Brazos County jurors took less than 20 minutes to convict a Tennessee Colony man of capital murder in the beating death of a woman and shooting death of her father at an Anderson County campground two years ago.
The punishment phase of the trial gets underway today for William Mitchell Hudson, 35, who was found guilty of ending the lives of Hannah Johnson, 40, and Carl Johnson, who was two weeks shy of turning 77. Hudson also was indicted in the deaths of Thomas Kamp, 45; Nathan Kamp, 23; Austin Kamp, 21; and Kade Johnson, 6, all of whom were killed shortly before Kade's mother and grandfather.
Jurors heard four days of testimony about the night of Nov. 14, 2015, during which six members of the Kamp and Johnson families were killed in the rural East Texas community. The night's lone survivor, Cynthia Johnson -- Carl's wife and Hannah's mother -- testified Monday that she hid on that overcast, rainy night so she could survive and help hold her family's killer accountable for what he had done.
Hudson faces life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection. The case was moved to Brazos County because of pre-trial publicity in Anderson County, which is more than 100 miles northeast of Bryan.
The families gathered on land Thomas Kamp had recently purchased from a distant relative of Hudson's. The camping trip was to celebrate the upcoming 24th birthday of Kamp's son, Nathan.
Testifying Friday, Bonnie Woolverton said the Hudson family had lived on a sprawling acreage since the 1800s. Chip Satterwhite, a friend of Mac Hudson -- the defendant's father, who died in December 2014 -- testified Friday that William Hudson had wanted to buy the land himself. He lived nearby, and his mother lived next door to the property bought by Kamp.
In her closing argument Tuesday morning, Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell said Hudson had been "all talk and no show" in regard to his desire to buy the land. She then retold the events of that bloody November night.
Lone survivor relives horror
Cynthia and Carl Johnson arrived at the Tennessee Colony campground first, using bolt cutters to cut a lock on a gate by the entrance. The retired couple's trailer broke down while driving through the property, and the pair made a ruckus while they tried to fix their vehicle. Hearing the commotion, William Hudson drove out from his mother's home -- between a quarter and a half-mile away -- to investigate. Hudson pulled their RV out of the mucky ground and refused payment, asking instead to share a beer with the family.
As Hudson drank with the families, Cynthia Johnson said she noticed he bragged about himself and became annoyed when he learned the couple had cut the lock to gain entry onto the land, saying they had been "disrespectful" to its previous owners, his family.
Thomas Kamp arrived between 7:30 and 8 p.m. By that time, night had fallen and the fire was dying, so Hudson, Thomas, Austin and Nathan Kamp and Kade Johnson went into the woods on Thomas Kamp's ATV to get more firewood.
Hannah, Carl and Cynthia Johnson stayed behind to cook dinner -- hamburgers and beans. They didn't think anything of the two rounds of gunfire they heard coming from the woods.
"They dismiss it," Mitchell said in her closing argument. "It's East Texas, it's the woods ... people shoot guns."
Well over an hour later in Cynthia Johnson's estimation, Hudson returned on the ATV alone. Noting that it was dark, Mitchell said the Johnsons couldn't see the "pooled, thick, excessive blood" dripping from the driver's side of the ATV.
Hannah Johnson ran over to Thomas Kamp's truck, and in her new position relative to the vehicle Hudson was sitting in, Mitchell said, she could see something on the back of the ATV. She called "Daddy!" twice to her father, who was talking to Hudson, after which Hudson stood and fired two shotgun blasts. The first didn't hit anyone, but the second hit Carl Johnson in the hip. He limped toward the trailer where Hannah was hiding, but he collapsed on the stairs.
As her husband and daughter were dying, Mitchell said, Cynthia Johnson hid "for her life."
"Someone has to tell what happened," Mitchell said of the night that "turned into the stuff that nightmares are made of."
"It's very unusual in a case like this to have an eyewitness, to have a survivor," Mitchell told the jurors.
"What you need to tell William Mitchell Hudson is, 'We know you did it -- that you massacred these people,'" she said before turning to look and point straight at Hudson. "He has blood on his hands."
Hudson's attorneys, Jeff Herrington and Stephen Evans, did not make an opening statement or call any witnesses, and Herrington gave a short closing argument thanking the jurors for their time and told them that "pleading not guilty doesn't mean a denial of fact or allegations." He also requested that each juror ask themselves why the events of that night happened.
Hudson animatedly yawned on his way out of the courtroom after the jury left the room to start deliberations. Surviving members of the victims' families cried during the 17 or 18 minutes jurors spent behind closed doors.
A mother's grief
Attorneys presented their opening statements and prosecutors called two witnesses in the trial's punishment phase, which began Tuesday morning after Hudson was found guilty. Special Prosecutor Lisa Tanner, who is with the Texas Attorney General's Office and helped Anderson County with its case, said Hudson would deserve the death penalty even if he were a "choir boy" -- which, she said, he is not.
Tanner said Hudson came from a "good and decent family" with means, and that he had squandered all his life's opportunities "all by himself."
Tanner said Hudson did not have any diagnosed mental illnesses -- though she did acknowledge he suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety -- and that his problems derived from two sources: his personality and his drug and alcohol abuse.
Whatever mitigating factors led to Hudson killing the six members of the Johnson and Kamp families, Tanner told jurors, it wasn't enough to "justify a life sentence."
Evans, one of Hudson's attorneys, told the jury the trial's punishment phase would give them the "entire fabric" of Hudson's life and provide context to his crimes.
Prosecutors' first witness on Tuesday was Carina Lujambio, the ex-wife of Thomas Kamp and mother of Nathan and Austin Kamp. Despite living in Carlsbad, California, Lujambio said she has flown into Anderson and Brazos counties for every pre-trial hearing leading up to Hudson's trial. She also has sat in the courtroom each day since the trial began Nov. 1.
At one pre-trial hearing in October 2016, Lujambio said, Hudson repeatedly turned around to face her and smiled, "like he was gloating." Lujambio said she stood up and faced Hudson to show him she wasn't afraid of him.
Hudson blames victims
Prosecutors also recalled Anesia Thompson, an investigator for the Anderson County District Attorney's Office who testified earlier in the trial, and played recordings of phone calls Hudson made while he was in jail and awaiting trial. In one call, Hudson can be heard talking about the pre-trial incident with Lujambio.
"I don't know who that is," Hudson said on the recorded call, speaking about Lujambio.
"It ain't my fault I'm a grown-[expletive] man and I can handle more than one man at once," Hudson went on in the recording. "That [expletive] is funny as hell to me."
In another recording, Hudson mentioned that Lujambio had posted on Facebook that she wasn't afraid of him.
"I bet you're scared of me now," he said on the jail phone call.
Talking to an ex-girlfriend in another recording, Hudson said "they're at fault," referencing the Kamp and Johnson families.
"They're the ones that got me drunk," he said. "They're responsible; that's the way that happens." Hudson also alleged they gave him drugs. He said he had a gun pulled on him and was shot at.
The punishment phase of the trial continues this morning at the Brazos County Courthouse, 300 E. 26th St., in Bryan.