Linda Ervin learned to fear her husband over the course of one year, one of her sons testified on Tuesday.
The husband, Paul Christopher Ervin, beat her and burned her Feb. 27, 1985, when her sons were in school, Gus Hayes, Linda Ervin’s oldest son, told jurors.
On June 19 that year, Ervin killed his wife and staged the crime scene to look like a burglary, authorities have said.
Ervin was arrested in 1985 and a grand jury declined to indict him, prosecutor Sean Colston said Tuesday in his opening statement. But in August 2013, Ervin was arrested again after detectives obtained DNA evidence linking him to the death.
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Ervin, 59, is on trial this week on a murder charge. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
“She said she had been tied up in the bathroom and burned,” Hayes said of his mother. “Like you torture somebody.”
She was burned on her face and thigh, Hayes said, barely getting out the words after he finished sobbing.
“He took cucumbers and stuff like that and shoved it up in her,” Hayes said.
Ervin did not come around for a while after that, but when he did he apologized to the boys and talked about marrying his mother, Hayes said.
The family moved from the Prince Hall apartment complex to a house in the 4700 block of Richardson Street, where Ervin lived with them.
Soon after moving there, Linda Ervin gathered up her three sons and took a Greyhound bus to Liberty, about 43 miles northeast of Houston, where they had family.
“We moved to Liberty because we really didn’t feel safe,” Hayes testified. “I always knew the routine: When she didn’t feel safe, we all packed up and we were gone.”
Hayes guessed the family stayed in Liberty less than a month before Ervin drove there and brought them back to the house on Richardson Street, Hayes said.
Hayes said he did not know when his mother and Ervin married.
According to a search warrant affidavit, after his wife was found dead on June 19, 1985, Ervin told police that he left his house at 6 p.m. to take his stepsons to a Juneteenth celebration. His wife was tired and didn’t go with them, he said.
He said he discovered his wife’s body at 10:40 p.m. on returning home.
“According to Ervin, when they walked in the front door he noticed that some things had been moved and were not as he had left them,” the affidavit said. “At that point he made the boys sit on the sofa because it looked as though someone had broken in and he wanted to check the house. Paul Ervin proceeded through the hallway to the bedroom, where he could see his wife lying on the bed. He called to her and got no response. He went closer and touched her and knew then that something was wrong.”
Hayes testified Tuesday that Ervin kept them from going into the house that afternoon. The last time he saw his mother was between noon and 1 p.m., when she asked him to go to the store for cigarettes, Hayes said.
Hayes said that Ervin didn’t take them to the Juneteenth celebration until about 8 p.m. and that he then disappeared from the event.
In 2012, Hayes’ brother, Dewayne Jones, contacted Sarah Jane Waters, a Fort Worth cold-case detective at the time. Waters reviewed the case and matched DNA found on fingernail clippings taken from Linda Ervin’s body to Paul Ervin.
Jones told police that he believed his stepfather killed his mother earlier in the day and returned to the house while the children were at the Juneteenth celebration to stage it as if there had been a burglary.
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in state District Judge Wayne Salvant’s court.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives