Recidivism
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It is often said that murderers are the criminals least likely to repeat their crimes.
Does that statistic matter if you become the victim of one who bucks the trend?

Escape  


News Articles


1/13/2013 - California

Paroled after murdering two girls, kills mother decades later
Dennis Stanworth is a member of the notorious class of '72. More than 100 death row inmates were spared the gas chamber in 1972 after the California Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. His classmates all got life sentences, including the likes of serial killer Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin. But not all served their full sentences and some who were released went on to commit new crimes. Last week, Stanworth -- who killed two Pinole girls in 1966, and raped four other women in the Bay Area -- became the third person paroled from death row to be accused of killing again as a free man. All three of those cases involved Bay Area slayings. Police say Stanworth called them Wednesday and admitted to killing his 90-year-old mother in his Vallejo home about two months earlier. Her body was found outside the house, a prosecutor said. Now 70 and appearing frail, Stanworth came to a hearing Friday in Solano County Superior Court in a wheelchair and exclaimed: "It's the third time," and "I plead guilty to everything." No formal plea, however, was entered as his defense attorney requested a week delay. Victim advocates are fuming that Stanworth was paroled in 1990 despite having a horrific rap sheet. The killer himself pleaded for death. Stanworth would never have been paroled today, according to Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg, who tracks criminal justice trends and who calls this case is an anomaly. Almost 40 percent of the 107 death row inmates in the class of '72 had been released on parole, according to a 2003 Contra Costa Times article analyzing Department of Corrections data. About a third of those released committed new crimes. That rate was far lower than the 65 percent, three-year recidivism rate for all parolees released from prison during 2006-07, the most current figures from the Department of Corrections. In the class of '72, as of 2003, 42 people have been paroled and 24 died in prison. Of the 42 released, 12 had been charged with or convicted of new crimes. The Times' 2003 analysis also looked at the class of '76, consisting of 67 people on death row who got life sentences after the state's second capital punishment law was again ruled unconstitutional in 1976. Six of those formerly condemned inmates were paroled, with only one, a Contra Costa man, reoffending. Why the release? Stanworth confessed in 1966 to murdering two Pinole teens on Aug. 1, 1966, and raping one of the girls after he shot them both in the head. He also confessed to the savage kidnap and rapes of four other women in Berkeley, Richmond, El Sobrante and Pacifica during a 10-month span. He pleaded guilty, and during his sentencing phase he begged the judge to send him to the gas chamber. Despite objecting to an appeal and again pleading to be put to death, his case was automatically reviewed in 1969 and the state Supreme Court found jurors were improperly dismissed and reversed the decision. He was sentenced again to death in 1974 after a new trial, but the sentence was automatically commuted to life in prison because of the 1972 Supreme Court decision that banned the death penalty. In 1979, Stanworth was deemed fit for parole after attending therapy and conducting himself well in prison. He was eventually released in 1990. Life without a possibility of parole became a sentencing option in 1978. Stanford's Weisberg said the criminal justice system worked differently during that era. "It was the last gasp in the '70s in the kind of loose, rehab-oriented" courts and criminal justice system, said the co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. "The real question is why he got paroled in 1990. What in the world was brought before them ... to let a 48-year-old man with that criminal record go free?" Weisberg said. "And yet it's hard to say it's a failure of the parole system if you don't commit another crime for 22 years," he said. Governors also hold the power to deny any prisoner parole. Former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican who held the office from 1991 to 1999, allowed many of the board's decisions to stand, while Democrat Gray Davis, who served from 1999 to 2003, overturned almost 300 of the board's decisions. Weisberg could not imagine someone with Stanworth's criminal record being released. "The rape-murder and other rapes, under any regime, would not be very sympathetic," Weisberg said. Other class of '72 cases In another case tied to a class of '72 parolee, jogger Armida Wiltsey's body was found Nov. 14, 1978, in brush near the Lafayette Reservoir trail. She had been strangled and had evidence of binding on her wrists. Her slaying was unsolved for decades, but DNA found under Wiltsey's fingernail matched hair from Darryl Kemp, who was serving a life sentence in Texas for three rapes. Kemp had been on death row for two rapes and the rape and murder of a Los Angeles nurse in the 1950s. After the 1972 court decision, his sentence was commuted to life, and he was paroled in 1978. He killed Wiltsey four months after his release. Kemp was convicted and again sentenced to death in 2009; he awaits execution in San Quentin State Prison. Robert Lee Massie, a former death row inmate from San Francisco, also killed only months after his parole release in 1978. He was again condemned and executed in 2001. It is unusual for longtime prisoners who are paroled at older ages to kill again, Weisberg said. "Paroling a murderer who has served a long sentence is empirically a pretty safe proposition," he said. "The recidivism rate for lifers on parole is pretty low." However, inmates with sex crime backgrounds do not fall into that category, the law professor said. 'He was evil' Any recidivism rate at all troubles many victim rights advocates. Evelyn McGann's son Richard was stabbed 53 times and killed in 1984 by a parolee two weeks after his release. She is the chapter leader of Contra Costa Co./East Bay Chapter, Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. The San Pablo woman remembered Stanworth's case in 1966, after the bodies of Pinole teens Susan Muriel Box and Caree Lee Collison were found in a bush overlooking San Pablo Bay. When she read last week investigators believe Stanworth killed again, she could not believe he was a free man. "This man should never have been paroled -- ever," McGann said. "Not because he said he wanted to get the death penalty, but because he deserved the death penalty. He was evil." Ricky Lee Egberto, 29, the killer of McGann's son, is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole, and the mother cannot imagine him being free. "Our victims are gone forever," she said. "They don't get a reprieve."


3/7/2009 - Ohio

Parolee who killed self, 5 others had vowed to change
A man who killed himself a day after allegedly killing his wife and four others told a judge in 2005 that he was ready to be a law-abiding citizen who would not let society down if he was released from prison. "I swear to you from the bottom of my heart that I 'WILL NOT' let you down. Let my wife or children down. Let my family down. Let society down. Or especially, let myself down," Davon Crawford wrote to Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo as part of a motion for release. Crawford, who was freed in 2007, shot himself in the head Friday afternoon when confronted by police in the bathroom of a house not far from the house where his wife, along with his sister-in-law and her three young children were found dead, said Police Lt. Thomas Stacho. Police said Crawford is suspected of killing them. Cuyahoga County coroner's spokesman Powell Cesar confirmed Saturday that all five victims were shot in the head. Crawford, 33, was divorced from his first wife about three months after writing the letter to Russo, records show. He married again only on Monday of the same week, according to Lamar Arnold, the father of his new wife, 30-year-old Lechea Crawford. She was one of the women killed in the couple's home Thursday night, and police say a 2-month-old baby girl, Laylah was found unharmed in the home. The two-story red-and-yellow wood frame home where Crawford died is located in a densely populated Cleveland neighborhood. Several dozen people lined up behind yellow police tape across the street, cheering as a sheet-covered stretcher was removed from the house, and cheering again when a van left the neighborhood with the body Friday evening. Dozens also gathered Friday evening about four blocks away, on the street where Thursday's slayings took place, to hold a candlelight vigil and rally. A memorial of more than a dozen stuffed animals had grown on the front steps. Crawford was convicted in 1995 of a plea-bargained voluntary manslaughter charge after killing 22-year-old Joseph Smith in a dispute over a girlfriend. "I didn't mean to take a life, but a life is took," Crawford said during his trial. "I apologize to the family [of Smith], but I did what I had to do." He was released in 2000 and sent back to prison in 2002 on a felonious assault conviction involving domestic violence, endangering children, having a weapon while on parole and failure to comply with an officer's order. In the 2005 letter, Crawford apologizes for firing a gun in his home and says, "I made an insensible choice in a moment of anger that could have actually cost me my wife and children.... I now realize that when I make bad impulsive decisions, that I do not only hurt myself, but that I hurt everyone that love and cares for me as well, and especially my children." He wrote that his then-wife had lung cancer and that he had a job and supporting family waiting for him. His wife, mother and others wrote Russo on his behalf, noting that he had three children at the time and had taken parenting and anger management courses and was studying dental lab technology. While on parole, which ended last year, Crawford passed several drug tests, paid his child support, had a full-time job and no run-ins with authorities, according to Andrea Carson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. However relatives said he had recently failed a drug test and was worried about having to go back to prison. Police searching for Crawford on Friday received a tip about his whereabouts and set up surveillance at the house where he was later seen by authorities, Stacho said. Officers forced their way through the front door and found Crawford hiding in the bathtub, officials said. He fired one shot from a handgun, killing himself, said Jeff Carter, a U.S. Marshals Service spokesman. "There was no standoff," Stacho said. "As they confronted him, he shot himself." Stacho said officials believe a relative of Crawford lives at the house. He said a woman was found in another part of the home, but police did not release any information about her connection to Crawford. Police Chief Michael McGrath said it appears that some sort of domestic argument sparked Thursday's shootings. Besides Lechea Wiggins Crawford, killed were her sister Rose Stevens, 25, and Stevens' three children: 4-year-old Destanee Woods and 2-year-old twins Dion and Davion Primm. Lechea's 7-year-old son Kamar was wounded and was being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center. Two other boys in the house, ages 12 and 13, escaped unharmed and one called 911, officials said.


3/3/09 - Illinois

Husband in murder-suicide had killed previous wife
A man who stabbed his first wife to death more than two decades ago used a Civil War replica rifle to kill his current wife and her son before committing suicide in their upscale suburban Chicago home, police said. Richard Wiley left a 40-page, handwritten suicide note indicating he shot and killed Kathy Motes, 50, and Christopher Motes, 17, and saying he refused to go back to prison, Wilmette police Deputy Chief Brian King said. Police conducting a well-being check Monday found the three bodies inside their Wilmette home, a parsonage of the family's church, where Kathy Motes worked. King said Wiley, 54, apparently killed his wife and stepson Saturday afternoon, then shot himself Sunday night. Wiley stabbed his 25-year-old wife, Ruth, to death in 1985, and was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison two years later, according to news reports at the time. He was paroled in 2000. At his murder trial, Wiley said he suffered from a rare mental disease called "intermittent explosive disorder," but the judge rejected his claim that he was insane. Wiley reportedly called police himself after the 1985 killing and was found "leaning over the victim, hugging her and crying, `I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'" Wiley suggested in his suicide note that he killed Kathy Motes during an argument, then killed her son. "It's a kind of a dissertation of the difficulties that Mr. Wiley was having," King said of the note, adding that it included "hints of remorse." Authorities believe Wiley shot Kathy Motes around 2:30 p.m Saturday, then shot the teen when he returned home from a Boy Scout meeting later in the afternoon, King said. The bodies of Wiley and Kathy Motes were found in a second-floor bedroom, while Christopher Motes was found in an upstairs bathroom; all three had single gunshot wounds to the head, King said. The murder weapon, found by Wiley's body in a second-floor bedroom, was a black-powder, muzzleloading Civil War replica rifle that may have belonged to Christopher Motes, a Civil War buff, King said. Wiley apparently had sawed off the barrel of the rifle, which could take several minutes to load because it requires black powder and a metal ball to be loaded through the muzzle, he said. Despite Wiley's criminal history, King said police had no previous complaints of violence at the Wilmette home and there were no orders of protection against Wiley. "There's nothing that predicted this level of violence in that home," King said at a news conference. But James Morici, who prosecuted Wiley for the 1985 murder, said he remembered Wiley as intelligent but scary and that he feared Wiley might come after him. "I don't know why I felt this way, but I always thought that if anyone I prosecuted was sitting in the penitentiary counting the days, looking to seek me out in revenge, it would be Wiley," Morici said. Wiley grew up in relative wealth in Wilmette, attended New Trier Township High School and became known as "a party boy" with alcohol problems, Morici said. Wiley met Kathy Motes through their church, First Presbyterian of Wilmette, where she worked as an office coordinator. The pastor, the Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter, said church members knew about Wiley's past but that "our faith community welcomed and loved him." Wiley was unemployed but was a talented carpenter who had built cabinets for the church, Butter said. She said Kathy Motes was "beloved of our congregation." Christopher Motes' classmates at New Trier were in shock, District 203 Superintendent Linda Yonke said Tuesday. "Chris was a well-known and well-loved senior," Yonke said. "He was an easygoing student who had many friends." He participated in Scouts, belonged to a military history club at New Trier and had been accepted to attend Roanoke College in Virginia, Yonke said.


10/2008 - Georgia

Sentenced to death but released to kill again: On March 6, 1974, James Rouse Jr. was abducted at gunpoint in his car by two fugitives--William Jordan and Anthony Prevatte.  Both men were wanted in North Carolina for a series of robberies. The car ride ended on a remote back road at the edge of a forest in Georgia. The kidnappers forced James Rouse to march barefoot into the woods. When they reached the shore of a deserted lake, they stopped. James Rouse was shot at point-blank range with a sawed-off shotgun. He died instantly. The next day, in Wadesboro, North Carolina, police received and anonymous tip that Jordan and Prevatte were back in town. According to Sheriff Tommy Allen, Jr. of the Anson County Sheriff's Department, the two fugitives were hiding at the home of a friend: "Prevatte and Jordan had a reputation for being predominately into property theft, housebreaking, and those types of things. We didn't really suspect that they were involved in anything serious, other than that." The deputies approached the house, fully expecting to make an arrest. But according to Sheriff Allen, Jordan and Prevatte were one step ahead of them: "Everything was happening so fast, but it seemed extreme that these guys were using this much excessive force to get away from us just because we wanted to talk to them about some house break-ins." Prevatte and Jordan were booked on charges of breaking and entering, larceny, and assaulting officers with a firearm. But police in North Carolina still didn't know that the two men were killers. 48 hours later, the body of James Rouse was discovered near a lake in Georgia. It was his stolen car that Jordan and Prevatte had crashed in Wadesboro. It didn't take long to piece together the rest. A shotgun shell found at the murder scene sealed the case against Jordan and Prevatte.   Ballistics test revealed that Rouse had been killed with a blast from the same shotgun that the pair had dumped during the chase. Finally, and most chilling of all, police in North Carolina found arrogant trophies of the murder in Georgia. According to Sheriff Allen, Jordan and Prevatte took photos of themselves leaning against Rouse's car with the same shotgun that killed him: "They were both eventually extradited back to Georgia, both found guilty of first-degree murder, both given the death sentence." However, neither Jordan nor Prevatte stayed on death row. The Georgia Supreme Court reduced their sentences to life in prison. It wasn't long before Prevatte was paroled. Soon after, he murdered his girlfriend and was returned to prison. Once again, he was sentenced to death. This time, the sentence stood. The story of William Jordan, however, has yet to end. After ten years in prison, Jordan was assigned to a minimum-security work farm for good behavior. But his image as a model prisoner proved false. One day, Jordan and a fellow prisoner stole a truck near a work site and drove off. A month later, police caught the inmate who escaped with him, but Jordan has eluded capture ever since. Decades have passed since Jordan and Prevatte murdered James Rouse Jr., but his family still feels the pain. William Jordan is 6'2" tall, has brown graying hair, and probably wears glasses. Jordan has several distinctive tattoos, including a spider on his right arm and a cross with the name "Sybil" on his left arm.

5/5/2008 - Maryland

A two-time convicted murderer is on trial for strangling another inmate aboard a prison bus
In her opening statement, assistant Baltimore County State's Attorney Ann Brobst said 25-year-old Kevin Johns strangled 20-year-old Phillip Parker because killing people causes him to become sexually aroused. Defense attorney Harry Trainor countered that Johns has suffered from a lifetime of mental illness and could not control his actions. Earlier Monday, Johns waived his right to a jury trial. Harford County Circuit Court Judge Emory Plitt is hearing the case. Johns allegedly killed Parker aboard a bus that was taking inmates from Hagerstown to Baltimore in February 2005. The day before Parker died, he had testified at Johns' sentencing for the 2004 murder of a prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown.


7/24/2004 - Alabama

Man murdered woman who befriended him after prior murder conviction
James Hubbard was sentenced to death in 1977 for the murder of a Tuscaloosa woman who befriended him after he was released from prison. Hubbard had served a 20 year sentence for a murder conviction, and called police to report a shooting on January 10, 1977. He said Lillian Montgomery, whom he was living with, had shot herself at her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She died as the result of three gunshot wounds, one to the face, one to the head, and one to the shoulder, a difficult accomplishment as a suicide. Hubbard first went to prison in 1957 for a second-degree murder conviction in the death of David Dockery in Tuscaloosa County. He was released in 1976 and killed again the next year. His second victim, 62-year-old store owner Lillian Montgomery, was shot three times and robbed of her gold and diamond wristwatch and about $500 in cash and checks. She had befriended Hubbard and "sponsored" him to gain his release in 1976. Hubbard had moved into her home next door to the store she ran on U.S. Highway 82, according to court records. In a police statement, Hubbard said he had been drinking whiskey with Montgomery and claimed she committed suicide. Prosecutors introduced evidence that she couldn't have fired the fatal shots on Jan. 10, 1977. Hubbard was twice convicted in her death. An appeals court overturned the first conviction. But he was again sentenced to death at retrial and in 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it. The victim's son, Jimmy Montgomery, 66, a Tuscaloosa businessman, said he and his sister plan to attend the execution. "I hope it will be over," Montgomery said. "He shot her with a pistol I'd given her." Another son, 58-year-old Johnny Montgomery, a Birmingham-area real estate agent, doesn't plan to witness the execution, saying he feels "powerless" over what goes on with Hubbard and has never communicated with him. "One time I could have taken care of this guy with my own hands if they let me," the younger brother said in a telephone interview. "God has given me peace with this. I have forgiven him."


10/2003 - Ohio
Prison
Inmate Gets Death Sentence In Strangling

An Ohio prisoner convicted of strangling his cellmate will be executed. The prisoner, Timothy Hancock, 33, initially got a life sentence for the November 2000 slaying. However, Warren County prosecutors appealed to demand stiffer punishment, and a new sentencing was ordered. Hancock's death sentence will be automatically appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is required in capital cases. Hancock was convicted two years ago of killing Jason Wagner, 25,of Lancaster. They shared a cell at Warren Correctional Institution near Lebanon. Hancock was serving a life term for a 1990 murder.


10/3/03 - California
Former death row inmate may again face death penalty
Charge filed after 25 years

Armida Wiltsey went for a jog around the Lafayette Reservoir in California on Nov. 14, 1978. She never came home. The 40-year-old mother was found, raped and strangled to death, after worried neighbors called police to report her missing. There were a few witness descriptions, but no real leads to assuage the fears of a stunned community and a heartbroken family. The incident came amid a string of brutal rapes throughout the East Bay that police later found were unrelated. Only this summer did DNA technology link evidence saved from under Wiltsey's fingernails with a serial rapist who had been paroled just before her killing. He had been on death row. Prosecutors filed murder charges this week against Darryl Kemp, a 67-year-old Texas prison inmate, who is about to come up for parole once again. "I'm really relieved," Wiltsey's husband, Boyd Wiltsey, said Thursday. "This recent happening sort of gives me a feeling of relief and a sense of closure." Kemp has been out of custody for only eight of the 49 years since he turned 18. The District Attorney's Office will begin extradition proceedings to bring Kemp to Contra Costa County for trial, said deputy district attorney Harold Jewett. Kemp could face the death penalty for Wiltsey's killing; if convicted and sentenced to die, it would be his second stint on California's death row. Kemp was convicted of murder by strangulation and several rapes in 1960 and sent to death row. His sentence was commuted to life when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional in the mid-1970s. He was paroled less than four months before Wiltsey was killed. Wiltsey had gone jogging on the popular reservoir trail that Tuesday morning. When she failed to pick up her 10-year-old son at school, neighbors called police. Boyd Wiltsey rushed back from a business trip. When he arrived, he said, a deputy and his boss met him with the news that his wife was dead. A tracking dog had found her body about 50 feet off the trail. Witnesses gave the authorities descriptions and circulated sketches. But there were no arrests. Eventually, authorities began to believe a man named Phillip Hughes had killed Wiltsey. Hughes was convicted in the early 1980s of killing three other women. The last time sheriff's officials contacted Boyd Wiltsey, 15 years ago, they told him they were "99 percent" sure Hughes was his wife's killer but did not have enough evidence to convict him, Wiltsey said. "I kind of lived these many years thinking that was it," he said. "I was really shocked when I got the call (about Kemp in May)." Two weeks after the killing, Kemp was arrested in Walnut Creek for peeping into windows, court records show. He was interviewed regarding Wiltsey's death, but his girlfriend gave him an alibi, and he went free because the state did not revoke his parole. Sheriff's deputies did take hair samples, however. Those strands sat in storage for more than 20 years, along with evidence collected from Armida Wiltsey's body. In 2000, the sheriff's crime lab notified homicide detectives that they now had the equipment to test evidence from the Wiltsey case. The next year, the lab ruled out Hughes as a source of the male DNA found underneath Armida Wiltsey's fingernails, court records show. So sheriff's detective Roxane Gruenheid sat down with the case file. She came upon the 1978 interview with Kemp and did a little research. He was convicted in Los Angeles County in 1960 for the rape and murder of Marjorie Hipperson, who was strangled with a silk stocking June 10, 1957, court documents show. Kemp was arrested two years later for another rape. Police then matched his hand print to a partial palm print found at the scene of Hipperson's killing, according to L.A. Police Department reports. Those were the cases that put him on death row. "Based (on) excerpts from the 1950s criminal cases, I felt there was a consistent pattern or modus operandi," Gruenheid wrote in a recent police report. In between active cases, the crime lab ordered a comparison of Kemp's 1978 hair sample with the Wiltsey evidence, according to court records. It matched, but the hair had degraded over the years. So lab officials asked for a new blood sample. A judge issued a warrant and blood was taken from Kemp at the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence for an aggravated rape committed in 1983. Kemp also is suspected in several other sexual assaults in Texas, court documents show. He becomes eligible for parole Nov. 7, prison spokesman Mike Viesca said. He will remain in custody even if paroled, however, because a Contra Costa judge issued a new no-bail warrant for him, court records show. In a statement released Thursday evening, sheriff's officials said the evidence from Wiltsey's fingernails was compared with the state's DNA database, which linked it to Kemp. The statement does not mention the hair sample. Sheriff's officials refused to comment for this story. Included with the charges filed Wednesday are the "special circumstances" of killing during the commission of a rape and Kemp's previous California conviction for murder. These allegations make him eligible for the death penalty. Wiltsey was killed a week after voters approved a ballot initiative reinstating the death penalty. That makes Kemp eligible for the death penalty, Jewett said. He said his office will decide later whether to seek the death penalty. Boyd Wiltsey hopes prosecutors do. "He's nothing but an animal," he said of Kemp. "Society would be much better off without him around." Detectives came to see him and his son, Jeff, in May, to see if they recognized a photo of Kemp. They did not. But the visit opened old wounds, he said. "She was a very quiet, wonderful woman," he said of his wife. "She was the living image of what you would consider a good person." Two years after her death, Boyd and Jeff Wiltsey moved to Oregon. Boyd Wiltsey has remarried, and Jeff is married with three children. "To tell you the truth, if I hadn't had Jeff, I don't really think I'd be around today," Wiltsey said. "I think I would have taken some drastic steps at that time."


12/4/01 - Alabama
Triple killer serving life without parole kills another inmate; finally gets death sentence

A Holman Prison inmate found guilty in September of murdering a fellow inmate was sentenced to the electric chair in an Escambia County courtroom. Cuhuatemoc Hinricky Peraita, 25, of Rainbow City, Ala., who was serving life without parole for 3 murders in Gadsden, was found guilty of capital murder and of having committed a murder after being convicted of other murders within the past 20 years. Prosecutor Reo Kirkland convinced a jury that Peraita held fellow inmate Quincy Lewis down while another inmate, Michael Castillo, stabbed him with a prison-made knife. Kirkland said during the trial that Peraita played an important role in the death of Lewis by grabbing him around the neck, forcing him onto a bunk and holding him while Castillo stabbed him with a knife. According to Kirkland, testimony from a medical examiner showed that 2 different stab wounds would each have resulted in the death of Lewis. One of those wounds was to the chest, the other to the neck. Peraita's defense team argued self defense and that Peraita and Castillo had paid Lewis money to leave them alone. They said despite paying Lewis, he continued to threaten them and that Peraita had been slapped by Lewis not long before the murder. Peraita gets an automatic appeal due to the death sentence. Judge Brad Byrne handed down the death sentence. His alleged accomplice, Castillo, pled guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter recently in exchange for a 20-year sentence. Judge Joe Brogden accepted the plea on Nov. 6. 

9/21/01 - Alabama
Holman inmate convicted of capital murder

A Holman Correctional Facility inmate was found guilty of capital murder Friday in the stabbing death of another inmate. An Escambia County jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Cuhuatemoc Little Warrior Peraita, 25, guilty in the 1999 prison stabbing death of inmate Quincy Lewis. Peraita waived his right to have jurors recommend to the judge if he should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or to death. Peraita instructed his attorneys not to fight prosecution efforts to seek the death penalty. Circuit Judge Bradley Byrne said he would schedule sentencing at a later date. It was not the 1st capital murder trial for Peraita. When Lewis was stabbed, Peraita was serving a life without parole sentence for killing three of his former co-workers during a 1994 robbery at a fast food restaurant in Gadsden.


11/27/01 - Oklahoma
Man found guilty in 12-year-old murder of teen boy - also killed two children as a teenager

In Tulsa, jurors returned a guilty verdict Tuesday night against a man charged with killing and dismembering a teen-ager 12 years ago. Wayne Henry Garrison, 42, has maintained his innocence. His trial began earlier this month. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Jurors will consider Garrison's punishment in a separate hearing. Garrison was charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Justin Wiles 13, of Tulsa. The boy disappeared June 20, 1989, after he was seen getting into Garrison's car at Garrison's body shop. Parts of Justin's body were found 4 days later at a lake in Wagoner County, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing. Investigators said Justin's head, attached to a rock with wire, was found in Lake Bixhoma. Garrison was charged and arrested in the case on Oct. 22, 1999 -- more than a decade after 1st being identified as a suspect. As a teen-ager, Garrison killed two children in Tulsa. Police earlier said the circumstances of those killings were similar to Justin's death. Justin was reported missing in June 1989 when he didn't come home from mowing lawns. Police said a friend of Garrison's reported seeing Justin get into a car with Garrison on June 20, 1989. Police said that was the last time the teen was seen alive.


3/23/01 - Alabama
Killer who "knows how to work the system" lets appeal deadlines expire

The Alabama Supreme Court set an April 27, 2001 execution date for a man who asked to be sentenced to death knowing he would get an automatic appeal and better accommodations in prison. Convicted murderer Tommy Arthur was sentenced to die in Alabama's electric chair for killing Troy Wicker in a 1982 murder for-hire scheme in Muscle Shoals. The decision to set the execution date was unusual because Arthur's appeal has yet to be heard in federal court, as is routine in capital murder cases. Arthur recently filed papers in state court that include a claim that new evidence will prove him innocent. Clay Crenshaw, an assistant attorney general who asked the Supreme Court to set the execution date, said Arthur has not filed appeals when he was supposed to. "It is our position that he has waived his appeals," Crenshaw said. Crenshaw, who heads the capital litigation section in the attorney general's office, said his office, and apparently the Supreme Court, agree that Arthur has run out of legal appeals. "This is an oddball case because he technically does have appeals left, but it's our position he does not because he has not timely filed petitions," Crenshaw said. "Anything he has left is beyond the statute of limitations." A defense lawyer who specializes in death penalty appeals said Arthur didn't appeal because he couldn't find a lawyer. Alabama does not provide attorneys for condemned inmates. "It's somewhat unprecedented to schedule an execution without federal review," said Bryan Stevenson, who heads the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. Arthur has been convicted and sentenced to death three times for shooting Wicker, a riverboat engineer, to death on Feb. 1, 1982. Wicker's wife, Judy Wicker, testified she had sex with Arthur before the killing and paid him $10,000 from her husband's life insurance policy for the slaying. Mrs. Wicker was convicted as an accomplice and was sentenced to life in prison. During sentencing, Arthur asked jurors to recommend death. He told them a capital sentence would mean automatic appeals, better accommodations in prison and liberal access to the prison law library. Crenshaw said Arthur "knows how to work the system." Arthur's appellate court record shows why it's taken nearly 19 years to send him to the electric chair: "After 3 trials, 4 appellate reviews, approximately 10 different attorneys and numerous delays and continuances, Arthur raises over 40 issues before this court," the Supreme Court said Nov. 21, 1997, when it last upheld his conviction. Arthur has not exhausted all of his federal appeals, but officials in the Alabama attorney general's office say he failed to meet filing deadlines on the appeals. Tuscumbia attorney William Hovater, who represented Arthur during his 2nd trial and later had the conviction successfully appealed, said Arthur called him Friday after learning that an execution date had been scheduled. "He said he called me because I was the only one he could trust," Hovater said. "He wanted me to check to make sure if he had any appeals available. I told him I would. "He was pretty upbeat and didn't sound like someone who had just been told the day he was going to be executed. He was confident there will be some appellate measure to help him avoid this." Hovater said Arthur told him that he hopes to draw attention to the fact that people who have exhausted their appeals on the state level no longer have an attorney appointed to represent them. He said Arthur continues to maintain his innocence. Arthur recently filed documents in state court claiming that he has new evidence proving he is innocent. The papers do not elaborate on the new evidence. Crenshaw said this is further evidence of Arthur "working the system." His request to the jury that he receive the death penalty is an example of the way he used the system. He told jurors that a death sentence would mean an automatic appeal and access to the prison law library among other accommodations. Arthur was eligible for the death penalty because he already had been convicted of killing someone before the Wicker slaying. He was convicted in 1977 of killing the sister of his common-law wife. Arthur was sentenced to life in prison in that case. The victim in that case was shot in the right eye, just as Wicker was killed. A person convicted of 2 murders within five years can be tried for capital murder. Arthur was convicted 1st in 1985, but that conviction was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court because details of the 1977 murder conviction were improperly admitted at the trial. Arthur was serving time in a Decatur work-release center for that killing when Wicker was murdered. Arthur escaped from the Colbert County jail in 1986 while awaiting the start of his second trial. Jailer James Conley was shot during the escape. Arthur was captured less than 2 months later in Knoxville, where he was accused of bank robbbery. His 2nd conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals because of improper evidence, Hovater said. Judy Wicker testified in the 2nd trial after declining to do so in the 1st trial. 


1/8/01 - California
Inmate wants to die rather than "lingering'' on death row

A California death row inmate imprisoned for 21 years dropped his appeals Monday, setting the stage for a rare execution in the state with the largest number of condemned inmates. Robert Massie, 59, could be executed within months for the 1979 murder of a San Francisco liquor store owner. Of nearly 600 condemned men and women in California, eight inmates have been executed since 1978, the year state voters reinstituted capital punishment. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Legge dismissed Massie's federal appeals late Monday. The judge has already ruled Massie competent to quit fighting his conviction, and gave Massie until Monday to change his mind. In his petition to end his appeals, Massie told Legge that he would rather die than continue living on death row in San Quentin, which is located a few miles north of San Francisco in Marin County. He said life on death row is a "lingering death.'' So even if his death sentence was somehow reversed or commuted by an appeal, he would remain in prison for the rest of his life for shooting Boris Naumoff to death at a San Francisco liquor store. That is why he wants a "swift execution.'' Massie has spent most of his life in prison. In 1965, he was convicted of murdering a San Gabriel woman and sentenced to death. But his death sentence was commuted after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California's death penalty laws. Because of lenient parole laws at the time, he was paroled in 1978, a year before he killed Naumoff.


12/6/00 - Texas
Gonzales deputy slain; paroled killer charged
San Antonio Express-News

A man twice convicted in slayings is in Caldwell County Jail, facing a murder charge in the death of a Gonzales County sheriff's deputy. Sgt. David M. Furrh, 40, was shot once in the chest shortly before midnight Tuesday during a drug raid on a Luling trailer home. He died about an hour later at Luling Hospital. Furrh was among a group of officers from area departments who commonly work together on drug investigations. Luling is in neighboring Caldwell County. "He was a good guy and a heck of an officer," Gonzales County Sheriff Glen Sachtleben said. "He was very interested in the community." Furrh is the first Gonzales County law officer to die in the line of duty since Sheriff Robert M. Glover was killed by Gregorio Cortéz in 1901, Sachtleben said. Furrh, a 17-year veteran, had been with the department for about four years and previously worked for the Moulton Police Department and sheriff's departments in Lavaca and Colorado counties, said Marvin Miles, administrative assistant to Sachtleben. Furrh, who lived in Moulton, is survived by his wife, Tollie; three children; his parents; and siblings, Miles said. Miguel Salas Rodriguez, 50, is charged in Furrh's death, as well as delivery of a controlled substance. Rodriguez lived in the Luling trailer home that was raided by police. Officials released few details of the raid, including whether any drugs were seized at the home. The DPS Web site lists a December 1973 conviction of homicide without malice, for which Rodriguez was sentenced to five years in prison. It also shows an April 1979 conviction for murder, for which he was sentenced to 70 years in prison. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Glen Castlebury said the 1979 conviction was in Caldwell County and Rodriguez was paroled in October 1989. He is still on parole.


11/10/00 Michigan
Suspect charged in attack on 2 girls
In 1987 he was charged with his father in the murder of a 15-year-old boy

A man who had been charged with helping his father kill a Clare County teen-ager 13 years ago has been charged with molesting two young girls in Nevada. Martin McRae, 26, was arraigned Tuesday in Washoe County, Nev., on three counts of felony lewdness with a child younger than 14. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. McRae is accused of molesting an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old girl in the back of his pickup truck in the desert near Reno, Nev. "At the time, both he and the two victims were naked," Jim Shewan, the attorney prosecuting the case, told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant. McRae took a group of six children, ages 2 to 10, on a four-wheeling trip Aug. 7, Shewan said. McRae's pickup truck broke down, stranding the group in the desert overnight. Authorities allege McRae molested the two girls in the truck's bed while the other children remained in the cab. The 8-year-old's mother contacted police after the girl said McRae had molested her. In October 1997, McRae was charged at the same time as his father, John Rodney McRae, with the 1987 murder of 15-year-old Randy Ray Laufer in rural Clare County, about 100 miles north of Lansing. The McRaes moved to Arizona after Laufer was reported missing, and they were extradited from their home in Apache Junction, Ariz. Prosecutors alleged Martin McRae helped his father bury Laufer, but the charges against the son were dismissed because he was 13 at the time of Laufer's death and could not face adult charges. The elder McRae was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. It was the second time John McRae, now 65, was convicted of murdering a young boy. The first time was in 1951, when he killed 8-year-old Joey Housey in the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores. In both cases, McRae was the last person seen with the victim. Both victims' bodies bore numerous slash marks, both were buried near McRae's homes, and McRae took part in searches for each boy. McRae was 15 at the time and was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for Housey's slaying. But in 1970, his sentence was commuted by then-Gov. William Milliken, and he was paroled in 1971.


10/24/00 - Michigan
On Trial For Killing Second Family - Ex-Cop Killed First Family in '75, On Trial Again

A former Detroit police officer found innocent by reason of insanity for killing his first family 25 years ago is on trial again, charged with killing his second wife and 3-year-old son. Paul Harrington allegedly borrowed a gun from a neighbor Oct. 14, 1999, the night before the killings, then shot his wife, Wanda, and son Brian in the head at point-blank range after sending his older son off to school. Prosecutors argued in opening statements of the first-degree murder trial Monday that Harrington, 54, made a deliberate decision to kill his family and calmly confessed the crime to a 911 operator. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Elizondo said Harrington’s decision to borrow the weapon the night before proved premeditation. Elizondo said Harrington even told the 911 operator that he sent his teenage son, Paul Jr., to school because “he’s too big ... I didn’t want to wrestle him.” Harrington, who has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, talked to the operator for about 10 minutes. The recorded call was played back to the Circuit Court jury Monday. “He thought about this, he had some time to weigh it,” Elizondo said. Defense attorney W. Frederick Moore argued that the details of the crime “will disturb you to your soul,” but said nevertheless Harrington is legally insane. The ex-officer committed an almost identical crime in 1975, when he shot his wife and two daughters with his service revolver then turned himself in to police. He was found innocent by reason of insanity and spent two months in a psychiatric institution. Moore blamed his client’s psychiatric instability in part from his traumatic Vietnam War experiences. Harrington told a psychiatrist years ago that he killed a Vietnamese mother and four children by mistake. “The demons were torturing him,” Moore said. Harrington sounded subdued on the 911 tape made shortly after the shootings. “Things just wasn’t working out,” Harrington said. “Everything’s just gone to hell. I just don’t know what to do anymore ... I loved my kids. I loved them. I just couldn’t take care of them anymore.” Harrington sat almost immobile during the testimony, as a television displayed several photographs of the crime scene. One photo showed his wife and son, both shot in the head, on opposite ends of the couch. Another showed blood stains in the dining room near a Hot Wheels toy garage and cars. Harrington said he shot Brian as he played with the toys, then carried him to the couch and shot him again. In a hearing on the case last January, police testified that Harrington confessed to the killing and said he should have been “put away” in 1975 for killing his first wife, Becky, 28, and his daughters Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4. Police said the couple had recently separated when he killed the three with his police service revolver. He was committed for psychiatric evaluation at a state facility but was released after just two months of treatment, according to records. UPDATE - 11/1/00 - A former police officer who was charged with killing his wife and children in 1975 has been convicted of murdering his second wife and 3-year-old son. Paul Harrington, who was found innocent by reason of insanity 25 years ago and served two months in a psychiatric hospital, now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. "We're glad this man will not hurt anyone else again," Chester Trail, a relative of Harrington's second wife, told the Detroit Free Press in Wednesday's editions. Harrington killed his wife Wanda Harrington, 47, in October 1999, then shot their son, Brian, 3. Harrington, 53, called 911 and waited on his porch for officers. Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 1. Harrington's attorneys mounted an insanity defense, arguing that he had been diagnosed with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1975, Harrington - recently separated from his 28-year-old wife, Becky - killed her and their two daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4, with his service revolver.


10/13/00 - Maine
Killer Confesses in Bid to Return Home, Cops Say -
Texas Convict Wants to Serve Sentence in Maine

ETNA, Maine -- James Rodney Hicks, convicted last year of trying to kill a 68-year-old woman in her Texas home, didn't much care for the idea of spending the next half-century locked up in a Lone Star state prison, authorities said. If he had to spend the rest of his life behind bars, Hicks told authorities, he preferred to do it in his home state of Maine. Even if that meant confessing to two unsolved murders, authorities said. Hicks' relationship with state police in Maine began in 1977 when he was charged and convicted of killing his first wife, Jennie, who was then 23, McCausland said. Her body was never found. Hicks served nearly six years in prison for the slaying, McCausland said. After his release in 1982, authorities say, Hicks met a woman, Jerilyn Towers, then 34, at a Newport bar. The last time anyone saw Towers alive, she was walking out of the bar with Hicks, McCausland said. Although investigators suspected that Hicks might have had something to do with her disappearance, they had no evidence and he was never arrested, authorities said. Hicks again turned up on police radar screens in 1996, when his longtime, live-in girlfriend, Lynne Willette, 40, vanished. Police suspected that she, too, might have been the victim of foul play, but they had no proof. When Hicks decided some three years ago to move to Texas, there was nothing police and prosecutors in Maine could do to stop him, authorities said. The cases remained stalled until last year, when Hicks was convicted in Texas of attempted murder after he broke into a home. On Tuesday, authorities recovered the first set of remains, buried in a shallow grave at a house Hicks once rented in Etna, McCausland said. 


7/26/00 - Connecticut
America's Most Wanted profile results in arrest of killer

On April 22, 2000, "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," profiled a murder case from New Haven, Connecticut. Police say that on December 12, 1999, Kevin Moore stabbed his girlfriend, Margaret Woods, to death. According to authorities, Moore was charged with Murder, Robbery, Carrying a Dangerous Weapon, and Failure to Appear. Recently, Moore was arrested, and even better, the arrest was a direct result of "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back." Kevin Moore was out on bail for a previous murder when he stabbed his girlfriend to death in December of 1999. He had killed a man in 1997 during a robbery attempt. Capt. Brian Sullivan of the New Haven police department said that Moore stabbed Woods once in the chest while her two children, sister and mother were in the house. After the stabbing, cops say he stayed in the New Haven area for approximately one day, then fled. Moore was captured on July 25, 2000, in Miami by FBI Fugitive Task Force. An "AMW" tipster gave cops Moore's real name. Moore had been working odd jobs and living in boarding houses since the murder. He had been using the alias Kevin Robinson. At the time of his arrest, Moore was renting a room from a woman and when the police arrived on his door step. Moore admitted his identity, and he said that "he was glad that it was over." Moore will be extradited back to Connecticut, after a hearing today. 


6/28/00 - Missouri
Missouri executes convicted repeat murderer

POTOSI, Missouri (AP) -- A man was executed in Missouri by injection early Wednesday for suffocating a woman and her son during a 1988 robbery because he feared the pair would identify him. Bert Hunter, 53, was apparently the first inmate in Missouri history put to death without a jury trial. When his case came to trial in 1989, Hunter was clinically depressed and suicidal. He pleaded guilty and asked the judge for the death sentence. His later attempts to seek a new trial were denied. Hours before his death, he said he didn't expect a last-minute reprieve. "There is no justice," Hunter said. "It's time for this nightmare to be over, as far as I'm concerned." Hunter was convicted of killing Mildred Hodges, 75, and her son, Richard, 49, at their home in Jefferson City. Tomas Ervin was also convicted in the crime and sentenced to die. Hunter denied that Ervin was involved in the murders, saying an unnamed accomplice killed Richard Hodges after the victim's mother died during a scuffle. Hunter was earlier convicted of killing a blind bar owner in 1968, but was released on parole in 1980. Prosecutor Richard Callahan said Hunter was an intelligent man whose cocaine habit cost him work. In need of money, Hunter and Ervin planned to rob the Hodges home, Callahan said. In his confession, Hunter said the Hodges were killed because the assailants feared they had been recognized.


6/16/00 - Missouri
Ex-con murders 15-year-old girl in road-rage incident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) A former convict was charged with murder for allegedly killing a 15-year-old girl during an argument after a minor traffic accident. Zeno E. Sims, 37, surrendered Thursday in the slaying of DeAntreia L. Ashley. Ashley was a passenger in a car driven by her 17-year-old boyfriend when it struck Sims' sports utility vehicle Saturday night, police said. Witnesses reported seeing the SUV pull to the right side of the car. After a brief argument, the SUV driver began firing a gun into the car and then sped off, witnesses said. The boyfriend, who suffered gunshot wounds, was released from the hospital Wednesday. Sims is charged with assaulting him as well as a third passenger, a 13-year-old boy. The boy, who police say identified Sims, lay on the back floorboard until the gunman drove off and then ran to safety, authorities said. The shooting sparked days of rallies in the community. One group had vowed to continue daily vigils at the site of the shooting until a suspect was caught. Sims also faces three counts of armed criminal action and two counts of first-degree assault, prosecutors said. It is the second time Sims has faced a murder charge. In 1983, he and two other men were accused in the killing of a 24-year-old man. Sims eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced to eight years but was released early on parole.


5/22/00 - Florida
Triple murderer has execution date

A convicted killer scheduled to be executed next week lost an appeal Monday before a Gainesville judge, and then turned to the Florida Supreme Court. After Circuit Judge Robert Cates rejected the appeal by Bennie Demps, Florida's high court scheduled an oral argument for Tuesday morning. Demps, 49, was first sent to death row for two 1971 murders. He has avoided three scheduled electrocutions in his years on death row. Demps, a Vietnam veteran, now is condemned for the 1976 murder of a prison snitch. He's scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. May 31. Originally, Demps was sent to death row for the murders of R.N. Brinkworth and Celia Puhlick, who were fatally shot in a Lake County citrus grove. The victims were inspecting some land for sale when they happened upon Demps, who had fled to the grove with a stolen safe. Mrs. Puhlick's husband, Nicholas, was wounded. A year after Demps was sent to death row, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out capital punishment across the country, ruling death sentences had been imposed in an arbitrary way. Demps and 96 other death row inmates were taken off Florida's death row and returned to the general prison population. In July 1976, the nation's high court upheld Florida's new capital punishment law. And two months later, Alfred Sturgis was fatally stabbed in his prison cell. Before he died, Sturgis told a guard that Demps and another inmate had held him down while a third stabbed him. Demps was sentenced to death in 1978. Since his second death sentence, Demps has survived three death warrants - in 1982, 1987 and 1990 - by winning last-minute appeals.


5/17/00 - Montana
Bay State killer murders in Montana

KALISPELL, Mont. - A man who served 11 years in prison for strangling his girlfriend in Massachusetts in 1986 has pleaded guilty to murder in the death of his wife. Leroy Schmitz testified Monday that he was fighting with Mary Ann Schmitz, 41, last June 18 in Whitefish. When they fell to the ground, he said, he put his knee on her throat and killed her. Schmitz, 42, remained in custody on bail of $1 million and is to be sentenced June 15. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend 100 years in prison with 20 suspended and no possibility of parole for 20 years. Fourteen years ago, Schmitz gave similar testimony to a court in New Bedford, Mass., to explain the killing of his live-in girlfriend, Barbara Seed. He said he strangled her accidentally Oct. 5, 1986, during an argument. After the killing he went to a New Bedford mental health crisis center, where he was known to counselors, and confessed the crime. He was sentenced to 18 to 20 years at Cedar Junction state prison in Walpole, Mass.


4/27/00 - Ohio
Killer's own family hopes for another death sentence 

9 years ago, their brother was sentenced to die. And they applauded. Years and a pile of appeals later, Michael Jeffrey Johnson is off death row and back in Summit County Common Pleas Court where he will stand trial once again for the murder of his sister, Susan Brunst. His family will be there, hoping for his death, just as they did in 1991 when they held up lighted cigarette lighters from the back of a courtroom to symbolize that desire. Johnson, 41, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing this afternoon before Judge James R. Williams. No trial date has been set. "He's being given this 2nd chance and he doesn't deserve it," said Johnson's sister, June Jones of Florida. "He knows I have a .357 and I'll blow his head off. I don't care who he is. He's not my brother. He murdered my sister in cold blood." Johnson, who has been transferred from the Mansfield Correctional Institution to Summit County Jail, declined a request to be interviewed. His court-appointed attorney, Patricia Millhoff, could not be reached for comment. Summit County Prosecutor Michael Callahan said his office intends to seek the death penalty against Johnson. "That's what he got the 1st time; that's what he should get this time," said Callahan, who tried Johnson's 1991 case as an assistant prosecutor. 'I don't think there's any doubt he did it." During his trial, Johnson maintained his innocence. Even when condemned to death, he remained calm, giggling while predicting an appeals court would take his side and spare his life. His prediction came true in 1994 -- 2 days before Christmas -- when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Judge Williams allowed prosecutors to use inadmissible evidence and statements against Johnson. They also ruled it was improper to sentence Johnson to death because local authorities used a 1984 Florida slaying as the basis of obtaining the capital indictment and verdict. "Our hope is that he gets the same thing he did nine years ago," said Johnson's brother, Thomas, 33, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls. "He shouldn't even have a 2nd chance. He didn't give our sister a 2nd chance. Burn him now." The state's highest court called the evidence against Johnson "weak" and "not overwhelming." The justices ordered a new trial. Johnson then asked the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to drop the murder charge on a claim of double jeopardy. In January, the federal appellate judges denied his claim and ruled prosecutors could retry Johnson. The judges said there was sufficient evidence that Johnson committed the murder. They also ruled prosecutors could seek the death penalty, so long as they use rape or kidnapping as a reason to support the capital offense. But they said the basis used for the 1991 death penalty -- a Florida homicide conviction -- wasn't proper. Johnson spent 19 months in prison after his guilty plea for beating a female friend with an iron skillet. Prosecutors and Johnson's own family contend he killed Brunst, a mother of 2, on June 2, 1990, and dumped her nude body in a patch of woods in Palmyra Township in Portage County. When Brunst's remains were uncovered almost a month later, they were too decomposed for investigators to determine a cause of death. Her death was ruled a "violent homicide" and prosecutors believe the 36-year-old woman was strangled. Suspicion immediately rested on Johnson. Brunst had told family members Johnson tried to rape her 6 months earlier, a move that angered Johnson. They said he also was angry that she told his new female love interest about his Florida murder conviction and the family's attempt to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. Johnson was the last person to see Brunst alive when he visited her apartment in Akron the night she disappeared. Carpet fibers from his Jeep were found by her body. And a neighbor saw Johnson leaving his home at 4:30 a.m., just hours before Brunst was discovered missing. Johnson told Akron police detectives his family believed he killed her, so he might as well confess. His same feelings of betrayal by his family led him to request a guilty plea at his initial court appearance. If Johnson did kill his sister, he has not said how he did it. In his statements to police, he said he bludgeoned her, stabbed her and then shot her. However, the were no signs of such trauma. "I could probably strangle him if he were in front of me now," said Brunst's daughter, Cindy Veemara, 28, of Orrville. "It's really tough having to go through all this again and not knowing how it's going to end up. I definitely hope he gets the electric chair." 


4/11/00 - Arkansas
7 months after parole, another murder

A man who was wanted for shooting a pregnant woman and killing her boyfriend was captured April 10, 2000 in Dallas, Texas. Algernon Doby, who was wanted in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on murder and attempted murder charges was arrested after he tried to flee Dallas Police in a stolen Ford Escort. Police say when they searched the vehicle they also found ten rocks of crack cocaine. Doby's arrest is a direct result of his profile on the television show America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back. Doby is the show's 605 capture to date. FBI agents in Arkansas had been looking for Doby since the 1999 murder of a Pine Bluff man and the attempted murder of his pregnant girlfriend. According to agents, on July 7, 1999, Doby and an accomplice drove up to the residence of Raymond Johnson. Doby's accomplice says the motive was robbery. When they arrived at Johnson's house, they were met by Raymond's 19-year old girlfriend Tamica Tyler, who was nine months pregnant. Doby pulled a gun and began firing at Raymond and Tamica. She was shot in the stomach and Raymond was hit as well. Doby stole $400 from the house and fled. Raymond later died of the gunshot wounds but amazingly, both Tamica and her child survived. This incident came just seven months after Doby was paroled for a previous murder conviction and just five months after Doby was released on bond after being arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. America's Most Wanted aired a segment about Doby on March 3, 2000. A viewer who was watching the show recognized Doby as a man who may have been residing in an apartment in Dallas. The viewer informed the FBI, who then informed the Dallas Police Department's Fugitive Task Force. Detectives set up surveillance for a week but they did not see Doby near the residence. Yesterday, an undercover police office was patrolling the neighborhood when she noticed a vehicle parked outside the residence. A license place check showed the vehicle was stolen. Moments later Doby exited the residence and drove away in the vehicle. The officer pursued Doby and called for backup. When backup arrived Doby was pulled over and apprehended. In addition to the charges of murder and attempted murder in Pine Bluff, Doby now faces charges of grand theft auto and drug possession in Dallas.


4/7/00 - Minnesota
Suspect arrested in Minneapolis homicide

A 32-year-old man has been arrested in the killing of a woman who was found in her south Minneapolis apartment about 4 a.m. Thursday. Police said the suspect, who was convicted of third-degree murder in 1987, appears to have known the victim, who was in her late 30s. The victim was a quiet woman who lived alone in an apartment building and occasionally had friends over, said Beverly Williams, who lives next door. She said she didn't hear any shots or loud noises coming from the victim's apartment Wednesday or early Thursday. The victim suffered traumatic injuries consistent with homicide, said a spokesman for the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. An autopsy is scheduled for today and relatives are being sought to positively identify the woman, he said. Police released no information about a possible motive, how the woman was killed or who found her. The suspect is being held in the Hennepin County jail. He was convicted of third-degree murder and aggravated assault in 1987 and of domestic assault in Bloomington in 1997. The domestic case involved his wife, who had a protection order against him and is not the homicide victim, records show. The man lives in New Brighton, a police spokeswoman said. The Star Tribune generally doesn't name suspects before they are charged. The victim's neighbor said she was shocked to hear of the death because the building, which has locked security doors, is usually quiet. "The managers try to keep it pretty safe," Williams said. She has lived in the building, in the Howe neighborhood, for almost two years.


4/5/00 - Texas
Freed killer repeatedly broke parole, official says
He says man - now charged in 2nd slaying - belonged back in prison

Texas officials took no action about repeated parole violations by a freed Dallas murderer, who went on to be charged with stabbing a second estranged lover to death, state records show. The officials acknowledge that William Earl Rayford, a 46-year-old glass cutter, should have been supervised more closely and not allowed to commit further crimes. "I think that's intolerable," said Victor Rodriguez, head of the state parole division and former head of the parole board. "We shouldn't let it rise to the level of a crime" before revoking an offender's parole. Relatives of Carol Lynn Thomas Hall, whom Rayford is charged with killing late last year, said that if he had been in prison that day, as he should have been, she would still be alive. "Why didn't they take him back?" said Dortha J. Thomas, Ms. Hall's mother. "He has taken the very soul from two families." Stennett Posey, the parole division's spokesman, said he didn't know how to respond to her grief. "I don't think there's anything I can say that would make up for the loss of a loved one," he said. But "let's focus the blame on the offender." Rayford ran afoul of the law several times after his 1994 release in the first slaying, beginning with a 1997 drunken-driving conviction in Denton County. That was enough to return him to prison, but the parole board decided to let him remain free "pending the successful completion of probation," according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice report. Rayford violated his probation in several ways, Denton County records show: He tested positive for cocaine twice, failed to complete court-ordered community service and didn't pay fees and fines. A judge ordered him to serve 50 days in jail last year, but his parole still wasn't revoked. For reasons that remain unclear, Mr. Posey said, the matter was not returned to the parole board for consideration. He declined to identify the parole officer who was supervising Rayford, saying that her handling of the case is under internal investigation. Flowers mark the area where the body of Carol Hall (above) was found after her slaying in November. The man accused in her death was convicted of killing his former wife in 1986 but was free on parole when Ms. Hall - his estranged girlfriend - was killed and her son was wounded. After Rayford's short jail term in Denton came an arrest on a trespassing charge; he was accused of scaling a fence to reach a private fishing pond in southeast Dallas County. He admitted to his parole officer that he was using cocaine again. Police were called to his girlfriend's southeast Oak Cliff home three times for disturbances; Ms. Hall didn't press charges over the incidents, including one in which officers were told that Rayford had smashed one of her car windows and fled. At the time of the property-damage call, in October, Ms. Hall had broken up with Rayford. Before dawn one November morning, according to a Dallas police report, he got into Ms. Hall's home, argued with her, wounded her 11-year-old son and chased her outside. Officers found Ms. Hall's body in a drainage tunnel under the street, stabbed and strangled. They caught Rayford in her back yard - "all wet and dirty," according to the police report - and said he told them where the body was. Rayford, whose bail is set at $250,000, faces a murder trial in June. He declined to be interviewed in jail, and his attorney did not respond to messages. Benjamin Thomas was injured in Carol Hall's slaying. Dortha Thomas, Ms. Hall's mother, wants justice. The current charges against Rayford closely resemble those of 1986, when he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for killing his former wife. He stabbed Gail Rayford 16 times as their four children watched, then slashed himself and jumped through a second-story window at her Far East Dallas apartment. The couple's marriage was dissolved in 1984. A judge ordered Rayford to stay away from Ms. Rayford during the divorce case, finding that he would harass and hurt her unless restrained. Ms. Rayford won another temporary restraining order in June 1986, with the same judge declaring that she was in danger of "immediate irreparable injury." Four days later, Rayford killed her. Before pleading no contest, he wrote the court a letter asserting that he "did not knowingly and intentionally cause" her death. "I have been a role model citizen," he said. Ms. Rayford's mother declined to comment, as did some of her children, who are now grown. Others could not be located. Out in 8 years Rayford had to be released from prison after eight years because of "good time" rules that have since been toughened. "He should have been put on death row," reads a letter dictated by Benjamin Thomas, the 11-year-old Mr. Rayford is accused of stabbing in November. But "he was let out of jail to kill again." Benjamin now lives with his grandmother, Ms. Thomas, a block from where his mother was killed. He dictated the letter to a relative while recovering from his wounds and addressed it to President Clinton, although the family has never mailed it. Relatives say Benjamin's mother, Ms. Hall, knew of Rayford's murder conviction when she started dating him in the mid-1990s. She was Sunday school superintendent at Burning Bush Missionary Baptist Church and said it was the family's Christian duty to give him another chance, they say. But her four children worried, saying they saw evidence of all sorts of lawbreaking. Benjamin said Rayford sometimes visited a crack house in their neighborhood near Interstate 20 and Bonnie View Road. "He locked me out of the house," the boy said, and "one time he beat on me." "He stayed high all the time," said his grandmother, Ms. Thomas. His parole officer, she said, rarely visited. Short-staffed Mr. Posey, the parole division spokesman, declined to dispute that characterization. Mr. Rodriguez, his boss, said more parole officers are needed. But "we're going to get the job done with what we have," he vowed. Despite the public's fascination with serial killers, paroled murderers are statistically much less likely to repeat their offense than, say, child molesters. Thus, they often are supervised less closely after release from prison, criminal justice experts say. Mr. Posey noted that Rayford went years without getting in trouble again after being freed from prison. And at first, the problems were far less serious than his murder conviction. But the fact that they continued, he acknowledged, "should have been a red flag."


3/22/00
Indicted in guard killing

BEEVILLE -- A convicted killer already serving a life sentence was indicted Tuesday for capital murder in the death of prison guard Daniel Nagle. Robert Lynn Pruett, 20, could face the death penalty if found guilty of the Dec. 17 attack on Nagle, who was fatally stabbed with a sharpened rod while patrolling the Texas Department of Criminal Justice McConnell Unit near Beeville in South Texas. It was the first fatal attack on a Texas corrections officer since guard Minnie Houston was stabbed to death in 1984 by an inmate at the Ellis Unit near Huntsville, a prison official said. Pruett, from Channelview, was serving a life term for a murder committed when he was 15, according to prison records. Nagle had been president of the Beeville chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents corrections officers. Nagle is survived by his wife, a former corrections officer at McConnell, and three young children.


3/1/00 
Police Arrest Boyfriend After 'Psychic' Dies of Burns

HIALEAH, Fla. - A self-proclaimed psychic has died of burns suffered when her herbal-remedy store was set on fire with a bucket of gasoline. A former boyfriend was arrested. Addy Tejeiro, 56, known as "Madame Francisca," suffered burns over 90 percent of her body Saturday. She died Monday at a hospital in Miami. Police arrested Roberto L. Suarez, 62, and charged him with first-degree murder. He served seven years in prison on a 1974 murder conviction for killing a man who took a french fry off his plate at a restaurant. Police said Suarez, who had been Tejeiro's on-and-off boyfriend for several years, was upset because she refused to get back together with him after a recent breakup. 


12/8/99
Killer charged with murdering while on the loose

STAR CITY, Ark. - A convicted killer who escaped and was recaptured in Missouri after crashing into another vehicle was charged in the death of the man whose truck he was driving. Kenneth Williams, 20, of Pine Bluff, will be arraigned Wednesday on a capital murder charge in the shooting death of Cecil Boren which happened after he escaped in October. Williams was charged Tuesday in Lincoln County Circuit Court with murdering Boren at his home near Grady on Oct. 3. Williams left the Cummins Unit of the state prison system in a 500-gallon vat of table scraps from the prison kitchen, which was headed for a barn. Police say after he got off prison grounds, he made his way to Boren's house, killed him and stole his truck. Missouri police spotted the truck at Lebanon, Mo., and gave chase. Officers arrested Williams at Urbana, Mo., after he slammed into a Culligan delivery vehicle, killing the driver. Police found guns and jewelry from the Boren home in Boren's truck after the crash. Williams was returned to Arkansas after waiving extradition. He's also being charged with aggravated robbery, theft of property and escape. He is being held in the more-secure Tucker Unit in an isolation cell. Prison officials say Williams is allowed out of his cell only three hours a week, except for court appearances and medical visits. At Cummins, Williams was in a 34-man barracks, officials said, which gave him some freedom. Williams was sentenced to life in prison for the December 1998 murder of Dominique Hurd of Fort Worth. The girl was a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and was on her first date with Peter Robertson of Vineland, N.J., when she was shot. Robertson also was wounded. Jurors were split over imposing a death sentence for the Hurd slaying. Tuesday's announcement by Prosecutor Steve Dalrymple that Williams had been charged in Boren's death did not say if Dalrymple would seek the death penalty in the Boren case.

8/30/2000
Farmer's killer convicted of capital murder again

STAR CITY, Ark. - Three prison guards stood behind an impassive Kenneth Williams as he was convicted a second time of capital murder, this time for the shooting death of a 57-year-old farmer from Grady. Jurors deliberated for 40 minutes before rendering their verdict. Thirty minutes later, they listened to those who have had near-deadly encounters with Williams and lived: A woman who, after Williams robbed and kidnapped her, refused to turn her back on him and walk away because she was sure he would shoot her in the back if she did. And a young man, who described how Williams kidnapped him and his college friend, Dominique Hurd, from a Bonanza restaurant where they had stopped to eat lunch after church services. As these survivors told their stories, the members of Cecil Boren's family wept. Boren, a 57-year-old Grady farmer, was one of Williams' most recent victims. Boren was killed on Oct. 3, 1999, just a few hours after Williams escaped from the nearby Cummins Unit, where he was serving a sentence of life without parole for killing a university cheerleader. The cheerleader, Hurd, was a friend of Peter Robertson, a fellow college student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Late Tuesday afternoon, the slightly built Robertson recalled for jurors the hours of terror he and Hurd suffered at Williams' hands. On Dec. 13, 1998, a Sunday, Robertson and Hurd had just finished eating at Bonanza and were taking pictures of each other in the parking lot when Williams showed up "out of nowhere" and offered to take a few snapshots of the pair, Robertson testified. Moments later, Williams was ordering them into their car at gunpoint and instructing them to drive to an automated teller machine. Williams took their money, their jewelry and credit cards. Then he told Robertson to keep driving. They hadn't driven too far, Robertson recalled, when Williams said to pull over. He then handed the camera to Robertson and forced him to take pictures of Williams posing with Hurd. At one point, Williams yanked down the frightened woman's underwear, lifted her skirt and ordered Robertson to keep taking pictures, Robertson said. "He took us to a place -- I really don't know where we were," he recalled. "We thought he'd pulled off. But he hadn't, because he came back." Williams demanded that Hurd give him her purse. Then he asked the couple where they were from. "Pine Bluff," Robertson said. "Dallas," Hurd replied. Williams retorted: "I can't stand those ni**ers from Dallas," Robertson told jurors. "And he started shooting." Hurd died. But Robertson survived and testified against Williams when he was tried for Hurd's murder last fall. Williams was sentenced on Sept. 15, 1999, to life without parole. Nineteen days later, Williams managed to escape, stowing away from the Cummins Unit in a hog slop tank. Then he made his way to Boren's farm, where he shot Boren seven times. Most of the bullets entered his back. Prosecutors theorize the farmer was trying to flee, until a bullet hit him in the neck, tearing through his spine and paralyzing him. Sharon Hence, another of Williams' victims, told jurors she was certain Williams meant to kill her in the same fashion. On Dec. 5, 1998, Hence was using an ATM when Williams hopped into her car, she said. He stole her money and her jewelry. Then he ordered her to drive, telling Hence that if she had a wreck, he would hurt her, she said. "I pleaded with him for my life -- 'Take my car, my money.' " Finally, Williams told her to pull over, get out of the car and walk into the woods. "But I wouldn't, because I thought he would shoot me," she testified. "I told him no because he would shoot me in the back." Williams got 10 years for aggravated robbery and five years for kidnapping. He was already serving those sentences when he was tried for Hurd's murder. Defense attorneys cross-examined both Hence and Robertson, attempting to show in Hence's case that Williams didn't kill her, that he did drive away. With Robertson, the defense questioned his credibility, noting that during the 1998 trial there was testimony that Robertson had initially identified a man in a 7-Eleven video as his abductor. Members of Boren's family also took the stand Tuesday to offer their "victim impact" statements to the jury. Arkansas law allows victims' families to address jurors during the punishment phase. Boren's youngest daughter, Holly, 28, described the evening ritual she used to share with her father. Just before bed, she recalled, she would kiss her father on the forehead when they exchanged their goodnights. "The last time I was able to kiss him on his forehead, he was in his casket," she sobbed. The defense will offer its witnesses today. Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty. Tuesday's speedy verdict didn't seem to come as a surprise to anyone in the courtroom, including the attorneys, who, even as jurors deliberated, were discussing with the judge their witness lineups for the punishment phase. Williams made an ironclad case against himself, prosecutors said in closing arguments. "He's got all but a name tag on him," said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Garfield Bloodman, referring to how Williams was not only recaptured while driving his victim's truck, but while wearing Boren's monogrammed coveralls and carrying in his pocket a clip from the gun believed to have killed Boren. Williams was even wearing two of Boren's rings, Bloodman said incredulously. "Talk about the nerve of this guy. One on each hand." In order to convict Williams of capital murder, jurors had to decide that he also was guilty of either first-degree escape, which involves the use of a deadly weapon, or aggravated robbery. Or both. Prosecutors argued that Boren's death was vital to Williams making a successful escape once he had sneaked out of Cummins. He needed transportation. Money. A way to get out of town -- and fast. And living as close to the prison as the Borens did, their home, which offered all of the above, was an easy target, Bloodman said. But defense attorneys disagreed, saying there's no way to know what happened at the home. The state didn't prove that Williams was there to commit robbery, said Pine Bluff attorney John Cone. Boren might have seen the inmate and confronted him as he approached the house, prompting a deadly confrontation, Cone said. As for the first-degree escape charge, a deadly weapon would have to have been used as Williams left the Cummins Unit, not at Boren's home, the defense attorney argued. Jurors didn't agree. Part of the testimony in the punishment phase of the trial has also focused on Williams' last victim -- Michael Greenwood, a deliveryman who was hit when Williams' slammed into him during an hour-long, high-speed chase. Missouri authorities testified that Williams spent the last several miles of the pursuit driving in the lane for opposing traffic. That's how he managed to hit Greenwood's Culligan truck, which was making a left turn. Left out of Tuesday's second recounting of events, however, was a remark Williams made as state Trooper Ryan Pace cuffed him and escorted him to a waiting patrol car. "Boy, that was some good driving."


9/12/99
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD / Cup may have closed book on 4 North Texas killings

WICHITA FALLS - It was a brisk day in February as Faryion Edward Wardrip stood outside the Olney Screen and Door Co., holding the secrets to his past in a paper cup. Wardrip was nearing the end of his break. He drained the last of his drink and turned his lanky frame back toward the door. He was about to toss the cup in a trash receptacle when a stranger approached, a wad of tobacco bulging in his lower jaw. "Say, could I have that?" the man asked. "I sure could use a spit cup." And Wardrip handed over his paper cup, his past - and his future - to John Little. It was the end of a quest for Little. The Archer County District Attorney's investigator had been shadowing Wardrip for most of a week, waiting for the chance the cup had afforded. It also was the beginning of a classic investigation involving the science of DNA. Within weeks police would close the books on four previously unsolved North Texas killings and Wardrip, a middle-aged Church of Christ Sunday school teacher, would be charged as a serial murderer. Little rushed the cup to the GeneScreen laboratory in Dallas. There, minute cells from Wardrip's mouth were scraped from its surface and matched to evidence from the 14-year-old murder of Toni Gibbs near Wichita Falls. That was no surprise to Little. For the better part of two years he had been following a trail that led directly to Wardrip. It was a trail that began and ended with DNA. "Without DNA there would have been no case," said Little. Originally, the Gibbs case seemed clear. A nurse at Wichita General Hospital, Gibbs, 23, was reported missing on Jan. 19, 1985. Her abandoned car was found three days later in Wichita Falls, and her body was discovered Feb. 15 in a field just south of town. She was one of three young women killed in a similar manner in Wichita Falls within a year. Others were Terry Sims, 20, killed in December 1984, and Ellen Blau, 21, killed in September 1985. All had been sexually assaulted, and theories of a serial killer were circulating. The Gibbs case, however, appeared solved. Danny Wayne Laughlin had hovered around investigators at the Gibbs crime scene, offering theories about the killing. Later, during questioning, Laughlin appeared to know facts about the case that were not public knowledge. He was eventually charged with the killing, despite a lack of physical evidence and his assertions that his knowledge came from reading the case file when left alone in an interrogation room during questioning. There was an attempt in 1986 to match Laughlin's DNA with evidence from the crime scene, but that proved impossible with procedures that existed at the time. He was subsequently tried and, although his case ended in a mistrial, many were convinced that he was the killer. Laughlin died in a car accident in 1993, and the cloud of suspicion followed him to his grave. Little, however, had doubts. After joining the district attorney's office in 1996, he began examining the old slayings. The killings appeared to him to be the work of one man and had ended with Blau. Little wondered why, if Laughlin had been a serial killer, had he seemingly stopped? DNA comparison methods had improved greatly by 1996, and Laughlin's DNA was tested again. It did not match evidence from the Gibbs case. If Laughlin could not have killed Toni Gibbs, Little reasoned, then he couldn't have killed the others. The investigator then began comparing facts about the killings. One man, Wardrip, appeared to have some connection to each case. In fact, he was a known killer. He had smothered his 21-year-old neighbor, Tina Kimbrew, on May 6, 1986. She had not been sexually assaulted, and investigators had not compared her death to the other three. Three days after the slaying, Wardrip showed up in Galveston and told police he was suicidal and admitted killing Kimbrew during an argument. He pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 35 years. He was paroled in December 1997 and moved to Olney, where he found a job with Olney Screen and Door, married and joined the Hamilton Street Church of Christ. He was known as an affable, dependable worker who, at 6-feet-6, had garnered the nickname "Gonzo." Wardrip was active in the church as well. There, he told the congregation he had been in jail for causing his girlfriend's death while driving while intoxicated, but that he had since become a changed man. He attended regularly, sang hymns and taught Sunday school. All the while, Little was poring over case files. He learned that Wardrip had lived less than a quarter-mile from where Sims was killed and less than a half-mile from where Gibbs' car was found. Wardrip also had worked as an orderly in a hospital with Gibbs shortly before her death. Little then determined that Blau had been a frequent guest at a couple's apartment across the hall from Wardrip's and that Wardrip had worked at a pizza restaurant near Blau's place of employment. Moreover, Little learned that when Wardrip confessed the Sims killing to Galveston police, he had mentioned that he knew Ellen Blau, who also had been slain. Still, Little was without any tangible physical evidence to link Wardrip to the crimes. His only hope was DNA and, since DNA samples were available from all the cases, Little decided to obtain a sample of Wardrip's. That proved easier in theory than in practice, however. Wardrip had pleaded guilty to the Sims killing and, because DNA played no part in that case, no sample had been taken from the defendant. Little was forced to obtain his own sample. During the first week in February, the investigator spent five days following Wardrip. They were days in which he fought boredom in a coin-operated laundry across Texas 114 from Olney Screen and Door. He watched as Wardrip came and went from the business, never leaving anything that might contain his DNA. Finally, on Feb. 5, he spotted Wardrip with the paper cup. Results showed that the chances of anyone other than Wardrip having killed Toni Gibbs were 1 in 16,310,932. Little arrested Wardrip on Feb. 13 and, within days, Wardrip had confessed to the killings of Sims, Gibbs, Blau and to the 1985 killing of Debra Taylor in Fort Worth. He has since been charged in all those killings. "This case is the best example of the use of DNA that I've seen," said District Attorney Tim Cole. "Without it, we'd have no case at all, and with it, it's tied up. I only wish they'd had the present procedures perfected back in 1986." Wardrip marked his 40th birthday, March 6, the day he was indicted on a charge of capital murder in Gibbs' death, in the Archer County Jail. His case is set for trial in October in Denton, moved there on a change of venue motion by public defender John Curry. Curry, appearing somewhat resigned at a pretrial hearing for Wardrip in August, said he plans to question the manner in which Wardrip's DNA sample was obtained. "Frankly, because I have to try something," he said.


10/18/98
Mass killer counts down to freedom /Survivor painfully recalls '73 rampage

Houston - Karen Kurtz's scarred right leg begins to ache every afternoon, and she has to use a cane to get around, every painful step a reminder of her brush with Houston's first mass murderer. She was walking home from Red Elementary School on a spring morning 25 years ago when Larry Delon Casey, angry following an argument with his girlfriend, drove intersection to intersection gunning down little girls with a .22-caliber rifle. After fatally shooting an elderly woman on that day in April 1973, he killed two schoolgirls and injured Kurtz and another girl. Two months earlier, he'd killed a convenience store clerk. Despite Casey's notoriety - Harris County prosecutor Bert Graham calls him Houston's "original" mass murderer - few Houstonians nowadays are familiar with his name. That probably is because the horror of his 1973 shooting rampage in southwest Houston was eclipsed just four months after it happened, when the entire nation learned how Dean Corll and two young accomplices had killed dozens of teen-age runaways here. But Kurtz, now 35 and living far from Houston, remembers Casey. In a recent interview - after insisting that her new address or married name not be published for fear the killer might find her someday - she recalled how the slug that shattered her right leg also shattered her life. "I've dealt with 25 years of leg problems because of him," she said. For Kurtz, the Casey shootings didn't fade away with the next Page 1 crime. Every few years, she gets a postal reminder that the stranger who shot her is alive, standard notices from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that he is being considered for parole. The last letter she got on the subject arrived in mid-July, and sometime this month the board likely will make a decision about freeing Casey. Kurtz and Graham, who convinced a jury to sentence him to 99 years in prison, both expect the board to reject him for the fourth time in a decade. That is not what concerns them. Thanks to a pristine prison record and a lot of 3 -for-1 "good-time credit," Casey, 48, knows he must be freed on a mandatory release on Feb. 19, 2006. He will have no parole officer watching him, no letters warning his new neighbors about him, no legal limitations on him whatsoever beyond the rules all Texans face daily. Larry Casey does not look like a murderer. Gone is the cocky, smirking expression he displayed when Houston homicide detectives brought him downtown. "I guess I went out of my head for 15 to 20 minutes," he told a Chronicle reporter at the police station that day. "I just flew off the handle." Today, watching Casey interact with other prisoners and guards at the prison system's Wynne Unit outside Huntsville, he comes across as a pleasant, schoolteacher-ish sort of guy. He received a bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University in 1988, and it shows in the way he talks. He is fully aware he would have been sent to death row but for a fortuitous twist of legal timing. At the time of the shootings, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the Texas capital murder law invalid. A revision of the law went into effect two months after the girls were shot. If he committed his crimes today, prosecutors could seek the death penalty under several statutes - killing children under age 6, committing multiple murders and, in an unrelated offense, executing a 7-Eleven clerk during an $80 robbery. As Casey describes it, he was fresh out of the Army after two years in Germany as a radar operator, and he had "quite a chip on my shoulder" when he returned to Houston. By then, he had been accused of numerous minor crimes - theft, burglary, possession of marijuana, pretending to be a policeman, drunken driving, shooting up a mobile home and more. But the potential to hurt somebody was always present, he said, because he usually was armed. He said this was because his father, Theron Casey, 53, had been murdered by two junkies in New York City, a crime Larry Casey blames on his father's giving a Brazoria County man nine hot checks to cover gambling losses. Whatever the reason, Larry Casey had a pistol on Feb. 21, 1973, when he and his girlfriend, Yvonne Ellis, were at a 7-Eleven on Burdine Street. Casey said they got into a dispute with the clerk, Dorothy Jones Young, 48, about selling beer after hours, a fuss that Casey ended by shooting her three times. In an interview, he described it as a simple method of ending a problem. "If there would have been the death penalty when I was in the 7-Eleven arguing with the manager, I never would've pulled the gun," Casey said. "But I knew there wasn't any death penalty, and I figured I could get away with it because there weren't any witnesses around." In his confession, Casey did not mention that his girlfriend was there. He said he shot Young "because I thought she was reaching for a gun." That killing became just another unsolved Houston crime until the Red Elementary shootings two months later. According to Casey, he and Ellis - who he says visited him in prison just once, several years ago - were both hard-drinking pot smokers who supported themselves with a Houston Post delivery route. Both were on probation on April 18, 1973, and Ellis was increasingly unhappy that Casey was drinking while driving, fearing he would get her in trouble for violating probation. "Yvonne was mad at me about drinking and driving and wanted out of the car," his confession says. "She got out at the intersection of Bissonnet and Chimney Rock." His confession says he was mad and went to fetch his mother's .22-caliber rifle. "I left the house and drove across Willowbend and into the neighborhood," it reads. "I was near where my little brother (went) to school." The confession says he shot a woman standing in front of her house. But in the interview, he described how Beulah Davis saw him stop near her home and came over and saw weapons in the vehicle. She may have gotten a good look at Casey's license plate. "I felt threatened by her," he explained. "I'd just been put on probation, and I figured she'd call the law." So he shot her in the back. The confession jumps from that to his spotting a child riding a bicycle in a driveway 75 yards away. One shot and the child fell down. "I do not remember shooting at anyone else," the confession says. Prosecutor Graham has not forgotten the rest. After shooting Claire Jakubowski, 5, off her bicycle in the driveway at 10423 Green Willow, Casey drove two blocks and wounded Lynn Jean Tucker, 10, with a shot to the back as she walked home in the 10600 block of Willowilde. Next was Jana Whatley, 10, fatally shot through both lungs as she walked home in the 4700 block of Kinglet. Last was Karen Kurtz, 10, walking with her younger sister near Cliffwood and Stillbrooke. "I was on the street corner waiting for (Casey's) car to go by," Kurtz said. "I looked straight at him." Casey was arrested almost immediately, after he returned to the shooting scenes with Ellis and his little brother. Police had scant trouble getting a confession since Casey freely admitted to killing the 86-year-old and the 5-year-old girl, contending that he did not remember the others. Nowadays, he said, he does remember them. But he said the actual shooter was a man called "Rooster." Casey insisted he did not tell the police about Rooster to avoid being "a snitch." Kurtz, however, said no one else was in Casey's car when she was shot, and a man from the neighborhood positively identified Casey as the car's sole occupant. Graham argued that Casey alone did it, and that is what the jury believed. Casey's version of the events, it seems, has evolved over the years, polished perhaps to make it more palatable to his cellmates and others in a penal environment where tattletales are not popular. Though he somehow still blames Graham's "twisted lies" for the conviction that he set up himself with his confession, Casey now calls his prosecution reasonable. "I don't have a problem with them prosecuting me for the murders," Casey said. "If one of my family members had been shot, I'd want them to do what they did and what they're still doing. I just don't agree with why they're doing it. They're just getting revenge." Graham said Casey should be jailed forever simply because anyone who could get mad at his girlfriend and then go shoot up schoolgirls he did not even know remains too dangerous to be released.


8/30/98
Man who murdered at age 13 held again
Gregory Devon Gibson is now 20 and charged in another brutal slaying.

A Durham man who beat a 90-year-old woman to death when he was 13 was arrested early Saturday and charged in the murder of a convenience store clerk in Durham last week. He is also a suspect in at least two recent bank robberies. Gregory Devon Gibson, now 20, was convicted of murder in 1992. But he was released and his record wiped clean when he reached age 18 because at the time of his previous arrest, the state did not allow 13-year-olds to be tried as adults. His arrest prompted a change in the law, but Judge Kenneth Titus, who sentenced Gibson in 1992, said that everyone connected with the case feared they had not heard the last of him. "He has had other brushes with the law since his release," Titus said Saturday. "I'm sad to say there's not the kind of effective intervention available to change juveniles around." Shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, police said, a man entered the Boulevard BP in Durham. There, they said, the man showed clerk Sylvester Thompson Jr., 36, his gun and demanded money. Thompson handed over the cash, police said, then the robber reached over the counter and shot Thompson twice from less than 2 feet away. "It was brutal. The clerk surrendered the money. The suspect had the money," said Cpl. Fran Borden, a Durham police spokesman. "We don't understand why he shot the clerk." According to Borden, store surveillance cameras captured the incident and showed a man police identified as Gibson walking out of the store "cool, calm and collected." Gibson has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a stolen vehicle. Borden said police worked through the week to find Gibson. "We were afraid of this kid," Borden said. "The possibility of someone else getting killed was high. We wanted to apprehend him and put him in jail." As police searched for clues, they zeroed in on several out-of-town bank robberies. About 11 a.m. Thursday, a man matching Gibson's description robbed the Centura Bank at 509 S. Lexington St. in Burlington, "brazenly waving a gun around," Borden said. The suspect's picture taken from a surveillance camera appeared on the front page of a local newspaper, and Durham police said it matched Gibson's mug shot. Shortly before noon the next day, the First Citizens Bank near Interstate 40 and N.C. 42 at the Wake-Johnston border was robbed. Surveillance video also indicates the robber was Gibson. The FBI is investigating that robbery. No charges have been filed. Police also charged 16-year-old Donathan Webb, of Walker Street in Durham, whom they said confessed, as an accomplice in the robberies. Gibson was found early Saturday with Webb at the Extended Stay America, where he used his real name to register, Borden said. An officer noticed that a stolen Toyota Previa parked outside bore a license plate that matched the vehicle used in the Burlington robbery. After evacuating the hotel, police arrested Gibson and seized a handgun, which they believe to be the murder weapon, Borden said, adding that they found Gibson's fingerprints on the gun. The vehicle was returned to its owner Sunday. The man, who requested not to be identified for safety reasons, said that he found a receipt inside the car from Circuit City. It was dated Friday and showed that someone paid cash for thousands of dollars' worth of electronic equipment for the vehicle. This is not the first time Gibson has been arrested since his 1996 release from C.A. Dillon Training School in Butner in 1996 and his return to the home of his grandmother at 902 Dale St. in Durham. Nine months after he was released, Gibson was arrested and charged with felony possession of stolen goods and failure to appear on several other minor charges. Gibson's previous murder charges launched a statewide effort to tighten laws for young offenders. At the age of 13, and not yet a high school student, Gibson was charged with the June 10, 1992, bludgeoning death of 90-year-old Mary Haddon. The night of the murder, police said, Gibson used Haddon's 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass to take several friends out on an all-night joy ride. Haddon was found three days later by a newspaper carrier. The autopsy showed she received more than 45 blows to her head, chest and back from a hammer and garden mattock. The reports described splintered vertebrae, shattered ribs and torn internal organs. At the time of the murder, state laws said that Gibson, a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday, could not be tried as an adult. He was sentenced to no more than four years in a juvenile detention center, the toughest penalty the law allowed at that time. The sheer brutality of the crime and comparatively lightweight punishment sent shock waves through the Triangle. In the spring of 1994, the General Assembly pushed through Gov. Jim Hunt's juvenile crime reform package, which provided automatic adult trials for 14- and 15-year-olds accused of certain felonies. It also allowed judges the discretion in charging 13-year-olds as adults. Titus, who sentenced Gibson six years ago, wasn't surprised by the latest round of charges. "Anyone that participated would say it's predictable," he said Saturday. Durham Mayor Nick Tennyson said: "A big, bold line under all of this is that if, in fact, [Gibson] has committed these crimes, thank God he's caught at this point." Both Titus and Borden said they were struck by a lack of emotion from Gibson. Titus recalled that, when convicted, Gibson showed no emotion. "He clearly showed no remorse. He had no reaction at all. He appears to be devoid of any feelings."


4/22/98
Church hires as handyman a convicted murderer who showed "signs of progress" after parole
Kills and rapes in church basement

James Homer Elledge was sent to prison for life in 1975 after beating a Seattle motel owner to death with a ball-peen hammer. In the years that followed, he won parole 3 times, most recently in August 1995. Snohomish County prosecutors on Tuesday made it clear they are now mulling charges that could put Elledge away permanently, perhaps even earning him a death sentence. The 55-year-old Everett man surrendered to police in Tacoma early Tuesday. Just hours later, prosecutors charged Elledge with 1st-degree murder for allegedly stabbing and strangling Eloise Jane Fitzner, 47, in a church basement on Saturday. Elledge is scheduled to make a 1st court appearance today. Jim Townsend, the county's chief criminal deputy prosecutor, said the Everett District Court charge is "just preliminary at this point." Prosecutors have not ruled out upgrading the charge to aggravated 1st-degree murder, he said. That's because the killing allegedly occurred during the kidnapping and rape of another woman, 39, from Seattle, according to court papers. If charged and convicted of aggravated murder, Elledge could face a death sentence and, barring that, a mandatory term of life in prison without possibility of release. Elledge allegedly promised gifts and dinner to lure his victims to the basement of The Lighthouse church in Lynnwood, where he worked as a custodian, according to an affidavit filed by deputy prosecutor Ron Doersch. Once there, Elledge pulled a large knife and ordered the women not to scream or he would slit their throats, the prosecutor alleged. Both women were bound with rope, blindfolded and their mouths taped shut. The 39-year-old woman said she could hear Fitzner struggling and Elledge dragging something from the room, Doersch said. The woman said Elledge told her he had "taken care of" Fitzner, because Fitzner interfered with his attempts to get close to her, Doersch alleged. Elledge then allegedly took the 39-year-old woman to Everett, where she was sexually assaulted. He released her Sunday morning, and she reported the abduction and attack to Seattle police. Fitzner's body later was found in the church basement. An autopsy showed she could have survived the stab wound to her neck had she not been strangled, Doersch said in court papers. Elledge called the Tacoma Police Department's homicide division at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to say he wanted to surrender and was staying at a motel, said department spokesman Jim Mattheis. "When the detectives pulled into the parking lot, (Elledge) walked out with his hands up," Mattheis said. Earlier the same day, Tacoma police found Fitzner's car, which Elledge allegedly stole Saturday, Mattheis said. People who know Elledge said they were stunned by the events of the past 4 days. Former Lynnwood City Council member Bill Hubbard roomed with Elledge between January and March 1997, when he lived at the same Lynnwood apartments as Fitzner. "Eloise lived two floors above us," Hubbard said Tuesday. "She was a very sweet person...active in her church at University Presbyterian Church." Elledge often did repair work at Fitzner's apartment but never accepted payment, Hubbard said. Hubbard said he knew of Elledge's murder conviction and talked with a church elder at The Lighthouse before allowing Elledge to move in. Elledge proved to be a responsible roommate and confided in Hubbard about his past, Hubbard said. Hubbard said Elledge told him his sister had died when he was young. He also told Hubbard that his wife died in the 1960s while trying to help someone in a car crash and that their 2 girls were raised by relatives. "Jim just never quite recovered from that whole thing," Hubbard said. In March 1997, Elledge's daughter died, but he wasn't able to attend the funeral services because he didn't have the money to travel to the South, Hubbard said Elledge told him. "Considering everything he'd been through, he was showing signs of progress and mainstreaming back into society," said Hubbard, adding that he hadn't seen Elledge for several months. 

4/25/98

James Homer Elledge walked into the basement of a Lynnwood church April 18 with precut sections of nylon rope and plans to kill a woman he simply didn't like, Snohomish County prosecutors alleged. Elledge allegedly has admitted he was carrying a large, folding knife and a long-simmering grudge against Eloise Fitzner, 47. Prosecutors now have charged the 55-year-old Everett man with aggravated 1st-degree murder. In a tape-recorded statement to police, Elledge admitted purchasing rope, and precutting it into sections for binding the wrists and ankles of Fitzner, and another woman, 39, from Seattle, deputy prosecutor Mark Roe alleged. The longtime convict, who is on parole for the 1975 beating murder of another woman, allegedly also described in detail how he used his knife to threaten Fitzner and the Seattle woman into silence, and then tying them up. "The defendant told police that Fitzner did not attack him or resist him in any way," Roe said in court papers. "He said that 'She ... she was trying...she was trying to cooperate. But she didn't know what she was cooperating for." Elledge, the janitor at the church, allegedly led the women into the basement with promises of presents, court papers show. Fitzner was strangled and stabbed. The Seattle woman has told police she was abducted to Elledge's Everett mobile home, sexually assaulted and later set free. Prosecuting Attorney Jim Krider vowed Friday to seek justice. "So far, the criminal justice system has failed the public in protecting the from Mr. Elledge," Krider said. The task for prosecutors now is to make sure "that the system does not fail again," he added. Elledge is to be arraigned Tuesday. If convicted as charged, there are only 2 possible sentences: life in prison without possibility of release or the death penalty. Krider said he hasn't decided whether to seek death for Elledge and doesn't expect to for at least 30 days. That is in keeping with prosecutor's office policy, which allows time for defense attorneys to present information that may argue against death, or convince jurors not to impose the penalty. After that, the case is carefully reviewed by a dozen of the department's top prosecutors. Krider, who has sought the death penalty in 3 other cases, said the decision will ultimately rest with him. "We will proceed with the death penalty, if appropriate." At this point, no charges have been filed for the alleged kidnapping and rape of the Seattle woman. Krider said that aspect of the case remains under investigation. He declined to elaborate. Elledge has prior convictions for robbery and 1st-degree murder for beating a Seattle motel owner to death in 1975. The woman he killed roughly 2 decades ago was struck 28 times with a ball-peen hammer, according to court papers. Fitzner's killing and the other woman's abduction touched of a brief, but intense, manhunt for Elledge. He surrendered Tuesday to Tacoma police, after trying at least twice to commit suicide in his hotel room, Roe said in court papers. Krider declined to provide any details about the reported suicide attempts. He said he's confident the facts will show that Elledge knew what he was doing when he spoke with police after his arrest. Elledge allegedly told the police that he killed Fitzner because he was angry with her for meddling in his relationship with his wife about a year ago, Roe said. On the taped statement he gave police Elledge "can be heard admitting that because of something he describes as 'evil' in his nature, he is sometimes filled with rage he can't control," Roe wrote. 


3/16/97
Warrants issued for man suspected in girlfriend's death

FORT LAUDERDALE -- (Sun Sentinel) - Police on Tuesday said they have enough evidence to charge Fort Lauderdale librarian William E. Coday Jr. with the murder of Gloria Gomez. In addition, a newspaper account of a 1978 murder in which Coday was convicted shows that he was ''put off'' by sex and killed his former girlfriend with a shoemaker's mallet after she broke off their engagement. Fort Lauderdale police drew up warrants charging Coday, 40, with murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Coday is accused of the stabbing and beating death of his former girlfriend, Gomez, 30, in his Victoria Park apartment. The two dated for a while, but Gomez viewed the relationship as casual and ended it in May when he wanted to get married, friends said. After the breakup, Coday repeatedly called a mutual friend of theirs, trying to reach Gomez. Last week, he found her. Coday told Gomez he had cancer and needed to see her. On Friday afternoon, Gomez drove to his apartment. Her beaten and stabbed body was discovered there on Saturday, but Coday and her car were gone. Sources said he had withdrawn a large amount of money from his bank on Thursday. The car was found on Monday in a parking lot at Miami International Airport, but investigators still haven't found Coday, said Detective Clinton Ward, police spokesman. Coday, who worked in the Foreign Language Department at the main branch of the Broward County Library in downtown Fort Lauderdale, speaks several languages, including Spanish, French and German. He has lived overseas in Germany and India, and has degrees from three universities. In 1979, he was convicted of killing Lisa Hullinger, 19, a Cincinnati exchange student studying with him in Hamburg, Germany. The two had dated, but broke up. In September 1978, Hullinger had gone to Coday's Hamburg apartment. According to an article in the Hamburg Morgen-Post, Hullinger was ''looking for intimacy, but he was not. He was put off by sex.'' The two were ''secretly engaged,'' but a frustrated Hullinger decided then to break off the engagement, the paper reported. Enraged, Coday found the shoemaker's hammer in the basement of the building and beat in Hullinger's skull. She died two weeks later. At the trial in June 1979, both the prosecutor and defense wanted to drop charges against Coday, claiming he had ''diminished capacity.'' He was sentenced to three years in prison, but ended up serving only 16 months. It is unclear why Coday's sentence was reduced.


8/1995 - California
Serial killer sentenced to death in Riverside murders

When William Suff went to work as a stock clerk for the county in 1986, he lied about his 1974 conviction for murder in Texas. He and his wife at the time were convicted of beating their 2-month-old daughter to death in Fort Worth. Suff was sentenced to 70 years. In March, 1984, he was paroled to California. His wife served 20 months when her conviction was overturned by an appellate court. Suff went on to become known as the Riverside Killer, murdering at least 13 women. After nearly two months of trial and just under four days of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on 12 of 13 counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder. They deadlocked 11-1 on one murder charge. Jurors also found Suff guilty of multiple murder, lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon - a knife - on five victims. On August 17, 1995, after reviewing evidence and testimony in the high-profile case, the seven-man, five-woman jury recommended the death penalty for William Suff. The 45-year-old man showed no emotion, but relatives of his victims cheered the decision.


8/15/95
Murderer Sattiewhite is executed

HUNTSVILLE -- (AP) - Vernon Sattiewhite was executed early today for the 1986 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend. Sattiewhite had dragged Sandra Sorrell at gunpoint for two blocks near downtown San Antonio before he shot her twice in the head, killing her instantly. As police closed in, Sattiewhite, 39, put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger at least 14 times, but the .22-caliber pistol failed to discharge. Sattiewhite was pronounced dead at 12:25 a.m., six minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his veins. He had a brief statement. "I just hope Miss Fields is happy now," he said, referring to Lillian Fields, the victim's mother. He thanked his attorney for being present, gasped three times and showed no further reaction to the drugs. Fields, mother of the victim, expressed hope earlier that the execution would be carried out. "I just want an end to this so that I know he's dead, and he'll never hurt anyone else like my daughter, her children and myself," Fields said. Sattiewhite had based a final appeal on his claim that he is "retarded, brain damaged, schizophrenic and floridly insane," defense attorney Nancy Barohn said. In previous cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed inmates considered retarded to be put to death. On Friday, the high court rejected another petition from his attorneys. Fellow death row inmates described the 10th-grade dropout and former forklift operator as friendly but rather quiet. Sattiewhite denied recent requests for an interview. Sorrell, a student at a San Antonio nursing aide school, was walking toward the school June 19, 1986, with her boyfriend, Willington Mingo, when they were approached by Sattiewhite, her ex-boyfriend. Testimony at his trial showed Sattiewhite wrapped his arm around the woman's neck and pulled a gun, then started dragging her down the street. Mingo ducked into an office to seek help, then caught up with the pair and pleaded with Sattiewhite to release the woman. Sattiewhite said if he couldn't have the woman, "ain't nobody else gonna have her," witnesses said. Then he pulled the woman up and shot her twice in the head. He pointed the gun at his own head, but the weapon wouldn't fire. He subsequently surrendered to police. Sattiewhite was no stranger to San Antonio authorities, who described him in court as "a bad dude to mess with." In 1977, he had been sentenced to five years for a murder but was paroled two years later and granted clemency. In 1984, he was convicted of robbery and sentenced to two years in prison but was paroled after less than six months. Records showed Sorrell, who had two children, had been complaining to authorities about Sattiewhite for at least a month. "He stalked her, but at that time they didn't have a stalking law," her mother said. After his arrest, Sattiewhite told a state psychiatrist he had been suffering from blackouts and hearing voices and had made other suicide attempts in the previous months.


3/30/93 - Supreme Court ruling
Serial killer released from death row kills again

Thomas Creech has admitted to killing or participating in the killing of at least 26 people. The bodies of 11 of his victims - who were shot, stabbed, beaten, or strangled to death - have been recovered in seven States. Creech has said repeatedly that, unless he is completely isolated from humanity, he likely will continue killing. And he has identified by name three people outside prison walls he intends to kill if given the opportunity. Creech's most recent victim was David Dale Jensen, a fellow inmate in the maximum security unit of the Idaho State Penitentiary. When he killed Jensen in 1983, Creech was already serving life sentences for other first-degree murders. (His original sentence was death, but this was reduced to life in prison after the Supreme Court halted capital punishment in the 70s.) Jensen, about seven years Creech's junior, was a nonviolent car thief. He was also physically handicapped. Part of Jensen's brain had been removed prior to his incarceration, and he had a plastic plate in his skull. The circumstances surrounding Jensen's death remain unclear, primarily because Creech has given conflicting accounts of them. In one version, Creech killed Jensen in self-defense. In another - the version that Creech gave at his sentencing hearing - other inmates offered to pay Creech or help him escape if he killed Jensen. Creech, through an intermediary, provided Jensen with makeshift weapons and then arranged for Jensen to attack him, in order to create an excuse for the killing. Whichever of these accounts (if either) is true, the Idaho Supreme Court found that the record supported the following facts: "Jensen approached Creech and swung a weapon at him which consisted of a sock containing batteries. Creech took the weapon away from Jensen, who returned to his cell but emerged with a toothbrush to which had been taped a razor blade. When the two men again met, Jensen made some movement toward Creech, who then struck Jensen between the eyes with the battery laden sock, knocking Jensen to the floor. The fight continued, according to Creech's version, with Jensen swinging the razor blade at Creech and Creech hitting Jensen with the battery filled sock. The plate imbedded in Jensen's skull shattered, and blood from Jensen's skull was splashed on the floor and walls. Finally, the sock broke and the batteries fell out, and by that time, Jensen was helpless. Creech then commenced kicking Jensen about the throat and head. Sometime later, a guard noticed blood, and Jensen was taken to the hospital, where he died the same day." Creech pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The trial judge held a sentencing hearing in accordance with Idaho law. After the hearing, the judge issued written findings that Creech "did not instigate the fight with the victim, but the victim, without provocation, attacked him. He was initially justified in protecting himself." However, the judge stated: "The victim, once the attack commenced, was under the complete domination and control of the defendant. The murder itself was extremely gruesome, evidencing an excessive violent rage. With the victim's attack as an excuse, the murder then took on many aspects of an assassination. These violent actions went well beyond self-defense. The murder, once commenced, appears to have been an intentional, calculated act." The judge then found beyond a reasonable doubt five statutory aggravating circumstances, including that Creech, "by the murder, or circumstances surrounding its commission, exhibited utter disregard for human life." He observed in this context that, "after the victim was helpless, he killed him." Next, the judge concluded that the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh the aggravating circumstances. Reiterating that Creech "intentionally destroyed another human being at a time when he was completely helpless," the judge sentenced Creech to death.


7/23/92 - The Missourian (and MO DOC)
State court rejects killer's appeal

The Missouri Supreme Court rejected the death-sentence appeal of Tomas G. Ervin. Ervin, of Jefferson City, was convicted of the December 1988 murders of Mildred L. Hodges, 75, and her son, Richard E. Hodges, in Jefferson City. The Hodges were smothered. A Callaway County jury had sentenced Ervin to death in January 1990. The appeal questioned the validity of the jury-selection process and also the testimony of Bert Hunter, who was arrested along with Ervin and pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder charges. Hunter and Ervin met in the Missouri State Penitentiary, where they were both serving life sentences for murder. On the afternoon of December 15, 1988, Bert Hunter and an accomplice, Tomas Ervin, carried out a plan to rob Richard Hodges at his home on Boonville Road in Jefferson City, Missouri. Hunter and Ervin believed Hodges kept large amounts of cash in a file cabinet in his home. With a pistol in his pocket, Hunter knocked on the Hodges’ door. Richard’s mother, Mildred Hodges, answered. Hunter then pulled a stocking mask down over his face and, entering the house, grabbed Mrs. Hodges by the hand. He held a gun in the other hand. Mrs. Hodges became very excited and cried out for her son, Richard. Richard came into the room where they were standing, telling the two assailants to leave Mrs. Hodges alone because she had just returned home after heart surgery. As Richard attempted to calm his mother, Ervin and Hunter began binding her hands and feet with duct tape. She was made to lie down on a bed in a back bedroom. Ervin took Richard to the living room and made him lie on the floor. Ervin began taping Richard’s hands. At same time, Hunter was searching the house for money and other valuables. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hodges managed to get free and ran into the living room where Ervin was still taping Richard’s hands. She pulled the mask off Ervin, causing him to fall back on the floor. Ervin called out Hunter’s first name. Hunter returned to the living room and saw what had occurred. Once the mask was pulled off Ervin and Hunter’s name was called out, Hunter and Ervin made a mutual decision that both the Hodges were to be killed. Mrs. Hodges attempted to flee. Hunter and Ervin caught Mrs. Hodges in the hallway, forcing her to the floor. According to Hunter, she hit the wall, bloodying her nose. A rush of air came out of her and she became still. The two then returned to finish taping Richard’s mouth and nose. Plastic bags were placed over the heads of both victims. Hunter admitted that after the plastic bags were placed on the victims’ heads, he held Richard’s nose to suffocate him. While Hunter was dealing with Richard, Ervin was "working with Mrs. Hodges," although Hunter surmised there was "nothing to do, anyway." Ervin returned and told Hunter that he thought Mrs. Hodges was dead. Hunter checked Mrs. Hodges and determined that she had no pulse. The two then finished looking through the house and left. They returned to the house at least once that evening or the next evening.


5/5/92 - Houston Chronicle
Paroled killer arrested in Missouri/To be questioned in killings of 4 in Austin

Paroled murderer Kenneth McDuff, sought in connection with the disappearance of five Texas women along Interstate 35, was arrested in Missouri Monday after a co-worker recognized him from a television show. McDuff, 46, also is wanted for questioning in a Dec. 6 robbery and fire at an Austin yogurt shop in which four women were killed, The Associated Press reported. He was arrested without incident at a Kansas City landfill, said William Dempsey, a U.S. Marshal's Service spokesman. He tried to run but was immediately apprehended. McDuff received a death sentence for a 1968 triple murder, but it was commuted when the Supreme Court overturned capital punishment in 1972. He first was granted parole in 1989. Waco authorities Monday named him in a homicide warrant in connection with the murder of Valencia K. Joshua, 22, found buried March 15 near the technical school campus where McDuff studied. McDuff was arrested on federal warrants for drug distribution and weapons possession, although he also is being held on the Texas murder warrant. Tom Hammon of the U.S. Marshal Service in Waco told the AP that McDuff was going to be questioned about the murders of four women at an Austin yogurt store. In the case which drew national attention, firefighters responding to a blaze at a suburban I Can't Believe It's Yogurt store found the bodies of four teen-agers -- Jennifer Harbison and Eliza Thomas, both 17; Sarah Harbison, 15; and Amy Ayers, 13 -- who had been tied together and shot in the back of their heads. "It's not over, believe me. We've developed a lot of information. Now that we've got him off the streets it's time to sit down and put this all together," supervisory inspector Mike Earp with the U.S. Marshal's Service in Washington said during a news conference held in Waco. McDuff also is sought for questioning in connection with four other cases: The March 1 abduction of Waco convenience store clerk Melissa Northrup, 22, whose body was found in a Dallas County gravel pit April 26. The Dec. 29 abduction of Austin secretary Colleen Reed, 28, who disappeared from a car wash there. Her whereabouts and condition are unknown. The October abduction of Waco prostitute Regina Moore, 21, who was last seen struggling with McDuff in a speeding vehicle. Her whereabouts and condition are unknown. The murder of a Temple prostitute whose body was found a few days after McDuff's Dec. 18, 1990, parole. The intense search for McDuff began March 9. "He's been up there for about a month," said Truman Simons, a McLennan County sheriff's deputy. "He was working for an independent garbage collection agency driving a truck." Simons said McDuff, under the alias "Richard Fowler," had been arrested there April 10 on a misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge. He was released after posting bail, after a right index fingerprint was taken in booking. That came in handy Monday morning when a McDuff co-worker approached police and suggested that Fowler might be the man sought in the Texas cases. The co-worker saw a McDuff story on the Fox television network show "America's Most Wanted" Friday. "He taped it and spent the whole weekend watching it over and over," Simons said. "He was concerned and wanted to make sure he had the right guy because he didn't want to cause any trouble if it was a different guy." Police found the fingerprint from the April 10 arrest and compared it to fingerprints from Waco. Authorities tracked McDuff's garbage truck to the city dump. The unarmed McDuff didn't put up a fight. Because of outstanding federal warrants, there's no need for interstate extradition delays, Simons said.


4/18/92 - Washington Post
A mother, life destroyed, waits for justice to be done

SAN DIEGO -- The last time Sharron Mankins saw her son, Michael Baker, she was piling her six children into the family car for the drive to a high school where they watched Fourth of July fireworks in 1978. When they returned home, Michael went to bed. He left the house early the next morning with John Mayeski, also 16, one of his closest friends, to look for summer work. After a fruitless search, they drove to a fast-food restaurant for lunch. There, in the parking lot, they were kidnapped at gunpoint by two men identified as Robert Alton Harris, then 25, a paroled murderer, and his brother, Daniel, then 18. They forced Baker and Mayeski to drive into a nearby canyon. According to court testimony by Daniel Harris, this happened: Robert Harris promised not to harm the boys, then shot Mayeski in the head and back, killing him. Baker bolted, trying to find cover in the bushes, but Robert Harris chased him. Baker pleaded for his life, but Harris shot him in the back and the abdomen, killing him. Then Robert Harris ate the boys' hamburgers, laughing at the blood that gushed from Mayeski's fatal head wound. The brothers then drove back to town in the boys' car and robbed a bank. Hours later, police arrested them at their house three blocks from the Mayeski home. Among the arresting officers was Steve Baker, now a detective with the San Diego Police Department. He was Michael's father and at the time had been divorced from Sharron Mankins for almost 12 years. Not until an hour later, when Officer Baker was off-duty, did a police sergeant go to Baker's home with news that one of the men he had helped to arrest was suspected of killing two boys, one of them Baker's son Michael. Almost 14 years have passed since the afternoon when murder shattered the lives of two families. Mankins, 48, remains haunted by a vision of her son's death and unable, she said, to carry on with her life until "justice is served and Harris is executed." Robert Harris was sentenced in 1979 to die at San Quentin Prison, but his case has been bouncing back and forth between the Supreme Court in Washington and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. On Thursday, Gov. Pete Wilson denied Harris' petition for clemency. His date with the gas chamber is just after midnight Monday. In a recent interview at their home, Mankins and her husband of 17 years, Sam, said the pain of Michael's death has been compounded by the decade of litigation and appeals that have kept Harris alive. "It's frustrating," Sharron Mankins said. "We'll be doing fine, and then there's the footage of Harris on TV with that smirk he always has on his face. And it just opens up all the wounds, and we hope maybe, just maybe, the judicial system is going to prevail. And then we take two steps back." Two years ago, Harris came within hours of being executed. Last month, the Supreme Court rejected another appeal by Harris' attorneys, declining to review claims that he suffers from mental problems. "This is a political game now," Sharron Mankins said of recent pleas to spare Harris' life from celebrities including Mother Teresa and Hollywood television stars. "The politicians are making a name for themselves off my loss. We've sent letters to Governor Wilson, and I haven't had a call back," she said. "I haven't had a postcard even acknowledging, "Yes, Mrs. Mankins, we're taking your feelings into consideration.' I'm not a saint, and I'm not a politician. But I am very closely involved in this case, and I feel I should be given the same courtesy. Mother Teresa is telling the governor to pray for these men (on death row) and make the right decision by granting clemency," she said. "Well, how about praying and giving the victims inner strength?" After hearing that Wilson denied Harris' petition for clemency, Sharron Mankins said: "This is just what we were waiting to hear." Sharron and Sam Mankins each brought three children from previous marriages to their own, creating what they call a "Brady Bunch" household. They admitted that managing a house full of teen-agers has been a challenge but describe it as a happy experience. Michael's murder, Sharron Mankins said, destroyed the inner peace the couple had found with each other. Sharron, a bookkeeper, and Sam, 56, a teacher, work for the San Diego City School District. "We were just traumatized . . . in such a helpless, depressed state," Sam Mankins said of Michael's death. "We just felt like we were totally deserted. It's an awful, terrible feeling." There still are no pictures of tall, blue-eyed Michael Baker on the walls of the Mankins' home. The photographs, Sharron Mankins said, are too painful to display. Michael would have turned 30 this year, and only in the last year has his mother found the emotional strength to talk with reporters about him, she said. Five years after Michael's murder, tragedy struck the family again when Tammy Baker, Steve and Sharron's daughter, was thrown from the back of a motorcycle and killed the night before her 18th birthday. "After Tammy's death, I felt afraid I'd lose Linda too," Sharron said of her sole surviving child by Baker. "It was a terrible loss. What would I do if I lost another child?" Linda Herring, 26 and married, was convinced that she would be next to die, Sharron Mankins said. Together, Mankins and Kay Mayeski, John's mother, had weathered emotional storms. Mankins said the two looked to each other for strength, waiting on the night of the murders at the Mayeski house for news of their boys and waiting these years for Harris' execution. Mankins said they had spent hours on the phone discussing shared pain. Kay Mayeski died a year ago after a long battle with cancer. Mankins sadly recalled that her friend's primary wish was to stay alive long enough to see Harris executed. "We're frustrated with the justice system," Mankins said. "The process has been too long and too cumbersome." Baker said he finds it "totally ridiculous that it would take 14 years to punish someone like Harris." Sharron Mankins, Baker and Herring plan to attend the execution as official witnesses and have expressed a need to know that Harris has been punished. "I'm not cherishing this," Mankins admitted. "This is going to be a very hard thing to face and a very emotional thing, but it can't be any worse than what I think about all the time, Michael running and screaming and pleading for his life as he's shot down. I owe this to Michael."


3/17/92 - Houston Chronicle
Murderer Sentenced to Death

It took a jury less than two hours Monday to return a death penalty against William Michael "Billy the Kid" Mason for killing his wife three weeks after he was paroled on a murder conviction. The panel in state District Judge Don Shipley's court doomed Mason, 38, to death by injection by ruling that he deliberately murdered Deborah Ann Mason, 33, after abducting her. Defense lawyers Jim Sims and Gayla Sims posted notice of appeal. Mrs. Mason, a heroin user, was beaten to death with a blunt object after angering her husband by playing her radio too loud on Jan. 17, 1991, at their Houston home. Several people heard and saw parts of the hours-long dispute, but none intervened because they feared Mason. The body, bound and gagged and wrapped in plastic garbage bags, was found Jan. 27 near the bank of the San Jacinto River in Humble. Police initially had several suspects but finally focused on Mason. In the end, Mason's daughter and sister joined the parade of state witnesses called by prosecutors Craig Goodhart and Jeannine Southwick to testify against him. Southwick's most graphic piece of evidence was a small card Mason sent his daughter, Mandy, afterward. It showed two ads for plastic garbage bags and a message from her father: "You tag 'em, I'll bag 'em."


2/2/92
Serial killer given 250-year sentence / Murderer `will never get out again'

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - (AP) - Serial murderer Arthur Shawcross was sentenced Friday to a minimum of 250 years in prison for the killings of 10 women in the Rochester area since between 1988 and 1990. "If anybody ever deserved the maximum sentence, it was Shawcross," said prosecutor Charles Siragusa, who said he would have asked for the death penalty if it were an option in New York. Monroe County Judge Donald Wisner sentenced Shawcross to the maximum 25 years to life on each of the 10 counts of second-degree murder, with the terms to run consecutively. The 250-year sentence does not include the possibility of early release. Before the sentencing, Siragusa reminded Wisner of a statement Shawcross made on Jan. 4, 1990, the day he confessed to the murders. "He was asked what he thought the police should do with him," Siragusa said. "He said he should be put in jail for the rest of his life, because if he was ever released, he would kill again." At the time of the killings, Shawcross was on parole after serving 15 years for the 1972 stranglings of two children in Watertown, N.Y. "A very dangerous individual who never should have gotten out in the first place will never get out again," Siragusa said. Shawcross has also confessed to an 11th slaying in a neighboring county. He faces a separate trial this year. Shawcross, 45, was convicted in December of the murders of 10 Rochester-area women - mostly prostitutes and street people - from March 1988 to January 1990. The killings terrorized the rundown Lyell Avenue section where many of the victims were last seen. Jurors rejected defense arguments that he was legally insane at the time of the killings because of brain damage, abuse during childhood and his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. Wisner said it was time for the community to "put all of this behind us. For far too long you have held center stage in this community," he told Shawcross. When Wisner asked if Shawcross had anything to say before sentencing, Shawcross replied: "No comment at this time." Later, Shawcross told a television crew to "go to hell." The courtroom was packed with relatives of victims, officers who worked on the case, the jurors who convicted Shawcross, and spectators who had followed the 13-week trial throughout the fall and winter. Siragusa, while arguing for the maximum sentence, called Shawcross a "real-life monster" and "a killer without conscience" who showed no remorse for the lives he had taken. Siragusa read letters he had received from two of the victims' families, describing how their lives had been devastated by the murders. "The nightmares don't stop for the relatives of the victims," Siragusa said. "It's a cross they will bear for the rest of their lives." Defense lawyers made few comments to the judge except to point out that Shawcross would probably never be paroled whatever the sentence and to dispute Siragusa's statement that Shawcross enjoyed killing. "Although his degree of mental infirmity may not be found to reach the level of insanity, it remains clear that Mr. Shawcross is and has always been a very severely mentally and emotionally disturbed individual," Thomas Cocuzzi said. Wisner on Friday denied a defense motion to overturn the guilty verdicts. The defense had argued that Shawcross' defense was compromised by the comments of psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Lewis, the defense's only witness, who in the midst of the trial blurted out that she had been lied to by the two attorneys. The defense attorneys said they would appeal.


8/15/90
Death sentence ordered in slaying of policeman

DALLAS - (AP) - Convicted capital murderer Daniel Joe Hittle, accused of slaying seven people since 1973, was sentenced to death Tuesday for murdering a suburban Garland police officer last fall. Hittle, 40, was described by witnesses as a man who gleefully killed or tortured animals and who routinely beat women and children. He was on parole for the killings of his adoptive parents in Minnesota last Nov. 15 when, the jury found, he shot and killed Garland police officer Gerald Walker during a traffic stop. Police say Hittle then sped to East Dallas, where he fatally shot Mary Alice Goss, 39; Richard Joseph Cook Jr., 36; Raymond Scott Gregg, 19; and Goss' 4-year-old daughter Christy Condon. He was convicted of capital murder last Thursday in Walker's death. Prosecutors said they doubted they would press for trials on the other deaths because of Hittle had received the death penalty in Walker's slaying. Hittle, who seemed jovial and carefree throughout the trial, said nothing, merely nodding when State District Judge Richard Mays pronounced the death sentence. The Dallas County jury deliberated about an hour. "He had to be stopped from hurting anyone else," said Hittle's sister, Judy Anderson, 42, who lives in Minnesota. On Monday she testified against her brother, describing the pain she felt when she learned that Hittle killed their parents on their Minnesota farm in 1973. Anderson also said she felt some remorse. "This is like a funeral," she said. "He's gone. And despite everything he's done, he's part of the family." A 17-year veteran of the police department, Walker was the first officer in Garland, a Dallas suburb, killed in the line of duty. Prosecutors alleged that Hittle, who had a loaded 20-gauge shotgun in his car, wanted to kill the officer because he knew having the weapon would be a violation of his parole. Hittle was paroled in 1984 after serving 11 years in a Minnesota prison for the murders of his adoptive parents. Witnesses testified that for the last two decades, Hittle led a cruel life. He often beat his wives and children, seemed to take pleasure in killing animals and murdered his parents after their dog scratched his truck, according to testimony. He also often talked of killing police officers and later bragged about killing his mother and father, witnesses said. After the jury delivered the death sentence, Walker's widow, flanked by Garland police, said jurors "did what they had to do." But Becky Walker also said she was concerned that parole laws aren't adequately protecting Americans. "There are other Hittles running around out there," she said. UPDATE: Hittle was executed on December 7, 2000


5/23/89 - Houston Chronicle
Paroled killer accused of pen pal's murder

A paroled murderer allegedly killed a north Houston woman who had visited and corresponded with him while he was in prison and even gave him a place to stay for a few days upon his release. A second suspect also was charged Monday with capital murder in the strangulation of the woman who was found tied up in her home last month. Charles Joseph Pacholsky, 45, had been jailed earlier on an unrelated charge. Robert Stadler Mitchell, 30, of 902 Gatecrest, was arrested Sunday night at his home by Houston homicide detectives. Both are charged with capital murder and being held without bond in the death of Barbara Dobson, 58, of 1305 Enid north of downtown. Homicide Detective John Swaim said Pacholsky and Mitchell were suspects from the beginning of the investigation because Pacholsky had corresponded with Dobson while he was in prison. "He was paroled from prison in October of last year," Swaim said. "He had been serving a murder sentence from a 1974 case in Polk County." Pacholsky received a 30-year sentence for the murder of Daniel Curtiss Mueller who died of asphyxia due to suffocation. He was found with a plastic garbage bag tied around his neck with a steel cable. Swaim said he had no other details about that killing. Swaim said Dobson had written to several inmates in Texas prisons over the years and had even visited Pacholsky in prison. Swaim said Dobson became involved with prisoners through her participation on a weekly radio show dealing with inmates. The show on KPFT, a non-commercial station, provides a forum for friends and relatives to give messages to inmates. When Pacholsky received his parole he lived for a few days at Dobson's home. Swaim said other parolees also had stayed at her home in the past. "I guess she felt sorry for these guys. He lived there for nine or 10 days in April," Swaim said. "He was a suspect from the first, but we had a lot of things to do before we could file on him," he said. Police said the motive for the slaying was robbery. Swaim said Mitchell is on parole for a forgery charge and that he met the other suspect while they were both in prison. Swaim said Pacholsky was arrested May 12 on an unrelated auto theft charge. During questioning he provided information that led to Mitchell's arrest. Dobson's nude body was found in the bedroom of her home by her daughter about 8:15 a.m. April 28. Police said she was killed the night before. She was last known to be alive about 10 p.m. on the night before her body was found.


12/10/88 - Houston Chronicle
Texas murderer, teen-age companion jailed in Utah

A convicted Texas murderer with teardrop tattoos under his eyes and his 15-year-old female companion were in a Utah jail today after a highway patrolman stopped their speeding car and learned it was assigned to a slain Minnesota railroad supervisor. Detectives from the Koochiching County Sheriff's Department in International Falls, Minn., flew to Richfield, Utah, to talk today with James William Fields, 26, held in lieu of $50,000 bond, and Micki Abernathy, 15, of Mississippi. Another man with them was apparently a hitchhiker and was released, Utah authorities said. The victim, Don Isakson, 56, chief mechanical officer for the Duluth-Winnipeg Railroad, was last seen as he left his Duluth office at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to deliver equipment to a small rail yard near the Canadian border. A volunteer crew of railroad employees participating in a massive air and ground search found his body at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday about 30 feet off a dirt road near Ericsburg, near the border. Investigators speculated Isakson had stopped to offer the pair a ride or help at some point along the 170-mile route and that his blue company car with police-style antenna may have spooked them. The body was face down and bore wounds from a small-caliber handgun, one in the back of the head, a preliminary autopsy found. A .22 caliber pistol was found on the console between the car's front seats, Utah deputies said. Isakson, who lived in the Duluth suburb of Hermantown, served as a volunteer youth football and hockey coach and is survived by his wife and six children. Fields was paroled to Van Zant County (Canton) in East Texas on May 18 after serving six years for a Dallas murder. Although details were sketchy, detectives said records show Field slew Ronald Dee Merritt, about 32, with a knife on May 19, 1982, after an argument in an apartment. Police in Abernathy's hometown of Richland, Miss., near Jackson, said she is being classified as a runaway. Officer M.T. Ingram said Fields, whose mother lives in Jackson, had been working there recently for a trucking company and may have been traveling back and forth to Texas for his parole reports. Fields' parole officer, Randall Culp of Tyler, said the suspect had not obtained permission to travel out of state. Culp said he would ask the state parole board to issue a warrant for Fields' arrest, based on the Minnesota allegations. Deputies in International Falls said the pair tried to cross into Canada but were denied entry because Abernathy was a juvenile and had some small-caliber cartridge casings in her possession. They were headed west on Interstate 70 in central Utah when arrested without resistance. Fields has been charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and reportedly will waive extradition. "He is really quite a gentleman. He wasn't smart-mouth; he knows the ropes," said a deputy who took Fields before a magistrate Friday. The deputy said Fields has tattoos over much of his body, including the teardrops at the corners of his eyes and the word "Keeper," in Old English letters, on one of his biceps. Dallas County records show Fields was given five years probation in 1981 for a residential burglary, but that was revoked, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder. The sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal. The records also show misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession and evading arrest in 1980, but do not indicate their disposition. Deputies in Jackson, Miss., said records there show Fields was arrested in 1979, when he would have been 17, for auto theft, escaping twice from a juvenile facility and once from a penal farm in the following year.


9/3/88
Man jailed in motel murder/Convicted killer accused in attacks

MINEOLA, N.Y. - (UPI) - A convicted murderer was accused Friday of killing a woman whose body was found stuffed under a Long Island motel room bed. Cornelius Walls, 49, of Hempstead, N.Y., who had been identified as the prime suspect in the slaying of Mary DeOliviera, 29, was holding another kidnapped woman when he was arrested Thursday, Nassau County police said. An employee at the Oceanside Motel recognized Walls when he checked in with DeOliviera on Aug. 23, police said. DeOliviera's body was found Monday inside the wooden frame of a platform bed after the motel room had been used by several guests, at least one of whom complained about a bad smell in the room. Acting on a tip, police said they arrested Walls as he drove through nearby Garden City in a borrowed car. At the time of the arrest, Walls was holding a 26-year-old woman captive in the back of the car, police said. Walls had repeatedly raped and sodomized her since kidnapping her three days earlier, police said. Walls was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy in 1st District Court in Hempstead Friday. The suspect was convicted of murder in Nassau County in 1959. He served 15 years of a 20-year-to-life prison sentence and was paroled in 1974. Since then, he was arrested numerous times on charges of promoting prostitution, assault and rape, said Sgt. Dennis Barry of the Nassau County Police. Walls was returned to prison for convictions and parole violations and was freed most recently on July 12. "He has a long history of abuse and violence and degrading acts against women," Barry said. "The ultimate act of degradation was against Mary DeOliviera at the Oceanside Motel." An autopsy showed DeOliviera of Elmont had been beaten in the head and chest, police said. It was not yet determined whether she had been sexually abused.


1/16/88 - Houston Chronicle
Convicted rapist-murderer accused in woman's death

A 36-year-old convicted rapist and murderer Friday was charged with murder in the death of a popular Clear Lake-area waitress whose charred body was found in her Bacliff mobile home last June. Mike O'Lee Hefflin, unemployed and who is in the Harris County Jail charged with attempted capital murder in an unrelated case, Friday was charged with murder in the June 17 death of Simone Fleming, 58. Bond was set at $100,000. Fleming, found lying on her bed, had been killed prior to the fire which destroyed her master bedroom, according to the Galveston County Medical Examiner's office. She died of cerebral anoxia, or lack of oxygen from strangulation or suffocation, said a spokeswoman in the medical examiner's office. The body had been burned too badly to determine if there were any wounds, she said. "Whether her head was covered, she was strangled, choked or smothered, we don't know," said Richard Branson, first assistant in the Galveston County District Attorney's office. Hefflin had rented a house from Fleming and had argued with her over rent, according to a spokeswoman for the organized crime unit. Investigators found gas jets on in the mobile home after the fire was extinguished and have said the fire was set. Fleming, a waitress at the Sheraton Kings Inn restaurant on NASA Road 1, had hesitated to buy a mobile home because of her fear of fire, friends said. Hefflin, a parolee, is scheduled to be tried Jan. 25 on a charge of attempted capital murder in the Aug. 18 stabbing of a 48-year-old Harris County woman during an alleged attempted sexual assault, said Lee Coffee, chief prosecutor for 180th State District Court. He is being held in the Harris County Jail without bond. Hefflin was paroled from the Texas Department of Corrections in October 1985 after serving nine years of a 45-year sentence for a 1976 murder conviction in Dallas County, according to a TDC spokesman. He was paroled in October 1974 after serving five months of a two-year sentence for a June 1974 rape conviction.


9/15/86 - Houston Chronicle
Dead woman's dad suspected spouse all along

In the months after his daughter disappeared, Howard Nugent had a nagging suspicion that his son-in-law, her husband, knew what had happened to her. Yet since February, when Etta Ann Urdiales was abducted from her Conroe apartment, Nugent has been forced to visit periodically with the man he suspected of killing her, if indeed she was, as he feared, dead. Twice a month, he had to turn over his grandchildren to Michael Urdiales for weekend visits, and each time Urdiales grew more vindictive. Last week, Nugent said Sunday, Urdiales' spite boiled over. "This Friday evening, he said, `Well, if you see Ann, tell her I said hello,' " Nugent said. "And he knew the whole time where she was." Conroe police and Montgomery County Sheriff's Department officers confirmed Nugent's suspicion this weekend with the announcement that 25-year-old Mrs. Urdiales' body was discovered Saturday in a shallow grave in south Montgomery County. Authorities were led to the grave by convicted murderer Jesse DeWayne Jacobs, 36, who told police he was hired by Urdiales, also 36, to kill the woman. Police said Urdiales agreed to pay $500. It is not clear if the money was ever paid. Jacobs was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety officers Tuesday in West Texas while trying to cross the border in a stolen car with a 14-year-old runaway girl from Harris County. Jacobs, paroled in 1983 for the murder of a mentally handicapped Illinois man eight years earlier, was transferred to Montgomery County when arresting officers realized he was wanted there for four crimes. Police say Jacobs then gradually told the following story of how he came to kill the Conroe paramedic and mother of two. Jacobs knew Urdiales because the man, separated from his wife and in the middle of divorce proceedings, was living with Jacobs' sister. After Jacobs and Urdiales struck the $500 deal, Jacobs said he acted alone in killing the woman. On the morning of Feb. 21, he went to her Conroe apartment, abducted her and stole her car. There was apparently a struggle, as her bloody nightclothes were found in the apartment, and there was blood on the bedroom floor and a bathroom counter top. Jacobs said he took Mrs. Urdiales to a remote location off Sawdust Road and shot her once in the head and buried her in a 3 -foot grave, police said. Authorities arrested her husband, a carpenter, on Saturday. He and Jacobs have been charged with capital murder. Bond was denied. The arrest confirmed Nugent's worst fears, which he said were spawned about two years ago by Urdiales' poor treatment of Mrs. Urdiales. "We all knew that he was at the core of this," Nugent said. "He was the jealous husband." Nugent said the marriage, which began about seven years ago, started out good. But when the couple moved into a mobile home near Magnolia about five years later, it began to fall apart. He turned jealous of his wife," Nugent said. He wasn't rational. He was jealous of her job with the paramedics." Mrs. Urdiales had gotten a job with Montgomery County's Emergency Medical Service ambulance crew. On the morning of her abduction, she had just finished a 24-hour shift at work. His rage grew so intense that, according to Mrs. Urdiales' sister, Lois Conrad, he would beat my sister and pour beer down her head." Authorities have not released a definite motive for the murder, although according to Conroe Police Chief Mike Arthur, they have one. `We're not for sure on the motive," said Montgomery County Sheriff Joe Corley. We do know child custody may have been the motive, and child support may have been the motive." The two children, Daniel, 3 , and Michael, 6, have been in Nugent's custody since his daughter's disappearance. The custody had led to some bitter tension that erupted shortly after the disappearance when Nugent and his wife, Edna, had Urdiales jailed on contempt-of-court charges for not paying child support. Nugent said he has yet to tell the 3 -year-old of the discovery of his mother's body. The older child has figured it out. He was at his father's when the police came and took him back home (and arrested Urdiales)," Nugent said. He told us daddy's in jail again."


11/13/86 - Houston Chronicle
No `hard feelings' / Ex-convict thanks judge for death penalty in cabbie's slaying

An ex-convict thanked the judge and prosecutors after he was given the death penalty for the June robbery and killing of a Houston cab driver. "I want you all to know that I don't have any hard feelings in the case," Jerome Butler, 57, said Wednesday. "I feel satisfied. You did the right thing." Butler was found guilty of the June 16 shooting of Sky-Jack cab driver Nathan Oakley, 67. Oakley had been a Houston cab driver for 30 years. The jury, which found Butler guilty of capital murder Tuesday after 45 minutes of deliberation, returned Wednesday to deliver the death sentence for Butler in state District Judge Ted Poe's court. Visiting Judge Wallace C. "Pete" Moore replaced Poe on the bench for the trial. In an unusual twist to the case, it was revealed half way through the trial that a man Butler was convicted of killing in 1973 had been a friend of Oakley, said prosecutor Jim Buchanan. Buchanan speculated that the reason Butler killed Oakley after he robbed him was that Oakley may have recognized Butler from the 1973 murder. Oakley was shot, execution style, three times in the head. Buchanan said Butler called for a cab at a Circle K one block from his home in the 3800 block of Arbor. After Oakley picked him up, he pulled a gun and shot him as the car was moving in the 1300 block of Sampson near Dallas at the edge of downtown. A witness who was driving behind the cab saw the shooting and followed Butler after he ran from the car. The witness then returned to the cab and used the radio to call police. Butler had an extensive criminal history, including a 1959 conviction on two counts of robbery and assault in New York City. He came to Houston in December 1972 after being paroled in New York, and five months later was charged with the slaying of A.C. Johnson, 69. Butler served about 10 years of a 30-year sentence he received after pleading guilty to that murder. Johnson had been friends with Oakley, Buchanan said. After he was sentenced to death Wednesday, Butler spent about 10 minutes talking to Judge Moore, admitting he was guilty of the killing and saying he, too, believed in the death penalty. After talking to the judge, Butler was led out of the courtroom in tears. Oakley's widow also professed satisfaction with the sentence. "I hurt, I ache, I cry. I don't want anyone else going through this," said Robbie Oakley. "We got this murderer off the street."


6/25/85 - Houston Chronicle
Dead man suspect in woman's disappearance

CONROE - When Jerry Michael Ward fired a bullet through his skull, he carried out a death sentence ordered nearly 20 years ago for the rape and murder of a Houston school girl. But his self-inflicted execution last week came too soon for local lawmen who now consider Ward their No. 1 suspect in a newer case, the disappearance of a woman who was last seen alive with him. The woman, Connie Sue Cooke, 32, hasn't been seen at all, alive or dead, since May 28, when a friend spotted her driving away from a nightclub at the Holiday Inn in Conroe. The friend said Cooke was with a man who looked like Ward, and people at the club later told investigators he was a regular there. When confronted by police on June 13, Ward said he had indeed talked with Cooke in the Prickly Pear that night, but he adamantly denied leaving with her. At that time police knew they were talking to the same man who was described in 1965 as a "sexual psychopath who will commit the same crime over and over again." That evaluation by Dr. C.A. Dwyer of Harris County came just days after Ward was charged with raping and killing an 18-year-old woman. Dwyer went on to say of Ward, "He is extremely polite. He has no insight and does not profit by experience." The day after Ward was questioned by Conroe police, investigators now believe, he stole $215 from his employer at the trailer park where he lived and worked, caught a plane to Las Vegas, Nev., and booked himself into a $100-a-night room at Caesars Palace. The next day he checked out, paid his bill and made his way to an isolated area on the shore of Lake Mead where he sat down on a sheet of plywood and shot himself in the head. His body was found Sunday. "It's our theory that it was just a last fling," Montgomery County District Attorney James Keeshan said. "He may have always wanted to go to Las Vegas." Ward left a brief suicide note to an aunt, telling her he was sorry and that she would probably be reading a lot about him soon. "It said he didn't do it this time," Keeshan said, "and he knew they were going to send him back (to prison) and this was the only way out." Keeshan wants to find out if Ward is responsible for Cooke's disappearance, but he also is trying to find out how and why Ward was anywhere on May 28 other than in the Texas Department of Corrections. He said prison and parole officials didn't notify area law enforcement agencies that Ward was free and living in the Conroe area. Attempts to reach the Board of Pardons and Paroles for comment on Ward's release were unsuccessful. Keeshan said he felt authorities should have some warning when such individuals were released: "In some cases I think they ought to announce it on billboards." Other investigators were equally perturbed. "All we get is a list of names (of parolees). It tells us who they are, the county they're from and the offense, but unless you remember every case in every county, it's just a list of names," Montgomery County sheriff's Capt. Wayne Eason said. Eason said his office is also investigating whether Ward could have been involved in the strangulation of a Conroe barmaid in September. The body of Brenda Maureen Hackett, 25, was found under a railroad trestle near FM 2854 by a train conductor. Hackett had been sexually assaulted before she was strangled with a stocking. At that same time, Keeshan said, Ward was living in a halfway house on FM 2854, just a short distance from where Hackett was found. Ward was paroled in June 1984 after serving 18 years in prison for murder with malice aforethought in the October 1965 shooting death of Westbury High School student Joyce Osten. At the time, the case was described as one of the city's "most sensational crimes." The young woman was abducted from a shopping center parking lot, raped and shot three times in the head. After the murder, Ward gave the gun he used to his landlady. He suggested she could use it to protect herself from the killer-rapist at large. He originally was sentenced to die in the electric chair, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972. Although the death penalty was reinstated, the sentence was not. The Osten case drew wide publicity, as evidence of more crimes piled up after Ward's initial arrest. He confessed to 11 armed robberies and was charged with another and was linked to the abductions of five women. Two of his victims were released unharmed, one was slapped, another was pistol-whipped and left for dead, and another was raped. That crime spree followed his release from a military prison, where he was jailed for the kidnapping and attempted rape of yet another woman. The Navy dishonorably discharged him, and he worked briefly as an orderly at St. Joseph's Hospital. He had come to Houston because his father and stepmother lived here, but he had his own apartment. Osten's family was stunned to learn Ward was freed after serving only 18 years in prison. Susan Osten, sister of the victim, said, "We were highly shocked that he ever got out. I think we're more upset about it because somebody else, and somebody's family, had to suffer. "We were always under the impression that if he ever got paroled he'd have to answer for these other crimes," Osten said. "He had problems and they had no business releasing him. It makes you wonder who they'll set loose out there." Osten said her sister Joyce was a very high-strung and tender teen-ager, and the family always wondered what provoked Ward to kill her. She remembered that his other victims said he seemed to enjoy making them cry more than anything. Conroe police on Friday listed Ward as a suspect in Cooke's disappearance. Before Ward's body was found in Las Vegas, they would only call him a vital source of information about Cooke's activities the night she disappeared. On June 13 they questioned him and briefly searched the 16-foot travel trailer he lived in at a small mobile home park outside of Conroe, but he wasn't arrested. Officers didn't turn up any evidence, except a calendar with small markings on the dates since Cooke was last seen. Cooke, who worked part-time at a Lake Conroe resort, was reported missing by a co-worker on June 3 . Her car was found four days later in an apartment complex parking lot. She has no family in the Conroe area, and her two young children live with her ex-husband in Oklahoma. The search for Cooke continues. And while it does, investigators are probing deeper into the background of Ward. In reviewing prison records, Keeshan said, he learned that in 1983 a psychiatrist said Ward continued to have a deep-seated personality disorder" and needed more treatment. Ward was showing a great deal of anger, bitterness and hostility toward authority, according to the report. The records available to the district attorney didn't indicate why it was decided to parole Ward.


1981 - New York Daily News
Norman Mailer Makes a Bad Character Evaluation

Jack Henry Abbott was a convicted murderer and would-be writer whose case was championed by Norman Mailer. Less than six weeks after Abbott's 1981 release from a Utah prison, while on a parole promoted and partly sponsored by Mailer, Abbott killed an actor and playwright who was working as a waiter at an New York City restaurant. As the Utah killer Gary Gilmore awaited the firing squad and it became known that the New York author Norman Mailer was completing a rhapsody to Gilmore's penal journey, another swaggering Utah con named Jack Henry Abbott wrote to Mailer, assuring him that there was no way such a city slicker as he could know much of anything about the brutal realities of The Life and offering to give him a useful crash course. The hard-case Abbott had spent years in solitary, and his letters raged with raw animal pain, and in this damaged man Mailer imagined he had found an epically American frontiersman outlaw saint. In 1980, the thoroughly infatuated Mailer persuaded the New York Review of Books to publish a selection of Abbott's prison letters. These were spotted by an editor at Random House, who proceeded to envision a soulful book-length collection of authentic screams from the abyss. At this same time, Jack Henry Abbott was coming up for parole, and Norman Mailer stood for him. In June 1981, as Abbott's "In the Belly of the Beast" approached publication to what it was understood were going to be warm reviews, Mailer brought Abbott to New York, settled him into a Bowery halfway house, engaged him as a $150-a-week research assistant and introduced him around to the quality folks. There were network TV appearances. There was a spread in People magazine. There were champagne toasts from New York City's leading literary lights. Abbott, 37 years old, a man who had been behind bars since age 12, was an overnight star. All the fancies and nellies and swells had forgotten one fundamental thing about Jack Henry Abbott. He was a junkyard dog. Awesome, the reviewers agreed. Brilliant. Fiercely visionary. Less dazzled readers perhaps found typical Abbott to be quite flabbergastingly puerile ("I have been twisted by justice the way other men can be twisted by love . . . I can never be happy with the petty desires this bourgeois society has branded into my flesh, my sensuous being"), but the reviewers were all charmed to find themselves a major new writer. Mailer and Random House's Scott Meredith fussed over their noble savage. Both were "touched by his childlike sense of wonder," they happily told everyone; he didn't even know how to buy toothpaste at the drugstore. After a few weeks, he was worldly enough to enjoy occasional furloughs from the halfway house and to go out spending the $15,000 Random House had advanced him. Late on the night of Saturday the 18th of July, he had two women on his arm and they were drinking in a Second Ave. bar called the Binibon, and here did Jack Henry Abbott collide with Richard Adan. Adan was one of that legion of young New York actors who waited tables between breaks. He was 22 years old, newly married, full of promise. The quarrel with tonight's gaunt, walrus-mustached customer was a small one, having to do with whether or not the Binibon's washroom was available to patrons or strictly to employees, but in the end both combatants agreed to take it outside. Abbott was the one with a knife in his waistband, and Adan was dead on the sidewalk a few minutes later. By the next day Abbott had fled the city.


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