By SHANNON CRABTREE

Slightly more than a year after gunning down an El Campo man in his driveway, a killer pleaded guilty murder in Wharton County’s 23rd District Court Thursday.

Brandon Patrick Shimek, 27, of 610 Fahrenthold is now headed to prison for 40 years, half of which he must serve as part of the plea agreement made before District Judge Ben Hardin.

Shimek fired a single shot into 32-year-old Justin Wayne Lipinski’s head on Sept. 7, 2020 while he worked on a vehicle in the front driveway of his grandparent’s Alvin Street home. Lipinski died instantly and was later found by his grandfather.

Although there were no witnesses to the actual crime, the report of a truck racing through the area helped lead police to Shimek. He was arrested early the next morning.

Shimek “did give a full confession to myself and Ranger (David) Chauvin,” El Campo Police Lt. Justin Soza said. “This is a win for us, so we’re excited.”

During the initial investigation, El Campo police said the two had been in a dispute over an auto part.

Shimek had been held in the Wharton County jail on a single count of murder since Sept. 8, 2020 in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

The case was prosecuted by Jane Starnes as the district attorney pro tem and Jason Scully-Clemmons of the Texas Attorney General’s office because, prior to become Wharton County’s district attorney, Dawn Allison had represented Shimek.

“I appreciate the hard work and assistance of the attorney general’s office,” Allison said.

By state policy, the AG’s office does not comment on assistance provided to county DAs.

Shimek had been offered a 35-year prison term earlier, and refused it. He then reportedly met with his attorney and changed his mind. However, at that point, the attorney general’s office was offering only 40 years with a deadly weapon finding.

The conviction was obtained despite the fact the murder weapon was never recovered.

Shimek, represented by Defense Attorney Rudy Velasquez, made statements in court saying he understood the terms of the plea, was competent, that he was adequately defended and waived the right to appeal the sentence.

“This is a win for the citizens of Wharton County,” Allison said.

For Lipinski’s grandfather, the plea offers closure, 15 months after stepping out to the driveway uncovered a nightmare. “I’m glad he pled and he got in it (prison) for 40 years,” Walter Lipinski told the Leader-News.

The family lost a daughter to illness Sunday, making it so much tougher to recall the loss of their grandson.

“I think the police department and everything did a wonderful job. They did a good investigation and everything,” Lipinski’s grandmother Janice Lipinski said Tuesday. “He (Shimek) got prison time and he’s the one who has to live with it. Justin can’t anymore. His boys miss him.”

Lipinski has two children under the age of seven.

“As his grandparents, we miss him too. We raised him from a little one. It’s a big vacuum not having him here, but we have to go on ... We’ll make it somehow,” she added.

Shimek has prior arrests for theft in Matagorda County and having a prohibited weapon in Wharton County.

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