Daniel Mark Politte was sentenced to 85 years in prison on Nov. 10, after a jury convicted him of murder just days earlier.
The 32-year-old Missouri City man was charged with shooting and killing his wife, Stephanie Kirkpatrick Politte, in their Missouri City home in 2014.
According to Chief Family Violence Prosecutor Amanda Bolin, Daniel Politte called 911 on March 11, 2014, at 11:26 p.m. to tell dispatchers that his wife was vomiting blood. The call lasted almost 15 minutes before police and paramedics arrived and not once did Politte mention that his wife had been shot in the back of the head.
Paramedics discovered a gunshot wound to the back of Stephanie Politte’s head and pronounced her dead on the scene. Lying a few feet away from her body was a Ruger SP101 revolver with only one spent shell casing. The location of that casing in the gun’s cylinder indicated that either the trigger had been pulled four additional times after Stephanie was shot, or someone had opened the cylinder and manually manipulated the location of the spent casing.
The medical examiner later determined that Stephanie had died as a result of the single gunshot wound to the head and that the bullet had traveled from back to front, right to left and downward. The medical examiner testified that the revolver muzzle had to have been at least 12-15 inches away from Stephanie’s head at the time of the shooting due to the lack of soot or stippling surrounding the wound.
In addition, the medical examiner testified that Stephanie’s left cheek had to have been pressed up against or in contact with some surface, which could have been a pillow. Investigators searched the contents of both Stephanie and Daniel’s cell phones and discovered a photograph taken on Stephanie’s cell phone of her asleep with her left cheek in contact with a pillow at approximately 11:04 p.m.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Investigator Celestina Rossi, an expert in crime scene reconstruction and bloodstain pattern analysis, examined the crime scene photos and evidence from the case. Rossi told the jury that, in her expert opinion, Stephanie Politte was shot in her bed while lying down with her left cheek against the pillow, facing the opposite direction of where the shot came from, possibly while sleeping. With prosecutors Amanda Bolin, Mark Hanna and Lauren Valenti, Rossi conducted a chilling and convincing courtroom reenactment of how the shooting took place.
Witnesses testified to the defendant’s multiple inconsistent versions of the night’s events, including a recorded phone call made to Stephanie Politte’s father, Neil Kirkpatrick – a captain and reserve deputy with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
The defense argued throughout trial that Stephanie Politte had been attempting to kill herself and that the shooting was accidental as the defendant attempted to disarm her. After a trial lasting over two weeks, the jury rejected that argument and convicted Daniel Politte in just an hour and a half.
Family members and friends testified during punishment about the impact the loss of Stephanie Politte has had. Stephanie was a 29-year-old special education teacher at The Monarch School in Houston where she taught a small group of young boys with severe autism. In a particularly emotional piece, testimony from the mother of one of Stephanie’s students told the jurors of the absolute heartbreak and difficulty suffered by her son and other students in the days and months following Stephanie’s murder.
In an interesting turn, it was revealed that the defendant had a new girlfriend who he claimed he met while the murder charges were pending. But the state presented evidence that Daniel Politte exchanged messages with this woman on the night of the murder and had an album of her photos saved to his cell phone under a sexually expletive name. Again, in less than two hours, the jury returned a verdict sentencing the defendant to 85 years in prison.
“We weren’t saying the defendant was guilty because he was lying; he was lying because he was guilty,” Bolin argued at trial. “But the evidence doesn’t lie and it doesn’t forget. And with an extremely attentive jury in this case, justice was swiftly delivered in both phases of trial.”
Politte was tried in the 400th District Court before Presiding Judge Maggie Jaramillo. Murder is a first-degree felony punishable by 5-99 years, or life, in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Under Texas law, Politte must serve half of his sentence before he can be considered for parole.
Assistant district attorneys Bolin and Hanna prosecuted the case. Attorneys Stephen Doggett and Katherine Scardino represented the defendant.