| Crime |

Clay Chabot Pleaded Innocent For Decades. But Suddenly, He Copped to Murder in Court Today.

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Behind bars for more than 20 years, after being found guilty of the 1986 rape and murder of a Garland woman named Galua Crosby, Clay Chabot always maintained he was innocent. This morning, that all changed: In a Dallas courtroom,  Chabot pleaded guilty to Crosby's murder. He was poised to receive a new trial after appealing his conviction in 2007, but he took the guilty plea in lieu of going through with the trial. He received a 22-year sentence, but will likely not serve more than another month in jail because of time already served.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins told Unfair Park in the courtroom today that he agrees Chabot's original trial was unfair -- because Chabot was wrongfully convicted on the perjured testimony of his brother-in-law, George Pabst, whose DNA was found at the scene but not processed for years. Pabst had testified against Chabot and was credited, in large part, with his conviction.

But today, said Watkins, justice has been served. Despite the flaws in the original trial, the District Attorney's Office continued to believe Chabot was guilty and was prepared to try him again. Watkins told Unfair Park this case was all about public credibility.

"We want people to be confident" that if something goes wrong in the justice system, he said, "we're going to fix it. That's what we do."

Chabot had gained the representation of the Innocence Project three years ago, which Crosby family spokesperson Susan Campbell told reporters was "a terrible injustice." He then made news this summer, while out on bail, when the DA's office said he was exploiting his involvement with the exoneration group and asking for money claiming to be a DNA exoneree in dire financial straits. But today, he changed his story entirely, pleading that he had, in fact, shot Galua Crosby in the head in 1986.

As a result of a drug deal gone awry, Galua Crosby was raped -- by Pabst -- and then shot, three times in the head, by Chabot. But when he originally testified against Chabot in 1986, Pabst neglected to mention that he'd raped Crosby and that he'd made a back-door deal with lead prosecutor Janice Warder ensuring he'd serve almost no time at all in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge and was given credit for time served.

But after DNA technology allowed the DA's office, under Craig Watkins, to finally pin the rape on Pabst, Watkins told me they found the man in Ohio sitting in a bar. "He knew we were coming." Finally, the facts were out in the open.

Watkins said a guilty plea was preferable to risking a new trial, especially since so much time has passed since the crime was committed.

Crosby's family was in court today, including her son Eric Evans, who was 8 years old when his mother was murdered. "It's a relief" that there's finally "an end to it," he said. Campbell made a victim's impact statement in open court, telling Chabot he "took the life of someone's daughter, took the life of someone's mother."

"Today does not bring closure," she said, "today brings an end to these proceedings." She went on: "I hope that one day you will get on your knees in a church and ask God for forgiveness."

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