Ranger: 3 charged in 4 Texas killings planned to steal gun


NEW SUMMERFIELD, Texas — Three men charged in the fatal shooting of four people at a home in East Texas this week met up with one of the victims under the pretense of buying a gun from him but planned to steal it, authorities allege.

Jesse Pawlowski, 20, Billy Phillips, 37, and Dylan Welch, 21, have been charged with capital murder in killings near New Summerfield, a small community about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Dallas.

A Texas Ranger said in court filings that 18-year-old John Clinton thought he was selling a gun Monday night but was shot and killed in the driveway. His 39-year-old mother, Ami Hickey, Jeff Gerla, 47, and Amanda Bain, 39, were all found shot to death in Gerla’s mobile home on the property.

Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson has said Clinton and Gerla were in a relationship, as were Hickey and Bain.

Pawlowski told investigators that he met Clinton and Gerla on the the dating app Grindr and entered into a sexual relationship with them, the Ranger, Nicholas Castle, said in affidavits. Pawlowski said he had visited Gerla’s home several times and knew that the couple had multiple firearms, including a handgun Clinton wanted to sell for $500, he wrote.

Pawlowski told investigators that he, Phillips and Welch planned to steal the handgun instead of Phillips buying it, according to the affidavits. Pawlowski said that when he went to Gerla’s home on Monday night, Clinton, Bain and Hickey were there as well. Pawlowski said that when Phillips and Welch arrived, he and Clinton walked to the end of the driveway to meet them, Castle wrote.

According to the affidavits, Pawlowski told investigators that Phillips took Clinton’s handgun, shot Clinton in the back of the head and then shot the other three in the mobile home. Phillips and Welch told investigators that they had no involvement in the killings.

Pawlowski’s mother told investigators that he said he “shot three people” and Phillips “shot one.”

Authorities say guns, a vehicle and other items were stolen from the scene.

Pawlowski, Phillips and Welch, who are from nearby Jacksonville, remained in Cherokee County jail on Thursday. Bond for each was set at $1 million.

An attorney for Welch, John W. Moore of Longview, said he hadn’t yet met with his client and had no comment on his behalf. Jail records did not yet list attorneys for Pawlowski and Phillips.

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