Jay White sentenced to 60 years in murder of Elizabeth Stevens

Details on Jay White's sentencing to 60 years for the murder of Elizabeth Stevens, highlighting the court's decision.

Nicole DeCriscio


Nicole DeCriscio


Jun 30, 2024

Jay White sentenced to 60 years in murder of Elizabeth Stevens

Elizabeth “Bizzy” Stevens' three-year-old daughter will never remember what it was like to be held by her mother. 

“You and you alone stole the opportunity from this little girl,” Stevens’ grandmother, Linda Wood, said of her great-granddaughter. “She will not remember her mom’s touch.”

When the young child wants to give her mom a hug, she goes to Chambersville Cemetery to hug the only thing she can – Stevens’ headstone. 

“To [her], Biz is a picture,” Julie Feguson, Stevens’ mother, said during her victim impact statement as part of the nearly two-hour sentencing hearing held last week. 

Stevens was found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of the head on Texas Pike on Sept. 14, 2021. On April 24th of this year, an Owen County jury found 39-year-old Jay White guilty of murder and obstruction of justice. 

Approximately 30 individuals were present at the sentencing hearing. 

At the start, Prosecutor Ben Kim and defense attorney Megan Schueler were summoned into the chambers of Special Judge from Monroe County, Darcie Fawcett. The day before, Schueler filed a motion for the court to vacate the guilty verdict and a motion for a directed verdict. Vacating the verdict would void the determination made by the jury, and a directed verdict is one in which the judge rules that there is legally not enough evidence for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion. 

Before the sentencing proceedings could begin, Fawcett denied both motions. 

Schuler argued that Stevens' death would have been impossible to achieve from the front seat to the back seat as the prosecution suggested and was corroborated by testimony from Tyler Byers.

“His entire testimony was incredibly dubious,” Schuler said. 

Schuler also argued that White believed he had to agree to the polygraph, which he failed, in order to speak to police. 

She asked for the verdict to be overturned or for a new trial to be granted.

Kim argued that they would be rearguing the evidence and that it is within a jury’s right to choose which evidence to believe or give weight to. 

Fawcett noted that neither expert definitively said how close or how far away the gun was fired or the path of the exit. 

“I do believe [the verdict] was supported by the evidence,” Fawcett said. 

The court then moved into the sentencing hearing. 

Ferguson was the first to take the stand. She said that on Sept. 15, 2021, White’s sister sent her a message around noon saying that Stevens was missing. Later that afternoon, she found out that a body was found on Texas Pike. 

“I had a sickening feeling in my stomach,” she said.

And at 5:02 p.m., she received the call confirming what she feared – her daughter was dead. 

Ferguson admitted that her first thought was revenge. 

“You are the luckiest individual in this courtroom,” she said to White, adding that what stopped her was that she did not want her granddaughter to lose her too. 

Ferguson also submitted a separate written statement that was entered into evidence. 

Five photos were also entered into evidence including a photo depicting Stevens’ gravesite on Mother’s Day with her daughter hugging her gravestone.

She testified that Stevens’ daughter saw an image of the headstone on the front page of the May edition of The Owen News accompanying the story of White’s guilty verdict and said, “That’s mommy’s place.”

Among the photos was a photo of Stevens in her casket. 

“I kept praying to God that everyone was wrong and it wasn’t her,” Ferguson said. 

Another photo was taken Sept. 6, 2021 and is the last photo of Stevens with her daughter.

“She’ll have no recollection of this day ever,” Ferguson said of her granddaughter. 

Ferguson also testified that her granddaughter has said, “Gigi I want a real mommy.”

“How do you explain it to a three-year-old when I don’t understand it at 51?” Ferguson said. “Part of my mind is stuck on Sept. 15, 2021 at 5:02 p.m.”

She said she did not believe White to be remorseful and asked for the maximum sentence of 65 years for Stevens’ murder.

“His feet should never touch soil outside of a prison wall,” she said. 

James Wood then took the stand. He spoke about the business relationship that he had with White’s father, Bud White who owned a logging company. Wood owned a trucking company, and the two had done business together for nearly 30 years. Stevens was his youngest grandchild. 

“There’s always going to be an empty chair at our table on Christmas and New Year’s thanks to you,” James Wood said. “I don’t know what sentencing you’ll get, but in my mind, it’s not enough.”

His wife Linda Wood also took the stand, where she spoke of how Stevens’ daughter’s story is forever marred by her mother’s murder.

It was then Schuler’s chance to call witnesses to speak to White’s character. Chia Ruble, White’s sister-in-law was the first to take the stand. 

She spoke about White raising her sister Amber’s daughter as if the child was his own. 

Ruble also called White “upstanding” and “trustworthy,” despite acknowledging that he lied to police. She said it was because White trusted someone else to take care of it and said that he put himself in jeopardy for Byers. 

“His word is his bond,” Ruble said. 

Janet Lucas, White’s mother, also took the stand. 

She spoke of White’s childhood, noting that he would stand up for the underdogs. 

“Jay was a good kid,” she said, adding that he was a “country kid.”

Stevens wasn’t a stranger to her either.

“All my kids had a heart for Bizzy,” she said, later adding that “She kind of landed at our place.”

Lucas said that Bud White was hard on the boys and that he put them to work when they could legally drop out of school in the 10th grade. She said that both of her sons ended up the opposite, saying, “He’s just not violent.”

According to Lucas, White did not ever receive a driver's license and that he has some trouble reading. 

Finally, White’s wife Amber White took the stand. 

She spoke about how she and Jay met and she testified that she started nursing school one week after they got married. She said that while she was stressed about going to school and working full-time, Jay told her to quit work and that he would support their family. 

“He’s a very good dad,” Amber White said of her husband, adding that there were only three instances of corporal punishment between the two children in 17 years. 

Kim asked the court for a sentence of 60 years for the murder charge, and Schuler argued that the majority of White’s offenses in the past were centered around driving without a license. She also said that White responded well to probation in the past and that this is not a crime to likely happen again. She asked for mitigating factors to allow the court to go below the minimum sentencing of 45 years. 

Fawcett first addressed Ferguson, “You have the court’s sympathy.” She also added that all of the children impacted, both Stevens’ daughter and White’s two children, should receive professional support to understand what has happened. 

She also focused on the loss of a mother to a young child. 

“It’s plain and simple not measurable,” she said. 

While she did not consider it an “aggravator” in determining sentencing, Fawcett noted that White had contact with the court for a license violation just 34 days before Stevens’ murder. 

She also noted that while there is hardship on White’s dependents, she could not get to the point where it was classified as undue hardship. 

White was then sentenced to 60 years in the department of corrections, with five years suspended to probation on the murder charge. 

In count two, which was a level 6 felony for obstruction of justice, White was sentenced to 360 days in the department of corrections. 

Time served will also be applied. 

She also mandated that should White be released, he must check in with Owen County probation within 72 hours of his release. 

Fawcett noted that she would leave the appearance for Schuler who had 30 days to initiate an appeal on White’s behalf. 

White did not wish to make a statement to the court, and Schuler said she plans to file an appeal. 

Hannah Amos contributed to this article.

No items found.

Related Posts