Texas man gets 40 years for stabbing firefighter

The man had a lengthy criminal history and mental health problems


Victoria Advocate

YORKTOWN, Texas — A DeWitt County jury took less than an hour Wednesday to find a man guilty of stabbing a volunteer firefighter.

Judge Skipper Koetter then sentenced Kirk Ross Engle to 40 years in prison.

Engle, 45, stabbed Brian Smolik the night of Aug. 19, 2014, as Smolik attempted to extinguish a fire Engle had started in the 400 block of West Sixth Street in Yorktown.

Engle, who took the stand to express his remorse, said Lexapro, a medication he was prescribed for a mental illness and required to take while on parole for another crime, caused him to act the way he did. He said he did not remember what happened.

The prosecution offered testimony to try to counter Engle's statement while the defense offered testimony to try to bolster it.

"His case worker said he met with Engle once a week from March to August and that he never complained about the medicines or the affects of the medicines," District Attorney Michael Sheppard said.

But a jailer recalled for jurors how Engle went into a fit of rage when she gave him Lexapro "slapping the wall for hours until the medication wore off," Defense Attorney Brent Dornburg said.

Engle has a lengthy criminal history, including being convicted for hauling a large amount of marijuana, driving while intoxicated and retaliation, Sheppard said.

"I am sympathetic to his mental health problems, and I feel badly for him, but he commits very serious crimes," Sheppard. "My interest is keeping the community safe. I think he's just become over time a very dangerous guy and people aren't safe when he's out."

Dornburg said the case highlights how the Legislature should pay more attention to mental health.

"We have people like Kirk Engle who are going to prison who should never be in a position to go to prison. I mean, it's almost like they are expected to recognize they have a problem and seek help, but people like Mr. Engle aren't capable of that," Dornburg said. "He's been in prison. He's been on parole. He told them he wanted to kill a police officer. He told them he was going to take over the world - to mental health professionals - and none of that seemed to throw up a red flag. ... It is very sad and sickening."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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