HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A.J. Armstrong’s 911 call, his nearly hourlong interview with police, and the Armstrong home security system records were all introduced on day three of his third capital murder trial.
It was a lot for jurors to process.
Jason DaCosta, the vice president at Alarm.com, told jurors the alarm at the Armstrong home was on, it was working, and no doors or windows were opened after it had been set-until, investigators say, A.J. Armstrong, himself disarmed the security system when police arrived at the house at 1:56 a.m.
For about 90 minutes, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Trask walked the jury through how the Armstrong house alarm worked. At 9:52 p.m., the alarm was set.
At 9:57 p.m., the records show the first-floor living room sensor went idle. At 10:39 p.m., the upstairs motion sensor went idle-consistent with everyone going to sleep, DaCosta testified.
The next motion activity in the house happened at 1:09 a.m. on the second floor. DaCosta told jurors, based on photos from the crime scene, that the motion sensor was located right outside Dawn and Antonio Sr.’s bedroom on the second floor. Sixteen minutes later, the motion sensor on the first floor was activated. Records show at 1:56 p.m., the alarm was turned off.
DaCosta told jurors, after reviewing hundreds of pages of alarm records, there were instances in which there are “skips” in record keeping, similar to “a dropped call on your cell phone.” DaCosta says that happened in less than 1% of the Armstrong records. He told the jury that on the night of the double murder, there “was no record of sensors” recording these types of skips.
In Armstrong’s two previous trials, the defense ripped apart these alarm records – saying it can’t be trusted. On Thursday, when testimony resumes, Armstrong’s team will have their chance to question DaCosta.
SEE MORE: 19,000 pages of text messages dissected in A.J. Armstrong third’s capital murder trial
The day began with prosecutors playing Armstrong’s 52-minute audio recording of his interview with then HPD Lt. Jimmy Dodson and Kenneth Daignault.
Armstrong told the officers he had a “pretty good relationship” with his father. “Me and my dad are really close,” Armstrong is heard saying.
When the then-16-year-old was asked about his relationship with his mother, Dawn Armstrong, he said he told Dodson and Daignault he had “issues” with her.
“Kind of paints her to be the villain in his life,” Dodson told the jury.
“They had issues?” ADA John Jordan asked.
“Yes sir,” Dodson answered.
On the recording, Armstrong told the officers how he spent the day before the murders: sleeping in, watching Netflix, and picking up his sister Kayra from their grandmother’s house.
Armstrong says he was getting ready for bed at about 1 a.m. on July 29, 2016, when he heard shots, while on the stairs, walking down to the second floor from his third-floor bedroom. He told police he ran back into his room, hid in the closet, and called 911.
Then, Armstrong told investigators, he saw a man running from the house.
“I saw the guy. I should have said something. I saw him running. I saw him running,” Armstrong said during the interrogation.
When Daignault asks Armstrong what the intruder looked like, Armstrong answers: “It was like a mask (where) you could only see the eyes and the mouth. He looked like a Black guy.”
The officers then turn their focus to the alleged murder weapon: Antonio Sr.’s 22-caliber pistol left on the kitchen table. Dodson asked Armstrong if his dad owned a gun.
“Only time I’ve ever used it, I was 8 years old,” Armstrong says, telling the officers he wasn’t sure where his dad kept it.
Then, Daignault is heard bringing up the bullet hole found in the second-floor ceiling below the third-floor bedroom where Armstrong slept.
“I’ve never seen that,” Armstrong says.
But, then Armstrong told officers he actually did fire the gun about two to three weeks earlier when a friend came over, and they wanted to see how it worked.
On the stand, Dodson told jurors testing of a weapon is something he’s seen “with a lot of younger offenders.”
Over and over, Armstrong is adamant he had nothing to do with his parents’ murders.
“Last night, I didn’t touch my dad’s gun,” he told the officers.
Armstrong says multiple times if officers do gunshot residue tests, the tests will show there is no GSR on him.
Dodson told jurors that with the type of gun used, GSR testing can be inconclusive.
“I can tell you right now, there’s nothing that will come back on me,” Armstrong says again. “I had nothing to do with this.”
This could be the only time we hear directly from Armstrong during the trial. He did not take the stand during his two previous trials in 2019 and 2022, which ended with hung juries. He is not expected to take the stand this time around.
The defense has argued investigators zeroed in on Armstrong within 11 minutes of arriving at the crime scene. Defense attorney Rick DeToto asked Dodson why none of the HPD officers looked for surveillance video or talked to neighbors in the hours and days after the murders.
“All of the evidence in this case led us to what was inside the home, not outside,” Dodson said on the stand.
But Dodson did admit it he should have followed up with certain witnesses he saw at the crime scene that morning: specifically with Trenton Teamer, Armstrong’s cousin, who was reportedly with Josh Armstrong, Armstrong’s older half-brother, at Josh’s apartment a few blocks away, when the murders were committed. Teamer has since died in a car crash, DeToto pointed out.
Dodson described Josh as “upset and irritated” when he showed up at his parents’ home that morning after A.J. called his brother.
“Not excitable, just upset,” Dodson told the jury. “(Josh) wanted to get to his parents and his siblings.”
DeToto showed the jury an evidence photo of the Armstrong’s garage door, pointing out the keypad, saying Josh knew that code.
“You made a decision not to investigate that,” DeToto said to Dodson.
“The evidence didn’t lead me to it,” Dodson replied.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.
You can also see more of ABC13’s coverage on A.J. Armstrong’s murder trial here.