Becky Holland/Piney Woods News
Demetria McFarland talks about her brother, his murder, becoming a voice for others who have lost their lives like her brother and shares about Marshall Against Violence.
By Becky Holland
MARSHALL – As Demetria McFarland sits in a booth at McDonald’s on Victory Drive, her thoughts are on the upcoming trial date of the man who was a suspect in the June 4, 2004, murder of her brother, Anthony ‘Boogie’ Thomas. She thinks of frustration she felt for 10 years while waiting for the Marshall Police Department to finally close her brother’s case. They got an indictment in 2014.
Nearly two years after the indictment – a month past the 12th anniversary of her brother’s death, a trial has been scheduled.
Jerold Lynn Gaut was indicted by the Harrison County Grand Jury in December 2014, nearly 10 years after the murder happened. Gaut was already serving a 25-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system after being charged with aggravated sexual assault from a December 13, 2004, incident.
McFarland just wants to see true justice done.
Born and raised in Marshall, McFarland, 46, is a wife, mother of one and works at Sam Houston Middle School. She is one of 16 children. Her brother, Anthony “Boogie” Thomas was the baby of the family.
His death on June 4, 2004, even though it was 12 years ago, still takes McFarland to ‘a place’ that causes her voice to shake, her eyes to water and heart to pound. Maybe not as much as it did the first few years, but it still affects her.
Though there was activity around her in the dining area of the McDonald’s, as McFarland told the story of her brother’s death, it seemed as if there was no one else around.
McFarland remembers that day like it was a few hours past. “My sister called me, around 9:30 – 10 ish. She said, ‘Boogie is dead.’ I remember feeling like I was about to pass out – I couldn’t believe her, didn’t want to believe her. She told me that he was laying there at the front door, and he had been shot and someone had killed him.”
“I lost it,” she said. McFarland doesn’t remember much about the drive from her home close to Elysian Fields to the scene. “I drove probably about 110 miles per hour. I didn’t care if anyone stopped me. I just had to get there. I made in less than 10 minutes.”
McFarland said that she broke the police tape, and was almost to the step. She saw her brother’s body. “I remember he had on a pair of socks, and some black basketball shorts. I was about to go to him, when I saw the police coming toward me, saying, ‘No, no,’ and my brother, Buster, was reaching for me from behind and pulling me away. I was fighting him and wanting to get to my baby brother.”
She paused. “I just kept asking, ‘what is going on?’” No one could tell her.
McFarland said instantly she started going through a plethora of emotions. “I was angry. I kept asking God why. Why would he take Boogie? My dad had been killed on Christmas morning 1979. I was just nine years old. My mom died in 1996.”
She remembers being angry and frustrated. McFarland followed the hearse from the funeral home as they picked up her brother’s body. “I sat there and watched them roll him in. I was so upset and I just was thinking all sorts of things. When things like this happen, you would go to your mom or your dad, and I had no one to go too,” she said.
“It was then and there that I begged God for help,” McFarland said.
When she drove home that night, McFarland was in a state of confusion and tears were just coming down. “I am not even sure how I got home.”
Thinking about her brother, McFarland said, “Anthony David ‘Boogie’ Thomas was a gentle giant. He was six feet and three inches tall, and weight 200-225 pounds. He used to work out all the time and would run up and down U.S. 80. He had a friend who was paralyzed from the waist down, and Boogie would go to the school and hit tennis balls with his friend.”
“Boogie loved kids,” she smiled. “Boogie probably, because of his physical stature, intimidated people. He was a four-year starter for the Marshall Mavericks. He very seldom saw down time. The coaches loved him, and his teammates loved him.”
McFarland said, “At his funeral, one of Boogie’s coaches told a story about him that just stuck with me. He said that there as a girl, who was pretty small stature, and so that she wasn’t bounced around in the halls during class change, Boogie would carry her through the hall.”
She smiled, “That was Boogie.” Boogie was 24 when he died.
At her brother’s funeral, McFarland said, “I leaned over the casket, and I told Boogie I would find who killed him.”
As per that, McFarland said “We called the police on June 5, and asked them what information they had. We were told the detectives weren’t there.” McFarland wanted answers to her questions, but she didn’t feel like the officers and detectives were getting it done.
Through the grief, McFarland said, “We told the police if they were not going to go ask questions, we were.”
“I kept saying, that’s my brother,” she said. “I stayed persistent during the years. We called, we dropped by or we visited every week, then as time passed, it was every other week, and once a month. I started calling the area media and telling the story.”
McFarland said, “That got their attention.”
“The police wanted to know what my motives were. I just wanted to make sure that they did their jobs,” McFarland said. She is supportive of the Marshall Police Department. “As long they are doing right, I am behind them.”
When she found out that there had been an indictment – nearly 10 years after the murder – McFarland said she was so excited. “I even had a wreck that day. I was in a spot at Burger King.”
“It was a ‘Thank you God moment,” she said.
Through Boogie’s death and the long investigation, McFarland felt a calling about starting Marshall Against Violence. “I had been prayerful of this for a while. I didn’t want Boogie to just be a picture on a t-shirt.” In 2008, after another Marshallite had been murdered, McFarland knew that there was a purpose for Marshall Against Violence. “We were to be the voice for the voiceless. There are so many unsolved murder cases here.”
McFarland has made it her mission to make sure that her brother’s case was not forgotten, or that the other cases weren’t either. “If I make some people mad because of my persistence, than that is what is going to happen, as long as something good results of. I am not going to tolerate the good ole’ boy network. As long as they are doing right, we will support them regardless.”
She said, “I told the Marshall Police Chief that just because he got an indictment for my case, I was not going to shut up about the others.”
“We are the voice for the voiceless,” McFarland said.
“Our motto is we are in it to end it together. We are out there gathering information and taking what we learn to the proper authorities,” she said. “There are too many families in Marshall who have lost loved ones due to murder … too many mothers, siblings and friends still mourning the lives that were lost. These cases need to be solved.”
McFarland said, “I will not shut up. Until God takes my voice away, I am still going to keep fighting for them and for the closure they need.”
Marshall Against Violence sponsors the “Boogie Back-to-School Give-A-Way.” It is an event they have done for 10 years, and usually happens in August the week before school starts. “We usually do it in the park by Bel Aire Apartments. We give them supplies,” she said. “Boogie loved the kids.”
Thinking of her brother again, McFarland said, “I still cry, sometimes uncontrollably about Boogie. I miss him. I miss his smile. During the holidays, when all the family was together, eating, I remember, Boogie would eat. He would eat off of platters, not plates.”
For anyone who would like to help with the Marshall Against Violence “Boogie Back-to-School Give-A-Way,” call 903-930-8783 or email McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org.