Over six years ago, a teenager called 911 after hearing gunshots coming from his parents’ bedroom. A few hours later, AJ Armstrong is handcuffed and later charged with murdering Antonio and Dawn his Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong.
AJ Armstrong, now 23, has pleaded not guilty but remains under suspicion after jurors ended up hanging him in two criminal trials.
“No way. I couldn’t even fathom the idea of killing my parents,” AJ Armstrong told ’20/20’s’ Matt Gutman in an exclusive network interview.
The “20/20” episode, which airs January 6 at 9:00 PM ET and will stream on Hulu the following day, will delve into the lingering questions surrounding the 2016 Houston murders and their deaths. .
Former NFL player and later owner of several personal gyms, Antonio Armstrong and his wife Dawn lived in a house in southeast Houston with AJ and sister Kayla.
On July 29, 2016, police were called by AJ Armstrong, who was 16 at the time, and gunshots were heard coming from his parents’ room upstairs, and when first responders arrived, he found himself in bed with a gunshot wound to the head. He said he found a couple.
Dawn Armstrong was pronounced dead and her husband died in hospital hours later.
AJ Armstrong was immediately taken in by police for questioning, claiming to have seen a masked intruder in the home.
“Yeah, I think I saw him running. I think I saw him running,” AJ Armstrong told investigators during an interview.
According to audio from the interview, investigators questioned the story because they found no evidence of an intruder, the alarm to the home was not activated when first responders came to the house, and they were still armed. According to court documents, AJ Armstrong was the one who cleared the alarm to let the officers inside.
Officers also questioned the strange evidence found at the family’s home.
A bullet hole was found originating from AJ’s third-floor bedroom and through the ceiling of his parents’ room.
The teenager initially said he didn’t touch his father’s gun, which was determined to be the weapon that killed Dawn and Antonio, but when pressured by law enforcement who said he saw a bullet hole , he admitted to showing off.
In addition, investigators at the scene noted burn marks on the carpet at the top of the stairs to the second floor. When detectives questioned AJ Armstrong about this, he claimed he had been playing with matches weeks before the murder and accidentally dropped the match.
Armstrong went on to say that he initially lied to his father about how the burns occurred, but eventually admitted it and they discussed it.
According to the audio of the interrogation, detectives told AJ Armstrong that he believed his story was “not adding up” and that he knew more about how his parents were shot in bed than he says. is clarified. Armstrong is adamant of his innocence, claiming he had nothing to do with the murder of his parents.
After the interview, AJ Armstrong was charged as a minor on death row, much to the shock of his family. Armstrong has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was handcuffed and allowed to go to his parents’ funeral.
“20/20,” said Keith Whiteley, AJ Armstrong’s grandfather.
Rick DeToto has been hired as AJ Armstrong’s attorney. Detoto told 20/20 that investigators found no physical evidence linking his client to Armstrong’s murder, including AJ’s bullet residue and gun fingerprints left at the scene.
According to Detoto, a handwritten note was also found in the house that read, “I’ve been watching you for a long time,” but no Armstrong’s fingerprints were found on the paper.
“We found no evidence of him wearing gloves,” he said. “There were no bloody clothes in the washer or dryer. There is absolutely nothing to tie him to physical evidence in this case.”
However, prosecutors argued that the lack of physical evidence does not necessarily mean that AJ Armstrong did not commit the crime.
AJ Armstrong’s attorney also brought up other cases police ignored that could shed light on the murder, including a break-in at one of Antonio Armstrong’s gyms just days after the murder. .
Investigators investigated the break-in, but determined it had nothing to do with Armstrong’s murder.
At AJ Armstrong’s first trial in 2019, his lawyers gave the jury serious bombshell charges, arguing that AJ Armstrong’s half-brother, Josh, could be the real killer. was presented.
Lawyers argued that Josh Armstrong had mental health issues and could have easily entered the house that night.
“Josh had access to the house as did AJ. In fact, Josh showed up on the scene the night this happened. I will,” Detoto argued in court.
Police saw Josh and eventually ruled him out as a suspect.
Josh Armstrong was never subpoenaed, and prosecutors claimed he was not a suspect in the case.
Prosecutors instead claimed that AJ Armstrong had a drug problem and his poor grades strained his relationship with his parents. This is their allegation, the lie they caught him in that drove him to kill his parents.
In the end, the jury entered a stalemate and an error of trial was declared.
AJ Armstrong said, “Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind was kind of disheartening, but I always try to find the good in some situation.” It’s clearly better than spending time in prison.”
He added that he hasn’t seen his half-brother much since the 2019 trial.
“Josh is Josh. There’s not much to say about it. He’s doing his job,” said AJ Armstrong.
20/20 asked Josh Armstrong for comment on the investigation and Detoto’s accusations, but he declined to comment.
After years of delays, a second trial has begun in October 2022. This time, the prosecutor presented the jury with new evidence he extracted from AJ Armstrong’s cell phone on the night of the murder. So that prosecutors could know when Armstrong’s phone was connected, when it wasn’t connected, and how long the home screen was active, in addition to who he was texting. became.
At 1:08 am, Armstrong’s cell phone was removed from its charger, according to court records. Prosecutors suggest it was when Armstrong came down from the room to murder his parents.
“But in the meantime, his phone is still locked, but the display keeps turning on and off, so there’s a lot more,” prosecutor John Jordan told jurors. There are two possibilities, the first is that you might get push notifications, one or two, you’re walking in a dark house, and you’re walking through the house with ambient lighting. says Jordan.
DeToto and his team again argued that Josh Armstrong was the stronger suspect because of the mental health struggles he experienced. read.
“[He] Extremely psychopathic person who commands in a voice that hurts himself or others. He was brought in by the police for psychotic symptoms. This patient has seen his parents murdered in 2016,” DeToto read to the jury.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense asked Josh Armstrong to testify. Prosecutors continued to argue that there was no evidence that he was involved in the murder of his parents, pointing out that all his medical records admitted at trial were drawn up after the murder occurred.
They don’t deny that Josh told doctors he was there when his parents were killed, but he arrived at his parents’ house minutes after the murders, was taken on a stretcher, and was taken to an ambulance. He said he saw it.
The jury was at a standstill for the second time, with eight votes not guilty and four votes guilty. Judge Kelly Johnson declared suspicious.
After the trial, Detoto hopes the day will come when his client will be proven to be the father of a son named Hendrix Antonio.
“We will never stop fighting for AJ and the evidence doesn’t get any better for them,” said Detoto. “
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying it plans to retrial AJ Armstrong for the third time.
“Two people were murdered during the night, each shot in the head while sleeping in their own bed. We will continue to fight for justice and look forward to presenting all the evidence to the jury.” There is