A former John Peter Smith Hospital administrator was convicted by a Parker County jury Thursday evening of murdering two Arlington women in a Willow Park bank parking lot in 2017.
The jury convicted Christopher Mark Wall, 38, of Weatherford, of capital murder for shooting 21-year-old Krista McClellan and 23-year-old Ashley Pohorence on Nov. 4, 2017. According to trial testimony, he met the women at the bank because they were extorting him for trying to hire prostitutes. Since the death penalty was not being sought by the prosecution, Wall was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“We believed that Mr. Wall killed Krista and Ashley to keep them quiet and keep them from coming back to him for more money,” said District Attorney Jeff Swain, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Catania. “The defense contended that it was self-defense or that he was defending his daughter, who was at home 10 miles away.”
The day before the murders, Wall used a website notorious for illicit activities like prostitution, to solicit two women to come to his office at JPS to have sex with him, according to testimony from Wall and Sierra McMahan. Instead, McClellan and McMahan came to his office, confirmed that Wall wanted to have sex with them, and told him that if he didn’t pay them a large sum of money, they would tell his supervisor and his wife that he was trying to hire prostitutes. Wall then took the two women to three different Fort Worth banks and withdrew $6,600, which he gave to them.
The next day, according to the testimony, the three women reached out to Wall again and demanded that he pay them more money for their silence. Wall met them in the bank parking lot and, after a brief meeting in his car, shot both women in the head between his car and Pohorence’s car. McMahan, who was in a different car, saw the shooting and fled the scene. Wall fled shortly thereafter, running over McClellan’s body on the way.
In Wall’s testimony, he said the women threatened to kill him that day and that McClellan had shown him a gun in her purse the day before. He said that McClellan tried to drag him out of his car and believed she was going to kidnap him. Wall said that he got out of his car with his gun, McClellan reached into her purse, and he shot her. He said he then shot Pohorence when she charged him.
When Wall was interviewed by Texas Ranger Tony Bradford the day after the shooting, he initially told him that the women were extorting him but denied killing them. 23 minutes into the interview, Wall said that they had threatened to sexually traffick his 14-year-old daughter. In an interview lasting around 90 minutes, he said nothing about the women having a gun, trying to kidnap him, or charging at him.
Willow Park Police Department and Parker County Sheriff’s Office investigators found no gun or other weapon on scene. They also located McClellan’s purse in her car, not near her body, and noted that it had no blood on it. Wall shot both women in the head causing the presence of large amounts of blood on the ground at the scene.
During Wall’s testimony, he admitted that he hid the gun he shot the women with in a pile of rubble near his home. However, he said he did not do so to hide evidence, as the prosecution suggested. He said he hid it because he could not stand to be near the gun anymore since he had used it to kill two people.
Wall also admitted that he washed his car at a car wash shortly after the shooting. He said he did not do so to wash off blood or other evidence, but rather to give himself time to think while he the car was being washed. Despite the carwash, law enforcement found blood and hair underneath Wall’s car that DNA testing revealed belonged to McClellan, according to testimony from Department of Public Safety analysts.
Win addition, Wall told jurors that he deleted all communications with the three women off of his phone after the shootings. He wasn’t trying to destroy evidence, he said, but rather he didn’t want it on his phone because it was embarrassing.
On cross-examination by Swain, Wall admitted that he had hired prostitutes he found on the website on ten occasions in the 12 to 18 months prior to the murders. He denied ever being extorted previously. However, Swain introduced a screenshot of an extortion demand related to Wall trying to hire prostitutes that was on Wall’s phone from earlier in 2017.
McMahan testified that she saw Wall pursuing McClellan around the back of the car before he shot her and that he then shot Pohorence right after she got out of his car.
The defense called a crime scene reconstruction expert who testified that both women fell forward toward Wall after he shot them, which could indicate they were coming at him at the time. However, he said that Pohorence was in the process of getting out of the car and standing up when she was shot.
At length, McMahan told jurors how the three women would be solicited by men on the website, they would meet the men, record their in-person solicitation for sex, and then blackmail them to remain silent in exchange for money. From her testimony, the scam appears to have been lucrative. She said they never threatened violence or carried weapons and that they would flee from any threat of violence.
Parker County District Attorney Investigator Marc Gray testified that he viewed more than 250,000 digital files on the phones of Wall and the three women. He said he reviewed hundreds of recordings of the women’s interactions with their “Johns” or “tricks,” the people they extorted who were soliciting prostitution. Gray said that they never used or threatened violence, kidnapping, or trafficking. The threats were always that the trick’s misconduct would be exposed to their spouse, work, or friends, or that they would call the police and report that they were being solicited for sex. He also never saw them in possession of any weapons.
“Under Texas law, a person may use force but not deadly force in response to a daytime theft,” Swain said. “However, for robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, deadly force may be employed if the person reasonably believes it is immediately necessary.”
“This whole case came down to whether or not you believed Mr. Wall,” Swain said. “Between his failure to tell the Texas Ranger about his purported defenses, his efforts to destroy evidence after the murders, the irreconcilable differences between his version of events and the physical evidence, and the unlikely story about a women half his size trying to kidnap him, we just didn’t believe him. I think our jurors must have felt likewise.”
The case was tried in the 43rd District Court with Judge Craig Towson presiding.
This article is slated to appear in the July 29 issue of The Community News.
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