By: Julia Deng
SIERRA BLANCA - A Hudspeth County jury found Terlingua man Tony Flint not guilty of all charges Tuesday night, following three and a half hours of deliberation, according to defense attorney Justin Low.
Low broke the news exclusively to NewsWest 9 shortly before 10 p.m.
Flint, a former river guide accused of beating La Kiva Bar & Restaurant owner Glenn Felts to death last February, was being tried for first-degree murder. Trial proceedings began last week and continued Tuesday morning with the defendant himself taking the stand.
Flint introduced himself to the court as a Missouri State University graduate and former college athlete with aspirations of playing for the Green Bay Packers. Career-ending shoulder injuries, he said, led him to pursue a future as a white water raft guide instead.
Flint's fascination with river exploration eventually led him to Terlingua, where he worked at Far Flung Outdoor Center for nearly five years.
"I fell in love with Terlingua," Flint told the court. "[It was] a quirky place with a lot of great folks."
One of the first people he befriended after settling down in West Texas was bar owner Glenn Felts. Flint said they saw each other "quite often" after his second winter in town and "became pretty close friends." He paused multiple times on the stand to wipe away tears.
However, Flint's account of what happened leading up to Felts' death on February 4, 2014 differed from what he initially told investigators the day his alleged victim's body was found.
In recorded interviews with Texas Ranger Jeff Vajdos, Flint stated he and Felts left La Kiva around midnight, when other people were still at the bar, and did not recall any type of argument or altercation; he testified Tuesday they were the last ones at the bar and engaged in a fight that left him "fearing for [his] life" after they left around 2 a.m. In addition, Flint initially told investigators he had bruised and scraped his face and knuckles after drunkenly "falling down on rocks" near the bar's entrance that night; in his sworn testimony Tuesday, he claimed they were a result of Felts' alleged attack outside the bar.
When grilled by lead prosecutor Rod Ponton about the inconsistent accounts, Flint maintained his statements were "all true" at the time he shared them, due to supposed alcohol-related memory changes. He told the court he was still drunk during his first interview with law enforcement and did not begin recalling details of his altercation with Felts until two weeks into his incarceration.
Flint claimed the two men launched into a heated argument about Felts' management of La Kiva the night before Felts was found dead in the parking lot of his bar.
The defendant testified that tensions rose earlier in the night after another friend, a La Kiva bartender at the time, shouted, "F*** you, I quit!" at Felts and stormed out. Judge Roy Ferguson instructed jurors to disregard that portion of Flint's testimony.
Flint said Felts struck him first and he attempted to remove himself from the situation, but admitted he ultimately retaliated with "three or four" blows. He also told the court he swung Felts against a nearby mesquite tree at least once, dragged his limp body along the ground - supposedly to bring him back to the bar - and fell on top of him with the full weight of his then-350 pound body.
"I didn't think I killed him," said Flint of the approximately 150-pound bar owner. "He was still alive when I laid him down in the parking lot."
He claimed Felts was still breathing when he drove home and he did not see blood at any point during the beating.
"You'll agree that your actions led to Glenn Felts' death?" asked Ponton.
"I don't know that 100 percent," replied Flint.
During closing arguments, prosecutors emphasized the extent of Felts' injuries - which included two deadly blows to the head - as well as inconsistencies in the defendant's version of events, while defense attorneys maintained Flint acted in self-defense and had no motive to kill the man described as his "close friend."