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Dallas drug dealer convicted of murdering teenager who was found in trunk after high-speed chase

Freddie Gilbert shot JacQuisha Isaac, 19, once in the head while she sat in the car and then put her body in the trunk and headed for Louisiana, prosecutors say

Freddie Gilbert had just fired at a car with a mother, daughter and grandchildren inside in a fit of road rage, prosecutors said. He was weaving in and out of traffic at close to 120 mph, with the body of a murdered teenager in the trunk.

When he spun out after crashing into two other vehicles, his crime spree came to an end. And a murder investigation began.

“There’s a body of a girl in the trunk,” he said after being cuffed, according to the arresting deputy’s testimony.

A federal jury in Dallas convicted Gilbert on Thursday of murdering JacQuisha Isaac, 19, on Oct. 29, 2017, after about a weeklong trial. Gilbert, 35, a convicted felon from Louisiana, was a street-level cocaine dealer along Park Lane in Five Points, the heart of Vickery Meadow, one of Dallas’ most dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhoods, according to testimony.

Gilbert faces up to life in prison in the case — a rare use of a federal murder statute. Typically such cases are tried in state court. Gilbert was convicted of four counts, including murder from the use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. That made him eligible for the federal death penalty, but the Justice Department decided not to seek it.

Freddie Gilbert
Freddie Gilbert(Kaufman County sheriff's office)

On Monday, the opening day of his trial, Gilbert cut himself with a razor and had to be removed from the courtroom. He never returned, electing to watch the proceedings using a video link. U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle ruled him competent to stand trial last year following a hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney P.J. Meitl told jurors that Isaac had a crush on a man who was in the Dallas County jail for robbing people at gunpoint. She didn’t work and needed money to pay his bail, Meitl said, so she accompanied Gilbert on the morning of her murder as he drove from one drug-riddled neighborhood to another, selling cocaine.

Isaac was bright and funny and wanted to attend college, her family and friends said. But she remained in Dallas around people who sold drugs in Five Points and other high-crime areas, including her father and her best friend’s mother, with whom she lived.

JacQuisha Isaac
JacQuisha Isaac

“She didn’t have a lot of chances” in life, Meitl said. She was young and naïve and made “bad choices,” he added.

Meitl said during closing arguments Thursday that he believed Gilbert — a small time dealer — wanted to rob Isaac’s father with her help the night before her murder. But Isaac had second thoughts when they arrived at his house and called it off, he said. Gilbert was angry.

The evidence showed, Meitl told jurors, that while standing outside his car, Gilbert shot her in the head as she sat in his passenger seat. Exactly when and where he killed her is unclear. He then put her body in the trunk. Isaac’s purse and mobile phone were still in the passenger door compartment when Gilbert was arrested in Kaufman County following the police chase.

“He shot her in the head and left her to die in a trunk,” Meitl told jurors. “A 19-year-old girl who had her whole life ahead of her.”

Gilbert also is a suspect in the murder of an Uber driver, federal authorities said during Gilbert’s detention hearing last year. And there is evidence he cut someone from “neck to waist” with a machete over a drug theft, according to prosecutors.

Boyle, however, did not allow the jury to hear that evidence.

Last seen alive

Latanya Jones, the mother of Isaac’s best friend from high school, told jurors she treated the victim as if she were her own daughter. Isaac lived with her and her daughter at her sister’s house in Rowlett, she said.

“She made jokes about everything,” Jones said. “She kept us laughing.”

Jones, 38, testified that she’s sold drugs since she was 12 in Northeast Dallas and has been arrested about two-dozen times.

A federal task force was embedded in the neighborhood — just east of North Central Expressway and the Shops at Park Lane — several months after Isaac’s murder in an attempt to drive down the crime rate. U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox’s office joined forces with Dallas police in 2018 to launch Project Safe Neighborhood there.

Jones said she met Gilbert in 2009 through drugs and sold crack cocaine to him “on a daily basis.” She said Gilbert also was a drug user who smoked crack, snorted cocaine and popped pills.

She said Isaac and her daughter, who attended L.G. Pinkston High School together, met Gilbert through her. The night before the murder, Jones called Gilbert to give the three women a ride from Five Points to her sister’s house, she said.

An overhead view of the Five Points street intersection in the Vickery Meadow area of Dallas where Freddie Gilbert worked as a street cocaine dealer. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
An overhead view of the Five Points street intersection in the Vickery Meadow area of Dallas where Freddie Gilbert worked as a street cocaine dealer. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

On the way, Gilbert stopped at a Walmart store to buy bullets for his 38-caliber revolver, testimony and evidence showed.

Gilbert dropped the mother and daughter off and drove away with Isaac. They drove to an Oak Cliff drug house run by Raye Draper, who had only known for about a year that Isaac was his daughter.

Draper told jurors that Gilbert told him he was a rapper, so he asked him to rap something. “He started rapping about killing a girl and drugs,” said Draper. “Not too many people talk about killing no girl.”

The song “rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. And his normally talkative daughter was strangely quiet that night, he said. “She wasn’t herself,” Draper said, and she looked scared and nervous. So Draper asked Gilbert to step outside, and then he asked Isaac if she was OK. She said she was.

Draper, who broke down on the witness stand, said he regretted allowing his daughter to leave with Gilbert, who was carrying a gun. It was the last time anyone reported seeing her alive.

Arrest and discovery

Detective Michael Reuler, a veteran of Dallas’ police gang unit who serves on an FBI task force, told jurors he got GPS data from the victim’s phone that told him where it was on the morning of the murder and the night before.

Reuler said he believes Gilbert was selling cocaine throughout the night with Isaac in his car. “Pings” sent by the phone throughout the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 2017, showed that the phone was all over the Dallas area from midnight until shortly before the 911 call about Gilbert’s road rage incident in Kaufman County around 10:30 a.m., he said.

It all ended when police got the 911 call about a road rage incident.

Police process the scene where Freddie Gilbert ran off the road following a police chase in October 2017.
Police process the scene where Freddie Gilbert ran off the road following a police chase in October 2017.(KXAS-TV (NBC5) / NBC5)

Madeline Blount told police she was driving eastbound with her daughter and two grandchildren on Interstate 20 in Kaufman County when the driver of a black Hyundai fired a gun at them. They were not harmed, but a bullet lodged in the driver’s door.

Police caught up to Gilbert’s car but he took off at high speed, leading them on a brief chase.

At the county jail, a bag of about 6 grams of cocaine fell out of Gilbert’s "anal cavity" as he was being searched, records show. And Gilbert told a jailer “I should have killed me too,” Meitl said.

Meitl said he believed Gilbert was trying to make it to Louisiana when he was stopped.

Gilbert’s defense attorney, Joseph Padian, argued that his client was not selling drugs on the morning of the murder. And he tried to raise the possibility that someone else killed Isaac and put her body in the trunk. Padian said investigators failed to question possible witnesses who could have seen Gilbert on the day of the murder.

Isaac’s letters to her love interest were found in her purse in the car. In them, she said she missed him and would put money in his jail commissary account, Reuler said. Isaac also wrote about raising more than $8,000 to help post his bail, he said.

Kevin Krause. Kevin has worked for The Dallas Morning News since 2003, and he has covered federal criminal courts for the past six years. Kevin has been a journalist for 26 years Kevin is a multiple recipient of the Stephen Philbin Award for excellence in legal reporting. Kevin earned a BA from Boston University.

kkrause@dallasnews.com @KevinRKrause

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