Craft returned to jail on new charge

by David Rupkalvis
(Posted Today 02:53 pm)

Jeremiah Justin Craft’s time as a free man was short-lived.
The Graham man who is accused of murdering and sexually assaulting 16-year-old Bridgett Herard was returned to jail Thursday on new charges related to the teen’s death.
The Texas Department of Public Safety filed a charge of improperly disposing of a corpse against Craft, and the 31-year-old Graham man was arrested without incident Thursday afternoon. DPS officers and the 90th Judicial District Attorney’s investigator worked together to prepare the charge.
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Jim Ross arraigned Craft on Friday and set bond at $75,000.
Young County Sheriff Bryan Walls confirmed Craft was back in the Young County Jail but said his department had nothing to do with the new charges.
District Attorney Brenda Gray said talking about any specifics of the case would be inappropriate.
“Ethical rules prevent me from commenting on a pending case,” Gray said. “ Preserving the right of any defendant to a fair trial necessarily includes some curtailment of the information that may be disseminated about either the defendant or other matters occurring prior to the actual trial of a case. A criminal case, regardless of its nature, should be tried in the courtroom and not in the media. It is my primary duty to see that justice is done. I intend to do just that.”
Defense attorney Chuck Smith said he would be appealing the new charge and bond.
“At first glance, I think this is just a charge they brought up to put him back in jail,” Smith said. “I think we’ll be filing another writ of habeas corpus to get another PR bond.”
Defense co-counsel Jeff McKnight agreed, saying case law at the Second Court of Appeals gives Craft a strong case when a writ is filed.
“I believe the charges that are currently pending are as a result of the fact that he got out,” McKnight said. “It’s not new charges. They all stem from the original incident. These charges could have been brought a year ago. I believe there’s case law and prior decisions from the court of appeals to warrant a PR bond.”
McKnight said the defense team would file an appeal with District Judge Stephen Crawford and move to the appeals court if necessary.
Craft’s return to jail marked the latest twist in a case that began when Herard went missing on Christmas Eve in 2008.
When her family reported her missing a few days later, the Young County Sheriff’s Office began a lengthy search for the teen.
In the middle of January, volunteer searchers from Search One Rescue in Fort Worth found the body of Herard using cadaver dogs. Herard’s body was found behind a home just outside Graham where she was last seen, allegedly with Craft.
A few weeks later, Craft was charged with the teen’s murder and ordered held on a $1 million bond.
A Young County Grand Jury indicted Craft on charges of murder and sexual assault on May 11.
Craft’s defense attorney Chuck Smith appealed the bond set on his client, saying the state had not met a Texas Constitution requirement that the state be ready for trial within 90 days of an arrest if the suspect is incarcerated.
Crawford ruled against Smith’s appeal, and Smith took the appeal to the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. The appeals court initially ruled against Smith before coming back two months later and reversing its decision.
Gray then appealed the ruling to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals which decided Feb. 19 that Craft must be set free.
Crawford did as he was ordered Monday, releasing the Graham man on personal recognizance bond.
But Craft’s freedom lasted only four days before the state filed new charges, and Craft was arrested on a warrant with the new charge.

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