on my phone to look at," she said.
Roberta Walker recalled how the family came together to break the news to her granddaughter after dance lessons that her father was now gone.
"I had to tell her .... bad people came and hurt her daddy and that's why they made her daddy go to heaven," Roberta Walker said. "From time to time, I have to explain, 'You still can't see your daddy. No, Daddy doesn't have a cellphone in heaven. You can't talk to your daddy, but Daddy is watching over you.'"