A 34-year-old Palestine man accused of pepper spraying his former girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter earlier this year pled to 20 years in prison Wednesday after being found guilty the previous day.

Johnny Heller, 34, of Palestine had been found guilty of charges of assault causing bodily injury (family violence) and injury to a child by an Anderson County jury late Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday afternoon after jurors had heard from a handful of witnesses during his trial’s punishment phase, Heller pled to a 20-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The state successfully alleged that Heller injured his former girlfriend and her daughter by pepper spraying them on March 25 of this year.

Neither person was seriously injured as a result of the incident, according to testimony.

The defendant’s former girlfriend testified Wednesday that she and the defendant argued often during their approximately six-month relationship, describing him as a "jealous" man.

"We used to argue a lot," Maria Garcia testified. "He used to argue a lot. He was jealous of everybody."

Under direct examination by the state, Garcia told the jury that Heller once cut her hair while she slept and "did all kinds of things to me."

When asked about the hair-cutting incident, however, Garcia testified, "We were drinking. I fell asleep, but I don't have proof what he did to me."

The woman also indicated that Heller had threatened to burn down her house and slash her tires.

Garcia said she was still "scared" of Heller "because he's always telling me he's never going to leave me alone."

Heller was tried on the same charges two weeks ago, but that proceeding ended in a mistrial after an Anderson County jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict after six hours of deliberation.

Heller has previously spent time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which was taken into consideration by the jury.

The jury was seated in this week's trial on Tuesday at the Anderson County Courthouse, with Third State District Judge Jim Parsons presiding.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from a handful of local policemen; a EMS paramedic; and others.

The paramedic, Keith Graves, testified that both Garcia and her 4-year-old daughter had been sprayed in the eyes on March 25 of this year, while also inhaling the pepper spray.

Four photographs taken of Garcia and her daughter showing redness around their eyes were introduced into evidence.

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