Judge takes 20 minutes to convict man in 8-year-old's 'horrific' beating death from 2020

ByCourtney Fischer KTRK logo
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Judge finds man guilty of capital murder in 8-year-old's beating
Brian Coulter is guilty of beating 8-year-old Kendrick Lee to death and leaving his body to decompose in an apartment where the boy's brothers lived.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Years after a young boy's skeletal remains were found in a Texas apartment where his brothers were living alone, the man accused of beating the child to death is headed to prison for the crime.

Lawyers delivered their closing arguments in the case of Brian Coulter, 34, who is accused of beating Kendrick Lee to death in Harris County. Coulter pleaded not guilty, but opted for a bench trial, without a jury present.

After deliberating for about 20 minutes, Judge Kelli Johnson of the 178th Criminal District Court found Coulter guilty of capital murder. Coulter will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole.

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The judge addressed Coulter, calling the case "the most horrific set of facts" she's ever heard.

"Sir, those children have haunted me this last week," Judge Johnson said to an impassive Coulter. "I hope, sir, when you're in prison, those same boys that have haunted my mind, haunt yours."

The three surviving brothers of the 8-year-old boy, whose decomposing body was found in October 2021, told their story in court Thursday of what life was like living with their mother's alleged abusive boyfriend.

In the capital murder trail for Brian Coulter, 8-year-old Kendrick Lee's surviving brothers testified on Thursday.

One by one, the siblings, now ages 17, 12, and 9, took the stand on day three of trial, testifying for hours about how Coulter kicked, hit, and punched Kendrick for months leading up to his death. The two younger brothers said Coulter abused them as well.

The 9-year-old, who was 7 at the time of Kendrick's death, told Judge Kelli Johnson he was in the room when Coulter killed Kendrick.

"I saw (Coulter) beat (Kendrick) up," the now-9-year-old said. "(Coulter) used his fists."

He explained that Coulter used the children's toys to beat Kendrick, specifically a Spider-Man figurine and model jet. The 9-year-old said Kendrick "stopped moving," and then Coulter "put the blue blanket on top (of him)."

The 12- and 9-year-old brothers described how they were often locked in a bedroom at the family's Alief-area apartment. Prosecutors showed photos of the bedroom door with an exterior deadbolt lock replacing the knob. The children told Judge Johnson when they weren't allowed to come out, they were forced to go to the bathroom in the bedroom.

READ MORE | Exclusive video shows arrests of TX mom, boyfriend accused of killing child, abandoning boys

Deputies discovered Kendrick's body was just a skeleton when the Harris County Sheriff's Office found it under a blue blanket on Oct. 24, 2021.

The eldest brother called 911. He was 15 years old at the time. The call was played in court.

"My brother is dead, and he's been dead for a while," the teen can be heard saying. He explains to the dispatcher that his mom and her boyfriend have moved out. "It's just me and my two other brothers here."

The teen, now 17, was the only one of the three brothers to testify in the same room as Coulter but did not look at the man he once thought of as a "father figure."

The two younger brothers testified via video from another room after a Texas Children's doctor, psychologist, counselor, and their adoptive mother testified that being in the same room as Coulter could resurrect the trauma they've suffered, creating a significant setback.

Our Houston sister station, ABC13, is not identifying any of the boys, per strict orders from the court, who were all minors when the alleged abuse occurred.

Gloria Williams, the children's mother, is also charged in connection with her son's death. She's expected to stand trial in the coming months for injury to a child and tampering with a corpse. Though, Williams is not charged with murder.

SEE ALSO | Houston mother lived in apartment with dead son's remains for months

Much of Wednesday's time in court was spent looking at text messages the state said were shared between Coulter and Williams.

Williams is accused of telling Coulter that Kendrick had feces on him and wasn't moving. She went on to say her son "looked dead," asking Coulter to clean him up.

Other texts show Coulter allegedly told Williams that "it was in God's hands" and "not to worry."

These messages were sent a year before Kendrick Lee was found dead by authorities.

The trial began Tuesday with testimony from multiple state witnesses, including an investigator.

Investigators with the Harris County Sheriff's Office described the scene they found inside the apartment as horrific, with one testifying it was one of the worst scenes he's ever worked. Prosecutors played body camera footage Tuesday, showing two shocked deputies as they pulled back a blue blanket, exposing Kendrick's skeleton on a bedroom floor.

More crime scene photos taken that day showed the then-10-year-old brother with a swollen jaw. Investigators said the boy was beaten so severely he needed surgery.

The boys lived in the apartment without electricity and beds to sleep on, with roaches everywhere and, as one investigator recalled, a distinct smell.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Coulter was arrested in Luling, Texas, for unlawful possession of a weapon. Investigators believe he had killed Kendrick days before that arrest.

Months later, in March 2021, court records show Coulter and Williams moved out of the apartments on Green Crest Drive and abandoned the children.

According to the boys, Williams and Coulter would go back every few weeks to drop off some food, and Coulter would beat the younger two during those trips.

READ MORE | Brothers describe 8-year-old boy's beating death in their family home in new court details

By around September or October of that year, the electricity was cut off to the apartment.

On Oct. 26, 2021, two days after deputies found Kendrick Lee's remains, Coulter and Williams were arrested outside the Robinson-Westchase Library on Wilcrest, where they were captured on surveillance video.

Sources said they were at the library searching for news articles about the case. By this time, Williams' sons were in CPS custody.

The medical examiner ruled Kendrick died from "homicidal violence."

The state rested its case on Thursday. Coulter's attorneys opted not to present a defense, and rested their case Monday.

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