HOUSTON – In Leroy Houston's probable cause court hearing early Thursday, more details were released as to how investigators tracked down and stacked evidence against the four men accused in a fatal shooting at a west Houston Denny’s restaurant.
Houston and his alleged accomplices – Corey Hilton, Mario Hilton and Kenya Jackson – were all charged with capital murder for their alleged roles in the August 26 holdup that left one man dead and another one wounded.
Investigators with the Houston Police Department said on that day, three of the suspects entered the Denny’s in the 7300 block of Washington Avenue. They fired shots and ordered everyone to the floor, then started robbing the customers.
Robert Placette, a 64-year-old customer at the restaurant, was trying to shield children from the gunfire when he was shot. The Katy man later died at a hospital.
The suspects also shot a 43-year-old restaurant employee, who survived his injuries.
Police said the three suspects ran to a getaway van, where the fourth suspect was waiting, and sped away.
Surveillance photos later released showed the suspects were wearing bandanas, masks and distinctive hats. Those hats were a key piece of evidence, investigators said.
In court, prosecutors said an informant led them to their first three suspects, and when they searched their homes, they found something that belonged to Houston’s stepfather.
“As I understand it, several hats were found that were distinctive, that were involved in the robbery that we’ve seen on the video tape of several hijackers,” said prosecutors. “The hats were later identified as belonging to the stepfather of this defendant. This defendant was placed in a lineup and was identified by the witness, who stated he was the one wearing a fedora hat. The stepfather stated the hats were missing from his collection of hats.”
The Hiltons, who are cousins, were both arrested on Friday and Houston was taken into custody the following Monday.
Jackson, the final man on the run, decided to turn himself in on Wednesday.
Two women, believed to be Jackson’s family members, were very upset with media being present during his surrender and proclaimed his innocence.
”I don’t want to talk to y’all! He didn’t do (expletive), he’s innocent,” one woman said. “Get that camera away from me.”
”There ain’t nothing to talk about. He didn’t kill nobody, he didn’t kill nobody, he didn’t kill nobody,” the other woman yelled. She then suggested the media focus on the Trayvon Martin case.
Based off of the informant’s statement and the evidence collected, investigators believe they have some details sorted out.
According to investigators, Mario Hilton has been identified as the getaway driver. Corey Hilton, Houston and Jackson were the three who went inside the restaurant, but investigators have not said which of them fired the shots that killed Placette and wounded the worker.