4:30 p.m. update: Travis County officials on Wednesday laid out some of the evidence that led them to file charges against a 24-year-old man characterized as somewhat of a transient with a lengthy criminal record that is now accused of killing Austin defense attorney James Short.
Travis County investigators described the relationship between Short and Justin Nickolas Twyne, the man suspected of killing the attorney, as acquaintances. But they were close enough that Short took Twyne on a shopping trip to a South Austin Wal-Mart the day before Short was found killed, Cpt. Craig Smith said during a media briefing Wednesday.
Smith said many aspects of the crime remain under investigation, including the motive.
However, Smith said investigators have established several links putting Twyne at the scene of Short’s killing last week in southwestern Travis County. The evidence includes Twyne’s fingerprints and some of his personal property, both of which were found at the Short’s home, Smith said.
Travis County sheriff’s detectives investigate the suspicious death of an Austin defense lawyer at his house in southwestern Travis County on Friday. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Some of Short’s belongings, including credit cards, were also found in the New Orleans hotel room where Twyne was arrested Friday, according to an arrest affidavit.
Short’s tan Chevrolet Suburban, which was missing from Short’s home when his body was found, has not been located yet. Smith asked for anyone who sees the vehicle to call authorities.
Twyne’s criminal history includes an active warrant for his arrest in Georgia on a charge of escape, which Smith said was for walking away from a work-release program.
The murder charge will take precedence, and Georgia officials have agreed to allow Twyne’s extradition to Travis County to move forward.
“Everyone agreed our charge is a much more serious crime and extradition to Travis county was the most appropriate thing to do,” Smith said. “We’re going to do it as quickly as possible.”
Smith said authorities received numerous tips after they posted surveillance footage of Twyne and identified him then as a “person of interest.” On Wednesday, Smith revealed that the footage was taken from the Wal-Mart shopping trip and that Twyne was with Short at the time the footage was taken.
Jim Short’s sister, Evelyn Proctor, told the American-Statesman on Wednesday that she talked to her younger brother daily — sometimes several times a day.
Last week, she said he went to her home and told her he was about to have repairs done on his motor home. When she didn’t hear from him again Friday morning, she drove to his home, where his body was discovered.
“This isn’t supposed to happen,” she said. “Nobody deserves this. He would have given you anything you wanted.”
Proctor described her brother as “a wonderful brother,” who enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. She said he also loved his legal career — particularly serving as a court-appointed lawyer for indigent clients.
He also helped her regularly perform chores at her house, or do home repairs.
In recent years, she said the two traveled coast-to-coast in his RV to see family in places such as Wisconsin and North Carolina. Last year, they went to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
1:15 p.m. update: Travis County Sheriff investigators have charged a 24-year-old man in the death of James Short, an Austin defense attorney found dead at his home last week.
Justin Nickolas Twyne, 24, is charged with murder. Twyne and Short had recently exchanged text messages which show that Short gave Twyne his southwestern Travis County address so they could meet at his house, his arrest affidavit says.
The affidavit said Short was stabbed to death and that apparently Short had taken Twyne shopping at a nearby Wal-Mart the day before Short’s body was found.
When detectives arrived at Short’s house, they found a bloody knife on his bed, the affidavit says. There was also a backpack in the house, and they found Twyne’s identification inside.
Analysis later showed a bloody fingerprint matched Twyne’s fingerprint, the affidavit says.
The U.S. Marshals Task Force tracked down Twyne on Friday and arrested him on an unrelated warrant. Twyne declined to speak with a Travis County sheriff’s detective, the affidavit says.
Earlier: Authorities have captured a person of interest in the death of an Austin defense attorney last week, sources say.
The man was detained in New Orleans.
He has not yet been identified or formally charged.
Sheriff’s investigators released photos Saturday of a man they call a person of interest in the death of Austin defense attorney James Short, whose body was found at his home in southwestern Travis County on Friday.
Investigators have said they believe Short, 74, was targeted, and that the person of interest might be driving a tan 1999 Chevrolet Suburban with the Texas license plate DRW-3438.
Deputies got a call at 11:45 a.m. Friday from someone who asked them to check on Short’s home in the 8000 block of Rockwood Circle, off U.S. 290, said Kristen Dark, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Deputies say Short’s death is suspicious, and that evidence at the scene leads them to believe that he didn’t die of natural causes, but they have released few other details about the case.
According to his page on the Texas Bar Association website, Short earned his law degree in 1984 from Texas Southern University and has been licensed to practice law in the state since 1988.