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Bigby v State

October 13, 2008 – Case report      


Bigby v. State, AP-75,589, (Tex. Crim. App. Oct. 8, 2008).



This case falls under the heading of take those threats seriously.  James E. Bigby killed three “friends of his” (plus the infant son of one of his friends) because he believed that the friends were conspiring with Frito-Lay to avoid paying him for a workers’ compensation claim.


In 1987, Mr. Bigby filed a workers’ compensation lawsuit against Frito-Lay. Mr. Bigby believed Frito-Lay and its insurance company were conspiring against him to avoid paying his claim. He also believed that the insurance company and others, including friends, were conspiring to kill him. Around 6:00 p.m. on the evening of December 23, 1987, Mr. Bigby went to the home of his long-time friend, Michael Trekell, who was there caring for Mr. Trekell’s infant son, Jayson. Mr. Bigby and Mr. Trekell watched television as Mr. Trekell began preparing steaks that Mr. Bigby had brought over. As Mr. Trekell sat at the kitchen table, Mr. Bigby shot him in the head. 


Mr. Bigby attempted to suffocate Jayson with cellophane, but, when that did not work quickly enough, he drowned the infant by forcing him face-down in a sink filled with water. Jayson’s mother, Grace Kehler, returned home from work in the early morning hours to discover the bodies of both Mr. Trekell and Jayson. Ms. Kehler told police she remembered Mr. Bigby once talking about killing a lot of people and going out in a blaze of glory. Ms. Kehler also testified that she knew Mr. Bigby had mental problems and that he had been hospitalized in a mental hospital more than once.


After leaving Mr. Trekell’s home, Mr. Bigby went to the home of his friend Wesley Crane at about 11:45 p.m. The two sat in the kitchen and talked. Around 1:15 a.m., Mr. Bigby told Wesley Crane he thought someone was following him and asked Mr. Crane to go on a drive with him to see who it was. During the drive, Mr. Bigby told Mr. Crane to pull over and then shot him in the head. Mr. Bigby left Mr. Crane on the road and drove Mr. Crane’s truck to the home of another friend, Frank Johnson, around 3:20 a.m. When Frank Johnson answered the door, Mr. Bigby shot him several times. Wesley Crane and Frank Johnson both died as a result of the gunshot wounds.


Police put out a broadcast for Wesley Crane’s truck, and an extensive search began for Mr. Bigby. He was found at a motel in Fort Worth on December 26, 1987, and a SWAT team and other officers surrounded the motel. Mr. Bigby eventually surrendered without incident and admitted to the murders. He stated that he killed his three friends because he thought they had conspired with Frito-Lay against him to undermine his workers’ compensation case.  He said that he did not know why he killed Jayson.  Mr. Bigby was convicted in March of 1991 of capital murder.


I will not go into the legal aspects of the case because they involve criminal law.   However, if you wish to read the case you may find it (hopefully) through the following link:,589.PDF


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