'I should be mad': Family talks healing, strength after trials for son's murders

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith presents the courage award to Brandon and Crystal Powell Tuesday.

Kason Powell was just five on Nov. 19, 2017 when bullets tore through his father's house in Denison. He was shot and died from those injuries while his 11-year-old brother ZaQuavian Fisher was seriously injured.

Nearly four years after that, three young people have been sentenced in the case and District Attorney Brett Smith said it was time to acknowledge the strength in the case that law enforcement and his office got from Brandon and Crystal Powell, Kason's father and stepmother and Kason's mother Shaneia Smith.

"They didn't question us. They did not push us. They were strong and they were courageous. They had a lot of faith," Smith said when telling commissioners about the family Tuesday during the meeting of the Grayson County Commissioners.

Smith was particularly impressed with how each of the parents were concerned during their victim impact statements, not only with the penalty their son's killers would pay for his murder, but also the souls of those young people.

Three people who suffered through the type of loss every parent dreads were given courage awards this week by the Grayson County District Attorney's Office.

On Nov. 19, 2017, Sabrina Nino, Ryan Clay and Antonio Prado Jr. drove to the house where Kason Powell lived with his family in Denison, and when they left, the young child was dead. 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. 

Earlier this year, Clay was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his part in the crime and Nino to 40 years for her part. Prado was sentenced to life in prison for his role.

Brandon Powell said the family's faith in God and the belief that "justice was going to be served," was what helped them hang on for the two years it took authorities to find Prado and bring him to court. 

"Just really leaning on each other as a family and stuff," he said and Crystal Powell agreed that family really helped them during that time. She said having other children that they had to concentrate on helped them to keep their minds off of situation and helped them to make it through. 

Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith gives a courage award to Shaneia Smith Tuesday.

Brandon Powell said his and his wife's occupations as educators probably played a big part in their being able to look past their loss and still care about what happens to the three young people who killed their son. 

"It was all because of their age when it occurred. Ultimately it was our son Kason who ended up dying from it and ZaQuavian getting seriously injured from it. But I think the job that we are in, with both of us being educators and being around young people all of the time, probably played a part in (their ability to pray for the defendants) that as well." 

"I was looking at their age. What they did was extremely dumb. It is seemed like something that was impulsive. But I guess I just didn't want to see them having to spend their entire life in jail for something that they did as a teenager,' he said.

Kason's mother, Shaneia Smith noted that the award given Tuesday said in recognition of your strength and perseverance in outstanding adversity, but she does not feel like the family did anything anyone else would not do.

"We just really and truly wanted justice for our son," she said. "We are just honored that they would see our strength and our grace and our girt honestly in obtaining justice for Kason."

Losing her only child is something that she will always struggle with.

"I just look at it as chapters in a book, honestly," she said. "And, I feel like the three trials were chapters in this book. The book does not have a happy ending. ... I don't know how it ends if that makes any sense."

The senselessness of the whole thing and the very young age of her little boy made it all a very hard pill to swallow, but Smith is trying to live on in his honor. She is going to school, working full time and acts as president of a nonprofit all to keep her busy and help her try to find a path back to her joy.

"I think staying busy and trying to have a purpose and helping those who need you has helped but there's no, at this moment, there is no love like the love that Kason and I shared. We were very very close. He was close with his dad and Crystal too we all had a very unique relationship with him. But very very close and I have yet to find that kind of joy," she said.

She said the thing that she has clung to out of everything that has come out of the various hearings and trials is what Ryan Clay said at his sentencing when he said only his actions can really reflect his remorse. She has since realized that their remorse is not something she can concern herself with because it is something only they can control. 

"I've just been so heartbroken that I've never really been mad. I should be mad. I guess I just don't have the emotional capacity to feel hate and anger. So that's where the forgiveness comes from for me. I know that God forgives me everyday for all of the mistakes I make and will continue to make. And so who am I to have hate against them even though they took the most precious thing away from? I trust God that he has a plan for my life. A plan for good and great things — that's what I'm clinging to."

All three of the parents expressed their gratitude to the many people in law enforcement and in the District Attorney's Office who worked so hard to see that they did get justice for Kason.

"It's been almost four years and they truly never left our side from Kerye (Ashmore) to the investigators, the U.S. Marshal. I will never forget when they called me on July 21,2019 and said 'We got him (Prado). You know that's a feeling, that's a date I'll never forget. I just broke down crying and even after that they kept us update. Even when Mona (Robnett) retired. Kathy (Scheibmeir) stepped in and it was great so for them to honor us, I feel like we should be honoring them. They never never gave up," Smith said.