The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

June 4, 2010

Man charged with murder after shooting

PALESTINE — A 47-year-old Palestine man who allegedly shot and killed another local man during a dispute last week over a lawnmower has been arrested and charged with murder.

Chester Staples, 47, of Palestine was arrested in the lobby of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor told the Herald-Press late Thursday afternoon.

“He (Staples) was requested to be spoken with,” Taylor said. “When he walked into the lobby, he was taken into custody without incident and charged with murder.”

Authorities had obtained a warrant for Staples’ arrest on the murder charge earlier Thursday afternoon, according to the sheriff.

As of Thursday night, Staples remained in the Anderson County Jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond set by Anderson County Justice of the Peace James Todd.

Authorities have said Staples shot and killed 35-year-old Tracey Matthew Polley shortly before 7 p.m. on May 25 after he had gone to the victim’s house on Texas 155, approximately 2 1/2 miles north of the Palestine city limits, to pick up a lawn tractor he had sold to the man.

An autopsy performed on Polley’s body at Southeast Texas Forensic Science Center in Tyler showed that he “died of multiple gunshot wounds” -- one of which penetrated his heart, according to Taylor.

Authorities have said Polley was shot five times.

Staples was shot once by Polley through the left hand and the left eye during the shootout, according to authorities.

Staples, who lost his left eye, was armed with a .22 caliber revolver and Polley with a .38 caliber revolver during the shootout, authorities have said.

“There’s no question that he (Staples) went on someone else’s property with a gun, knowing there could be trouble and it resulted in the death of a man,” Taylor said Thursday. “Mr. Polley, the deceased, was on his own property, protecting something he believed was his.”

Last week’s shootout occurred after Staples traveled to Polley’s residence in the 4400 block of Texas 155 with a truck and trailer, intending to pick up a lawn tractor he had sold to Polley, authorities have said.

Staples has maintained to authorities that Polley owed him money for the tractor.

Authorities have said Polley was inside his residence upon Staples’ arrival, but came outside to the south side of the house after being told someone was milling around the tractor.

The men had a brief verbal confrontation before exchanging gunfire, according to Taylor.

Officers arrived at the scene to discover both men laying in the yard a short distance from one another, according to the sheriff.

A 77-year-old man witnessed the shooting, while at least two persons were inside Polley’s residence at the time of the incident, authorities have said.

Investigators believe the shootout occurred at close range, with the men roughly “an arm’s length of one another.”

Polley was pronounced dead at the scene by Todd, while Staples was first transported to Palestine Regional Medical Center before being lifeflighted to a Tyler hospital.

Staples was initially listed in “critical” condition, but gradually improved and was released from the hospital sometime during the last several days, according to the sheriff.


Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at



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