A Longview man was sentenced to life in prison Friday afternoon for killing the mother of his child in 2019.

Kenneth Earl Thomas Jr., 34, of was found guilty of murder Thursday in the death of Kimberly Wallace. Jurors deliberated for about 50 minutes before delivering the guilty verdict.

While deciding sentencing on Friday, the jury heard testimony in the 124th District Court and after 35 minutes of deliberation returned with a life sentencing for Thomas. Judge Alfonso Charles officially sentenced Thomas who pulled off his mask and smiled as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

“I think it was the right decision,” Gregg County Assistant District Attorney Tanya Reed told the News-Journal after court adjourned. “I can’t use the word happy. Nothing about this is happy.”

According to police, Wallace was shot and killed July 28, 2019, outside of a home in the 1200 block of Temple Street. Another man was with Wallace when she was shot as they were trying to jump-start his car. Wallace leaves behind three children, one of whom she had with Thomas.

“I’m glad we got justice for Kim,” Reed said. “I never knew her but, you know, after talking to the family and, of course, listening to Tony (Wallace’s father) on the stand. I’m just glad we got justice.”

Wallace’s father, Tony Medford, sat in the courtroom throughout the trial and testified during punishment. Though he is no longer married to Wallace’s mother, he has become closer with her since the death of their daughter.

Medford said Wallace’s two eldest children are now in the military and the youngest, who was 4-years-old when her mother died, lives with Wallace’s mother. Medford said the three children remain close but did not attend the trial because “they couldn’t handle it.”

“It affected them deeply,” Medford said. “They didn’t want to see Mr. Thomas.”

Throughout the trial, video statements by Thomas were played in which he claims he killed Wallace because he wanted to see his daughter more and that he loves his daughter.

“If he did love her that much why did he kill her mother,” Medford asked. He became emotional on the stand while explaining how his daughter’s death affected his family.

Thomas’ attorney, James “Rick” Hagan thanked the jury and said they would accept whatever punishment was decided. Charles said he would appoint appeal counsel as Hagan intends to appeal the ruling for his client.

Reed believes, and argued before the jury during closing statements for punishment, that Thomas would kill again if he were to be released. According to testimony Friday by jail staff, Thomas made threats while he was in jail awaiting trial.

In 27 months since his arrest, 182 incidents or disciplinary issues were documented at Gregg County Jail involving Thomas.

Thomas will be transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Division.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.