CASS COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – A man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday in Cass County for two cold case murders from 2018.
Kevin Shepard, of Atlanta, Texas was convicted for the capital murders of Donnie Combs and Cynthia Arnold. He was sentenced by Fifth District Judge Bill Miller without the possibility of parole.
There was a three-day trial where the jury heard from the family, deputies from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI’s Evidence Recovery Team, forensic specialists and someone who witnessed the murders.
According to evidence, the last time family members heard from Combs or Arnold was on Sept. 25, 2018. A missing person’s report was then filed with the sheriff’s office.
On Sept. 30, 2018, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office investigator said she got a call about a burned truck on a county road in Marion County. Officials later said this was Arnold’s truck.
Texas Ranger Josh Mason, who was also investigating the case, said Shepard was a name of interest.
Authorities investigated, but the case eventually went cold. More information came to light in July of 2019 after a witness spoke out.
The witness testified on Tuesday. She said she met Shepard through a friend in Sept. 2018, and she was not from East Texas. Shepard took her to a trailer with no electricity or running water and they smoked meth, said the DA.
They possibly stayed there for a week. The witness met Combs and Arnold on two occasions at the trailer.
The second time they met, Combs and Shepard were shooting guns outside. The witness and Arnold were inside the trailer.
Arnold then got tired and wanted to lay down in her truck. The witness sat outside in a chair near the truck.
Shepard later said “watch this” and shot Arnold in the head, said the witness. He also said “I got something for you too” and shot Combs too, wrote the DA.
Combs got up and ran and Shepard went after him. The witness heard gunshots and it sounded like someone got beat with a gun.
Shepard later came back without Combs and said “he wouldn’t go down,” according to the DA.
The witness also said Shepard left and returned with a rolled up carpet, and she could see boots coming out from the end. Shepard moved the man into a large fire pit, said the DA.
Shepard also took Arnold out of the truck, into a wheelbarrow and finally put the body in the pit, said the witness. He added tires and trash into the pit and burned the bodies, wrote the DA.
The witness said Shepard later asked her to get in the pit with him to check that there were no bones or teeth, but she told him no. She added that he forced her to follow him in his car to a county road, where he lit Arnold’s car on fire.
A former member of the FBI Evidence Recovery Team said that in 2020 the DA’s office asked them to dig in the fire pit area. The FBI forensic lab found four human bones and three that were consistent with human bones, and they had thermal damage.
Special prosecutors Geoff Barr and Aurora Perez with the Texas Attorney General’s Office were on the case. Texarkana attorney Butch Dunbar represented Shepard.
“We are extremely grateful to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Department of Public Safety for their assistance in this investigation, and to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for their assistance in the prosecution,” said the DA. “But what I am especially proud of is the strength and courage of our eyewitness who finally came forward and was able to give the Arnold and Combs families the closure they deserved. Kevin Shepard committed a heinous crime in our county, and I am grateful that the jury could see the truth and did not reward him for attempting to destroy the evidence.”