Two former high school football stars indicted on capital murder charges in the death of a 17-year-old accomplice during a botched robbery pled guilty Friday to lesser charges and were sentenced to prison.
In the resolution to a case with twists worthy of Law & Order, Curtis Fortenberry, 23, pled guilty to killing Claudia Hidic, whose body was found after a shootout on June 28, 2012, in a house in Tanglewood.
Fortenberry, identified as the person whose bullet hit Hidic, was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He must serve half his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Terrance Crumley, 23, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and theft charges for his role in Hidic’s slaying. Crumley was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the tampering charge and 17 months in jail on the two theft charges. He must serve one-quarter of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Crumley was an all-district wide receiver and Fortenberry was an all-district linebacker during the 2008 football season at North Crowley High School. Both had received scholarships to play football at East Central University in Oklahoma.
Hidic was a 17-year-old foster child who had a troubled life.
The man who found her body outside his Tanglewood home was Robert Dodson, 44, who was found four months later hogtied and strangled inside a burning Dodge Nitro.
Fort Worth police said Dodson was not present when Fortenberry, Crumley and Hidic attempted to rob six people inside Dodson’s house. But Dodson found Hidic’s body when he arrived home that evening, and later helped Fort Worth police identify the people who fled after she was killed.
According to police, Hidic orchestrated the attempted robbery after Dodson refused to lend her money.
Tarrant Country prosecutor Lisa Callaghan handled Fortenberry and Crumley’s plea bargains, which were made Friday in state District Judge Everett Young’s court.
“Claudia was a beautiful and intelligent young woman,” Callaghan said. “Her death was a tragic waste of human life. These defendants deserve their sentence as a lesson to them and others of the misery and destruction that crime can cause to families. We hope these sentences bring closure to Claudia’s family.”
Warren St. John, who represented Crumley, said the Tarrant County district attorney’s office was fair in its assessment of the case.
“My client had the least liability in this case and we believe this is a good outcome for him,” St. John said.
One of Hidic’s sisters, who declined to give her name, gave a victim impact statement to Fortenberry, saying he could not receive a sentence long enough to punish him.
“You will have peace, but we don’t know where my sister is,” the woman said. “Your family has never said ‘I’m sorry’ to my family and that was hurtful. They cannot give you enough time.”
A man called “Ghost”
The robbery plot unfolded on June 28, 2012, at Dodson’s residence in the 3000 block of Overton Park Drive West.
Police have said they believe Hidic, who grew up in an abusive family in Fort Worth and was shunted from household to household, planned the robbery.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Hidic tried to recruit a male friend to go with her and others to a house on Overton Park West. She told them they would find money, drugs and guns and that the “guy” who lived there wasn’t supposed to be home.
She promised the friend half the money and a gun if he drove them there, but he declined. She later contacted Fortenberry and Crumley and convinced them that they could make quick money at the house.
The plan called for the two men to treat her as a hostage and act as if they were looking for a man called “Ghost” who owed them $900.
The three arrived in a Ford Explorer. Hidic knocked on the door and went inside, followed by Crumley and Fortenberry. The “guy,” later identified as Dodson, wasn’t there, but six people were, including a 10-year-old girl. One of them told investigators she had gone there to buy methamphetamine.
Fortenberry immediately started asking for “Ghost” and took drugs and an iPhone from a woman. As Fortenberry continued to demand money and drugs, and tried to gather everyone in one room, a 33-year-old man got a pistol from a bathroom closet.
A gun battle erupted. Fortenberry told investigators he heard Hidic screaming for them to stop.
Seconds after the shooting, everyone fled from the house.
Fortenberry, who was wounded, ran outside and was shot again in the leg. He told investigators that he jumped into the Explorer, picked up Crumley, who was hiding in the bushes, and drove away. He later had to stop and let Crumley drive him to a hospital.
Dodson told police that he arrived at 6:08 p.m. and found Hidic dead at the back door.
Fortenberry initially told investigators that he had been shot at Cobb Park during a dice game. He later changed his story and said he was shot during the robbery.
Fortenberry and Crumley have been in the Tarrant County Jail since their arrest several days after Hidic was shot.
Hogtied and strangled
On Oct. 28, Godley firefighters responding to a call about a vehicle on fire at a remote gas well site found Dodson’s body in the SUV. His arms and legs had been bound with a metal cable, investigators later reported.
Dodson, the father of three children, was a vice president at Buckley Oil Co., a family-owned business in Dallas.
Two men have been indicted on capital murder charges in his death.
Joseph Dodson, 32, of Burleson, no relation to Robert Dodson, is an Aryan Brotherhood member who goes by the street name of Short Sight, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. His co-defendant is Dean Allen Walden, 49.
Both remained in the Tarrant County Jail Friday night. Walden’s bail is $500,000, Dodson’s is $257,000.
Investigators have said they do not believe Hidic’s and Dodson’s slayings are related.