Ryan Clay pleads in Kason Powell murder, gets 50 years in prison

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Ryan Clay

The last of three people who were charged in the shooting death of five-year-old Kason Powell of Denison back in November of 2017 entered a guilty plea Wednesday morning.

Ryan Clay had originally been charged with a laundry list of offenses for the shooting that left Kason Powell dead and his 11-year-old brother seriously injured. However, Clay's cooperation with police and his acceptance of responsibility so early in the case led the GC Distract Attorney's Office to drop all of the charges except for the felony murder charge and the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge and to agree to allow him to serve any sentences received on those two charges concurrently.

After a hearing that took up most of Wednesday morning, Judge Jim Fallon sentenced him to 50 years in prison on the murder charge and 20 years on the aggravated assault charge plus court costs in each case.

Fallon said he took into consideration the fact that Clay was only 18 at the time of the shooting and that Clay  "had a bad hand dealt" to him in growing up. However, Fallon said, none of that could outweigh the fact that a child had died and another one had been seriously injured because of Clay's actions. 

Antonio Prado, Sabrina Nino and Ryan Clay

The incident involving Clay, Antonio Prado Jr. and Sabrina Nino started on Nov. 19, 2017 when the three drove to a house where Kason Powell lived with his family in Denison. Testimony in Prado's trial revealed that the shooting that night stemmed from a drug deal that went horribly wrong when Kason Powell’s older brother arranged to purchase marijuana but took the drug without paying. The alleged marijuana provider, Nino, had received the drugs without paying for them from Prado.

 Prosecutors said when Prado learned of the theft, he, Nino and Ryan Clay went looking for the teen who took the drugs.

First Assistant Grayson County Attorney Kerye Ashmore arrived for trial at the Grayson County Courthouse in this 2021 file photo (Jerrie Whiteley / Herald Democrat).

Testimony revealed that the three found the home where the teen lived, but he was not there. Instead, inside the home were his parents and three younger siblings. Kason Powell was killed and his 11-year-old brother was seriously injured in the shooting.

Prado Jr. was convicted of murder on Nov. 6,  but before he was sentenced, the state and Prado’s defense attorney Nelson Knight came to an agreement which ended the case there with Prado accepting a life sentence on the murder charge.

Sabrina Nino pleaded guilty on Jan,21 to one count of murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She received sentences of 40 years and 20 years to run concurrently.

In court on Wednesday, Clay said he really didn't give much thought to what was going to happen as he and Nino and Prado drove to Denison to settle the drug score saying he took the gun because he had it. He opened fire on the house because that is what Prado did. 

He said he wished he could take back those actions and undue the harm he had done to two little boys who were hurt and that he wished he never accepted the gun when it was given to him by someone he considered a friend.

In her closing arguments, Clay's attorney Pam McGraw asked the judge to send her client to prison for the aggravated assault charge but to give him deferred adjudication on the murder charge so he could get out and prove that he could make a responsible life for himself in Kason Powell's honor so that something positive could come from the young boy's life. 

Judge Jim Fallon arrives at the Grayson County Courthouse for a murder trial in this 2021 file photo (Jerrie Whiteley / Herald Democrat).

She presented the court with testimony from Michael Lindsey who teaches Psychology at Southern Methodist University and who has had more than 40 sessions with Clay since examining him for the court. Lindsey said though Clay was old enough in years to be responsible for his actions on the day Kason Powell was killed, Clay's brain was not mature enough to appreciate the possible consequences of his actions as he fired his automatic weapon into the home even though there were several cars parked in front of it indicating there were people inside. 

Lindsey said Clay didn't feel loved or accepted in his own home and was beaten by a stepfather. He was couch surfing by age nine and looked for the only support he could find. He found that in Prado and the group that eventually would lead him to prison. Lindsey said he would be willing to help set up a group of professionals to work with Clay should the judge see fit to take a chance on him and not give him a long prison sentence. 

Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore responded by saying  despite the psychologist's claims Clay never received help for his problems as a youth. Clay did get deferred adjudication on a previous charge and and was on juvenile probation for another. He also did a 28-day stay in rehab and was ordered to receive counseling. 

Kason Powell's mother told Clay during her victim impact statement that she will forgive him for what he took from her because she isn't going to go to Hell for him. But she said it is time now for him to grow up, be a man and accept responsibility for the damage he caused. She reminded him that she will never get to hold her son again or watch him graduate from school. She then told Clay to use his time in prison to get his GED and even a college degree.