By CHRISTIN COYNE
Nearly six years after the death of 51-year-old Arlin Terry Salter, prosecutors have dropped a murder charge against the neighbor who admitted to killing him.
Robert Paul O’Steen, now 62 and living in West Virginia, claimed he beat Salter to death in self-defense.
“At this time the state elects to close out the case based on the circumstances and the evidence available at this time,” a motion filed last week by the Parker County District Attorney’s Office states.
Because O’Steen raised the issue of self-defense, the state would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Salter was not killed in self-defense, something that would have been difficult without any witnesses to the incident, according to prosecutors.
“It’s just difficult when you believe something happened but may not be able to prove it,” Assistant District Attorney Nikki Rhodes said. “It’s a difficult decision to have to make.”
Rhodes said the district attorney’s office worked hard on the case and doesn’t want to give anyone the perception that prosecutors dropped the case just because it is a hard case.
If something changes or new evidence comes to light, the district attorney’s office could pursue a murder charge at a later time.
Salter’s body was reported found around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29, 2008, along Brazos Rock Road near his empty pickup near Millsap, according to news accounts at the time.
O’Steen told the Democrat in September 2008 that Salter used his pickup to block the tractor O’Steen was riding while performing road repairs, got out, pointed a rifle at O’Steen and told O’Steen he was going to kill him.
During a struggle for the weapon, the gun went off several times, according to O’Steen’s account.
At some point, O’Steen was reportedly shot in the hand, with the bullet entering his palm, traveling through his right arm and stopping near his elbow.
He said he knocked Salter down several times but Salter continued to get up and threaten to kill him.
O’Steen told the Democrat that he beat Salter about the head and shoulders with Salter’s rifle, breaking it, and then used the the butt of a pistol he retrieved from the tractor to beat Salter until he did not get up.
“I was in the fight of my life,” he said in 2008.
O’Steen then traveled to a hospital in Fort Worth, which contacted law enforcement.
Salter was pronounced dead at the scene due to blunt force trauma to the head.
Investigators told the Democrat that both weapons, including a .22-caliber revolver with a wooden shoulder stock, were shattered due to the bludgeoning.
The families had been feuding for years and O’Steen and a family member of Salter’s had had a violent encounter prior, according to accounts.
O’Steen has been free on $50,000 bond since September 2008, according to jail records.