• January 23, 2020

Murder defendant describes ‘voices’ - Odessa American: Courts

e-Edition Subscribe

Murder defendant describes ‘voices’

Madden’s case in murder of Odessa T-shirt dealer goes to jury

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2019 5:22 pm

A 244th District Court jury deliberated for three hours Thursday afternoon and night before finding 26-year-old Joseph Benjamin “Ben” Madden III guilty of the first degree felony of murder in the February 2017 beating and stabbing death of 68-year-old Pepe’s T-Shirts owner Joseph Valenzuela.

The eight-man, four-woman panel had the option of a capital murder verdict, which would have made mandatory a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Now Madden’s sentence will be set at five to 99 years or life in the Texas Department of Corrections, which means he will probably one day be paroled.

Court-appointed defense lawyer Michael McLeaish said it was a much more preferable verdict than capital murder, but he said it pointed up a deficiency in the law that keeps defense counsel from saying that a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity would result in an indefinite commitment to the state mental health system.

“The law makes it almost impossible to get that verdict,” McLeaish said. “I think the law should be changed.”

He said he will not make a specific sentencing recommendation in today’s punishment phase beginning at 9 a.m.

Madden testified in his own defense Thursday morning and afternoon that he had been hearing voices and did not remember much about the night Valenzuela died.

Under questioning by First Assistant District Attorney Lisa Borden, the heavy set 6-foot-4 defendant said he had often heard voices and sometimes did what they said but other times acted on his own.

In a dark suit with a vest and tie and wearing arm and leg shackles, Madden said the voices were talking to him on the night of the murder, which he did not remember much about, but that he did know what he ate.

“The voices talked about miserable things quite often,” he said, adding that he once attempted suicide when the voices told him people were trying to kill him.

Bolstering McLeaish’s contention that Madden should be acquitted because he was mentally ill and should be committed to a state hospital, the defendant said the voices had told him to kill Valenzuela earlier on the night of the murder, but that he took a nap instead.

He said he remembered meeting Valenzuela and that it took two minutes for the victim to die.

Madden said he clipped Valenzuela’s fingernails after he was dead but didn’t remember what he did with the clippings.

The defendant’s mother, Tina Madden of DeSoto, testified late Wednesday afternoon that her son had had long suffered from psychiatric problems, having been treated in a total of five mental hospitals in Dallas, Austin and other places before being charged with capital murder in Odessa 2 1/2 years ago.

Referring to her 26-year-old son as “Ben,” the fashionably dressed woman said he came to her home just after Valenzuela was found dead on the floor of his apartment behind Pepe’s T-Shirts at 1214 W. 10th St.

With District Judge W. Stacy Trotter presiding, Mrs. Madden told McLeaish and Assistant District Attorney Bill Prasher that Ben was not demonstrative or threatening to family members; however, she said his unpredictable behavior of the past prompted her to follow her previously established practice of not letting him stay at home but instead lodging him in a long-term stay motel a short distance from his grandparents’ home so that he would walk there for meals. “Ben was just very quiet,” she said.

Asked if she was worried about the safety of his grandparents, Mrs. Madden said, “No, he has never been threatening toward them.”

Before he was arrested by Odessa Police Department Det. Trent Autry and Texas Rangers who had traced Valenzuela’s 1997 Lincoln Town Car to a quarter-mile from his mom’s house, Madden was taken to a McDonald’s restaurant and fed by his mother, she said.

He has been held without bond at the Ector County Detention Center.

Mrs. Madden testified Thursday that she got a protective order against her son after he was angry and confrontational and punched holes in a wall at her home. “When your kid starts arguing with you, he needs to go,” she said.

However, Madden said during his testimony that his mother’s decision not to have him at home when he visited had nothing to do with the safety of her or his sisters. He said he never threatened or attacked his roommates at college.

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Humidity: 72%
Winds: NW at 7mph
Feels Like: 34°

Your Extended Forecast


High 61°/Low 35°
Abundant sunshine. Highs in the low 60s and lows in the mid 30s.


High 65°/Low 41°
Sunshine. Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the low 40s.


High 70°/Low 37°
A few clouds. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the upper 30s.
Online Features

Pet Central


Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>



Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>



Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>



Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>

  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7314 to sign up today.