A man who yanked an elderly disabled veteran from a walker, and punched him in the mouth to steal his wallet, was sentenced by a jury to 25 years in prison, Harris County prosecutors said Thursday.
Martin Eduardo Villanueva, 34, was convicted Wednesday of robbery of the elderly following a three-day trial that probed the June 2016 incident at a METRORail platform.
“We can rest easier knowing this man is not out on the street victimizing people who lack the means to defend themselves,” said Assistant District Attorney David Runcie who prosecuted the case.
William Gatewood, 72, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and had been reporting missing by his family, was sitting at night in his walker-wheelchair as Villanueva approached, according to surveillance video.
Villanueva pulled Gatewood to the ground and struck him in the face four times to get him to let go of a wallet Gatewood had been clutching in his hand.
As Gatewood lay on the ground, unable to walk or get up, Villanueva calmly walked away. He threatened bystanders not to say anything.
Metro Police arrested Villanueva minutes later as he stood on another platform and appeared to look for more victims.
Gatewood’s wallet held three debit cards and $38.
Gatewood, who was a corporal in the Army and served in the Vietnam War, was hospitalized at the DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston following the attack.
It was then that Gatewood’s family learned of his whereabouts.
Gatewood died six months later from cerebrovascular disease.
First Assistant Tom Berg, a veteran of the Afghan war, said it was important to protect the most vulnerable members of society from predators like Villanueva, who investigators learned had preyed on the elderly more than once.
“Corporal Gatewood’s untimely passing deprived him of justice during his lifetime. But as Villanueva sits in prison for the next 25 years, perhaps he will begin to understand and regret having been so despicable.”