Byron Demonta Coleman was sentenced to life in prison on Aug. 22 after a Fort Bend County jury convicted him of capital murder.
The 19 year-old Houston man was charged with shooting a man to death during a robbery in December 2016. Because Coleman was 17 at the time of the offense, he could not receive the death penalty and received an automatic life sentence with the possibility of parole. Parole in this case is not available until 40 years have been served on the life sentence.
According to lead prosecutor Susan Sweeney; Coleman, 18-year-old Jeremiah Sanders, and a juvenile cousin of Coleman, lured Nerbert Frelow III to a neighborhood park in southwest Houston on Dec. 24, 2016, by offering to buy a $70 vape pen that Frelow was selling. When Frelow and a friend arrived at the park to make the sale, Coleman and his accomplices tried to talk Frelow into giving them a ride to get change.
When Frelow refused, Sanders pointed a gun at Frelow and his passenger in an attempt to rob them. Frelow pushed the gun away multiple times, so Coleman grabbed the gun from Sanders. Frelow threw the vape pen at Coleman, who then shot Frelow multiple times before running back to his nearby home.
Frelow died on the scene before paramedics arrived. Coleman tried to dispose of the murder weapon by pouring acid on it and throwing it in the bayou behind his home. After an accomplice pointed them to the bayou, the Houston Police Department Tactical Operations Unit/Dive Team recovered the semi-automatic handgun from the bayou about a month after the murder.
“When he was gunned down, Mr. Frelow was just 24 years old and was unarmed,” said Sweeney. “He was trying to make some extra money during the holidays by selling something through a mobile phone app.”
“While it has become commonplace for people to meet up with strangers for this kind of transaction,” continued Sweeney, “please make sure you do it in a safe, public place.”
Coleman and Sanders first met as teammates on their high school football team. Sanders pleaded guilty to murder and will be sentenced in the 268th District Court after a sentencing hearing on Oct. 15.
Coleman was tried in the 268th District Court before Presiding Judge Brady G. Elliott. Assistant district attorneys Sweeney and Mark Hanna prosecuted the case.