TYLER — The punishment phase of the James Calvert murder trial has started in state district court in Tyler. Jurors last Thursday came back with a guilty verdict in the nearly three year old case. Calvert was convicted in the shooting death of his wife. Since he was found guilty of capital murder, he could get life in prison or the death penalty.
Pre-trial hearings began in November 2012. In Calvert’s arrest affidavit, Officer Kenneth Gardner gave his sworn account of the events that unfolded on Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Gardner says he was contacted by Sergeant Billy Yates to respond to a reported shooting at 3315 Bain in Tyler. When he arrived, he noticed a door leading to the carport had been forced open. Gardner recalled a woman was lying in the doorway with half of her body inside the residence and half in the carport. There were also several shell casings from a firearm on the floor near the body. The woman, who was later identified as Jelena Calvert Sriraman, who died from apparent gunshot wounds, and there was blood around her head.
Gardner said he then spoke to two witnesses who heard the gunshots and saw the suspect, later identified as Calvert, leave in a vehicle. The first person told authorities she saw a white man leave the carport, child in his arms, and leave in a light blue car. The second witness reported a similar story. During followup investigations, officers learned a woman had visited with Sriraman minutes before she was shot after receiving a call from her ex-husband. The witness told police Calvert had another ex-wife and she was in the process of having him served with court papers. Calvert was reportedly upset with Sriraman because he believed that she was trying to help his other ex-wife and he thought she was trying to set him up to be served with the documents.
Sriraman had planned to pick up her daughter from nearby Andy Woods Elementary and leave the house before he came by to try and get the kids. After authorities dug up Calvert’s license plate number, they were able to pull a photo of his vehicle and confirm it was present at the crime scene. Police say when Calvert left the scene, he had kidnapped his then-four-year-old son, Lucas, and a nationwide Amber Alert was issued.
Around 11:30 p.m., the night of the alleged murder-kidnapping, Louisiana police spotted a car matching the description of the one Calvert was thought to be driving, but with different license plates, make an illegal turn on Interstate 20 in West Monroe. According to officials, Calvert tried to outrun police for a short time, but was captured when he drove down a dead end road into a driveway. When authorities caught up with Calvert, they say he had a gun in his lap and one in the back seat of the car with his son. Calvert reportedly did not cooperate with police at first and they were forced to break out the car windows before finally arresting him.
On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, Smith County 321st District Court Judge Carole Clark approved an agreement stating Calvert’s parental rights to his two children would be terminated and the kids would be taken out of foster care and placed in the care of Calvert’s cousin in Ohio.