Ronald Philen's mom says she prays for families of men convicted in son's murder

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Randall Philen embraces his mother, Linda, and shakes the hand of his friend, Perk Carrier, outside the Law Enforcement Center on Jan. 11, 2012 after Randall was walked out of the Brown County Jail as a free man.

Linda Philen said she'd prayed every day for justice for her two sons: Ronald, who was shot to death at age 49 on Dec. 11, 2009, and Randall, who was convicted of his brother's murder and later exonerated.

And the Philen family believes justice has been served, Philen said by phone Tuesday, a day after Matthew Navarro was was convicted of capital murder in her son's death and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

But Philen, of Brownwood, said she feels empathy and prays for for the families of Navarro and the other three young men who were charged in Ronald's death after Randall was exonerated and freed from prison.

"I know we've been there, and we know what that feels like," Philen. "I don't want to throw rocks. I know their families are suffering. They have mothers and brothers and families. I pray for (the four convicted men) that they'll be saved. I believe they will."

Philen said she had never believed that Randall, who was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in November 2011 — and released a few weeks later — was guilty of murdering his younger brother. Philen said she'd always believed the truth would be known and her family had relied on their faith in God.

She said Randall was unavailable for comment Tuesday because he was on his way to Houston in the 18-wheeler he owns. But Philen spoke on behalf of her son.

"He feels like he did the day he got out of jail," Philen said, referring to the dramatic day on Jan. 11, 2012.  

Accompanied by his parents, an emotional Randall Philen walked out of the Brown County Jail that day after a sheriff's deputy drove him back from a state prison in Huntsville. Exclamations of "it's a miracle" sounded repeatedly as Philen and his parents greeted their friend Percy "Perk" Carrier, a Coggin Avenue Baptist Church Sunday school teacher who had visited Philen in jail and had never doubted his innocence."He's doing good," Philen said. "Randall's working hard and doing fine."

Testimony at the five trials associated with the murder indicated that Ronald had needed money after losing his job with the Brownwood school district and had stored marijuana in his home for a dealer. But the marijuana wasn't what defined Ronald's life, his mother said.

"We miss him every day. Every day," Philen said. "He was a very sweet, loving person. Our memories of him — we think about the good things. He was a born-again Christian and is in heaven. He was a good man."

Philen said the family will be able to move on. "We're doing OK," she said. "We're just very happy."

Referring once again to the families of Navarro, Alex Gil Jr., Efrain Castillo III and Pedro Rocha, Philen added, "I hate to be happy over someone else's sorrow.