Fort Worth

Putt-Putt killer gets stay of execution, but ‘case is far from over’

Detail photo of crime scene tape around the Putt Putt sign on Oct. 16, 2006.
Detail photo of crime scene tape around the Putt Putt sign on Oct. 16, 2006. Star-Telegram archives

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution Friday for a man convicted in the 2006 murder of an assistant manager of a Putt-Putt golf park in Hurst.

Paul Storey, 32, who was convicted in 2008 for the murder of Jonas Cherry, was scheduled to die on Wednesday.

Storey did not immediately learn of his stay because he was in transport Friday afternoon from Fort Worth to Huntsville. He had been in the Tarrant County Jail for a recent hearing in connection with his case.

“The first thing I did is rush back to the jail but he had already been sent back to prison to be executed,” said attorney Mike Ware.

While his conviction remains in place, the court’s decision will put into motion a lengthy legal process that will eventually decide whether Storey should live or die for his crime.

Storey’s lawyers, his family and the parents of Cherry have all fought to save Storey’s life. Cory Session, a justice reform advocate who fought for the posthumous exoneration of his convicted brother, Tim Cole, also pushed for Storey’s execution to be stayed.

“This case is far from over,” Ware said. “At the time being I’m very relieved for Paul and Marilyn and for that matter, I’m relieved for the Cherrys.”

Said Marilyn Shankle-Grant, Storey’s mom: “I am just elated. I am so happy. I know now it is an indefinite stay until we get some answers from the lower court.”

Cherry begged for his life during the crime at Putt-Putt Golf and Games at a highly visible location across Texas 121/Loop 820 from North East Mall in Hurst.

It was about 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2006 and Storey and Mark Porter stood over Cherry, who pleaded: “Please! I gave you what you want. Don’t hurt me.”

They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs and fled with between $200 and $700. Cherry, who was approaching his first wedding anniversary, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Session said Friday that the appeals court has called for another hearing at the trial court presided over by State District Judge Robb Catalano. That hearing will seek to determine whether defense attorneys were notified by prosecutors during Storey’s trial that Cherry’s parents, Glenn and Judy Cherry, were against the death penalty during the 2008 trial.

“Judith and Glenn Cherry did not want death for Mr. Storey,” an affidavit from the parents stated. “Unknown to the jury and contrary to the state’s argument, they stood with the family members who pleaded for the jury to spare Mr. Storey’s life.”

Prosecutors, however, have said that while the Cherrys were generally opposed to the death penalty, they were in agreement at the time of the 2008 trial that Storey should be executed because he had refused to accept a plea bargain for life without parole.

Christy Jack, one of the prosecutors who is now in private practice, recently told the Star-Telegram that Storey’s defense team was informed before the trial about how Cherry’s parents felt.

“Death penalty litigation is the most important thing that attorneys do,” Jack said. “So I want everything that I do in these cases to be above reproach.”

Robert Foran, the lead prosecutor at the time of the 2008 trial, also confirmed Jack’s account.

“The defense decided not to call the parents to the stand,” Foran said. “That was a tactical decision on their part, but we told them and they damn well know it.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3