Taunton voluntarily absent from court during murder trial

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FANNIN CO., TX - Thomas Taunton, the Fannin County man accused of killing three family members, was not in court Wednesday for the third day of his jury trial. News 12 reporter Daniella Rivera explains.

Thomas Taunton's case is unusual for Fannin County because it deals with multiple deaths, but what's even more unusual is the defendant's absence from the courtroom during his jury trial.

First thing Wednesday morning, Thomas Taunton told his attorneys and the judge he did not want to be present--he was promptly taken back to the Fannin County Jail.

We've now learned Taunton does not wish to return to court for any future proceedings.

Trial went on as planned, we heard from Texas Rangers about the forensic evidence found in the Harpst residence.

One testified a "major blood-shedding event" occurred in the master bathroom. The witness also testified it appeared someone had moved at least one body through the home, and tried to clean up blood stains.

We also saw graphic images from the crime scene, and the location where authorities recovered the bodies of Harold Harpst, Sue Harpst, and Regina Taunton.

"We're ahead of schedule. We've had about half of our witnesses on already, our principal witness, the investigator, is on at the present time. We look forward to completing this case well within the two week period," said Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser.

Now in a felony case, the defendant must be present in court to enter a plea, which Taunton did Tuesday, and the defendant must also be present during sentencing.

But Taunton does not have to be in court when the jury hands down a verdict, as long as his absence is willful or voluntary, like it was Wednesday.

We'll continue to follow this trial, and bring you the latest information on News 12.