Courts & Crime

Is Texas man with 50-year trail of violence lucky or cursed?

FORT WORTH — Behind Michael Joseph Paprskar is a trail of blood half a century long.

It began in the 1950s in Fort Worth when Paprskar, as a teen, slashed the neck and face of a 19-year-old sailor during a dispute over a pint of whiskey.

In each of the decades that followed came more bloodshed, including four deaths.

In the '60s, he caught an Irving man stealing a tire and shot him between the eyes.

In 1970, angry about being sold some bad dope, Paprskar instigated the slaying of two brothers inside his motorcycle shop, authorities say, then ordered the fatal shooting of one of the men's 4-year-old son, who had been found waiting in a car outside.

The '80s, '90s and 2000s brought an additional stabbing and two more shootings — all of which the victims survived. Paprskar is awaiting trial on the most recent shooting.

Given his violent past, some call Paprskar lucky.

He was sentenced to death in 1970 for ordering the slaying of the 4-year-old, but an appeals court overturned his conviction two years later on grounds that evidence had been seized unlawfully.

Though he still served roughly a decade behind bars for murdering the boy's father and uncle, he escaped prosecution in several other cases. He has successfully used self-defense claims, dodged an "assault to murder" conviction because of a deadlocked jury and gotten eight years of deferred-adjudication probation for shooting a man in San Antonio.

"I read his file, and I was just amazed at this guy's history and how through the years back, he has managed to stay out of prison so many times," said Cliff Herberg, an assistant district attorney in Bexar County, where Paprskar, now using the name Abraham "Abe" Fortune, is expected to stand trial this year for shooting a man in the back in 2005 inside his former San Antonio motorcycle shop.

Paprskar, 69, considers himself cursed.

"I'm not claiming I've been an angel all my life," he said in a recent telephone interview from South Texas, where he now lives. "But all this violent stuff — I never once went and started any fight with anyone. . . . Almost everything that happened was in my car, in my house or in my businesses. It wasn't in some beer joint going crazy with a gun and shooting something up. I never instigated any trouble."

He says he's been vilified for acts in which he played no part or in which he was only defending himself.

"It was 50 years ago — a half a century. I suffered through it, and I suffered my whole life for it. I paid for all that stuff — what I didn't do, what I did do and what other people did."

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