On 9 September 1996, his 17th birthday, David Noel Vest went to visit 19-year-old Michael Johnson at his house in Balch Springs, near Dallas, Texas. At the house Vest noticed a 9mm pistol on a table.
Later that day Vest was at home when some other friends dropped by in a stolen Cadillac. Vest went out with his friends, driving them each to their homes until he was the last one left in the car. Vest then saw Johnson in a parking lot, talking on a public telephone. He pulled over and picked up his friend and the two drove to Johnson’s house. Johnson went inside and returned with the 9mm pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers. The pair drove around for a while then headed towards the Texas coast during the night, aiming to spend the following day at the beach, at Corpus Christi, to celebrate Vest’s birthday.
Near the town of Waco the pair noticed the car was running low on fuel. Not having any money, they decided to make a “gas run’’; filling up the car with petrol and then speeding off without paying. Johnson took the wheel and they drove to two separate service stations but decided against them as targets. Their next option was a Fastime service station with convenience store, near an Interstate 35 exit ramp in Lorena, Texas. The service station was a family business, run by 27-year-old Jeff Wetterman. Wetterman, a tall man of 6 foot 7 inches, had been married just three weeks earlier. His widow, Trish Wetterman McLean, later described her husband as “a gentle person (with) a big heart and a big smile”.
At around 7am on 10 September 1996, Vest and Johnson drove onto the forecourt of the Fastime service station. Wetterman came out to fill the car with petrol, as was custom at the full-service station. Knowing they did not have money to pay for the $24 worth of fuel, and presumably afraid that Wetterman would alert the police if they drove off, one of the two young men shot Wetterman in the face with the pistol. A female employee of the Fastime would later testify that after the sound of the shot, she looked out and saw Wetterman sitting on the ground with a blond-haired man standing beside the passenger door of the Cadillac. The bullet had severed Wetterman’s spinal cord and he was dying. Vest and Johnson would each later claim it was the other who shot and killed Wetterman.
The pair then drove to Corpus Christi. They sold the gun to a trucker for $35, which they used to buy petrol, drinks and cigarettes and then returned to the Dallas area later that day.