January 2003 Executions
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Seven killers were executed in January 2003.  They had murdered at least 12 people.
Six
killers were given a stay in January 2003.  They have murdered at least 10 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 2, 2003 Illinois Alvin Smith
Donna Sauls
James Tenner stayed

Believing that his former business partner Albert Sauls had alienated the affections of his former girlfriend Shirley Garza, James Tenner planned and carried out an execution. Sauls and Tenner operated trucking businesses from the same building in South Chicago Heights. In his space Tenner set up three ropes and nooses, each just the right height for the neck of the intended victim. Then with shotgun in hand he invaded the adjoining premises, finding (as he expected) Sauls and his employee Alvin Smith. He held the two at bay until Garza and Donna Sauls, Albert's wife, arrived. Tenner directed Garza and Donna Sauls to bind the men hand and foot; when that had been accomplished, Tenner compelled Garza to bind Donna Sauls the same way. All four moved to Tenner's garage, where the three bound victims were restrained in the nooses designed for them. Tenner then tied up Garza and constructed a fourth noose for her. After covering his victims' mouths with duct tape, Tenner delivered a harangue (lasting more than two hours) about the victims' supposed misconduct regarding both his business and his personal life, and the Saulses' treatment of Garza. Tenner then moved Garza to his office and returned to shoot the three remaining victims in their faces at point-blank range. Smith and Donna Sauls died instantly. Albert Sauls had been able to free his hands and used his arms to shield his face; he was left for dead but survived and testified against Tenner at trial. So did Garza, who was rescued by police after Tenner kidnapped her and drove off. Testifying on his own behalf, Tenner conceded that he prepared the ropes and shot the victims; his defense was that he sought to protect Garza from the Saulses and therefore committed second rather than first degree murder.  

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 3, 2003 Ohio Leneshia Williams, 17
Jala Grant, 3 
Jeronique Cunningham stayed

A jury convicted one of two brothers accused of fatally shooting a 3-year-old girl and a teen-ager during a robbery that left six others wounded. Jeronique Cunningham, 29 at the time, was sentenced to death in the shootings that prosecutors said happened while he and his brother were stealing drugs and money from one of the survivors. Vicki Williams hugged her 12-year-old son after Cunningham was convicted of killing her daughter, 17-year-old Leneshia Williams. "I hope he receives the death penalty," she said. "It won't bring Leneshia back but they deserve it." Cunningham and Cleveland Jackson, both of Lima, were arrested two days after the shootings Jan. 3, 2002. The brothers knew some of the victims, were invited inside their apartment and even watched television together before herding the group into a kitchen and shooting them one-by-one, prosecutors said. Six were shot in the head, including Leneshia Williams and 3-year-old Jala Grant, who also died. One of the survivors who was shot in the head was in a coma for 40 days while the others weren't as seriously injured. Some were just grazed by the bullets. Defense attorneys did not dispute that Cunningham was at the apartment. But they said Cunningham had no intention of robbing his friends and put the blame on his younger brother. Cunningham never fired a gun he had with him, defense attorney Robert Grzybowski said. "There was no plan or purpose on the part of Jeronique Cunningham to cause the death of anyone," he said. "Cleveland Jackson had a purpose and plan." During the trial, five victims testified they saw Cunningham shoot. "He shot me. I blanked out. When I woke up, I saw a bloody mess," said Coron Liles who was shot in the mouth. Prosecutors said Cunningham forced the victims into a kitchen and hit one in the jaw with his gun before making them line up against a wall. "This is absolutely the most cold-blooded, calculated, inhumane murder anyone could imagined," Prosecutor David Bowers said. Several of the victims were related to each other, and the others were friends from Lima, which is about 70 miles south of Toledo. Layshane Liles, who lived in the apartment, had sold drugs to Cunningham earlier in the day and played video games there, prosecutors said. Cunningham and his brother then decided to return to rob Layshane Liles, prosecutors said.  *Appeals are still pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 8, 2003 Mississippi George Shelton Ronald Foster stayed

Ronald Foster was 17 when he was accused of killing George Shelton, an employee at Hankins Superette in Lowndes County, on June 10, 1989. Shelton's body was found behind the counter by a customer who contacted authorities. He had been shot in the head. A Lowndes County jury convicted Foster of the killing in 1991. Foster turned to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans after a federal judge in Jackson refused to hear a claim of ineffective counsel. The Mississippi Supreme Court previously had rejected similar arguments. In June of 2020, the 5th Circuit court upheld the judge's dismissal of his claims of ineffective counsel. "In essence, what they did was uphold his conviction and death sentence," Assistant Attorney General Marvin "Sonny" White said.  White said Foster's next steps are to ask for a rehearing before the 5th Circuit and then ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his appeal. In 1997, the Mississippi Supreme Court refused to reopen Foster's case. The court had upheld the capital murder conviction and death sentence in 1994, rejecting Foster's claims that he was too young when the murder was committed to face the death penalty. He also challenged jury instructions. Foster came back to the Supreme Court in May 1996, arguing ineffective counsel at his trial and sentencing hearing. He was asking for post-conviction relief, claiming that the issue of ineffective counsel was not known at the time of his conviction. That appeal also was rejected. A friend of Foster's testified at trial that Foster had admitted killing Shelton. Foster claimed Shelton was shot after the two struggled over a gun Shelton pulled from under the counter. UPDATE: The United States Supreme Court on 1/7/03 rejected condemned inmate Ronald Chris Foster's request to review his case. The justices gave no reason for their refusal to hear Foster's appeal. Monday, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove issued a temporary reprieve to Foster. The 30-year-old Foster was scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the 1989 Lowndes County killing of convenience store clerk George Shelton. Musgrove said the reprieve would last until the constitutional questions about Foster's age at the time of the crime and his mental ability are addressed by the United States Supreme Court and the Mississippi Supreme Court.  Musgrove denied clemency in two executions last year. He says Foster's case is different because of the age and mental retardation issues being raised by the inmate's attorneys.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 14, 2003 Texas Clayton Kenny, 83 
Juliana Kenny, 74
Adrienne Arnot, 44
Samuel Gallamore executed

On the evening of March 29, 1992, Samuel Clark Gallamore and his accomplice James John Steiner drove to the private residence of Verle Clayton Kenney, his wife Julianna Kenney, and their daughter Adrienne Arnot, in Kerr County, Texas, for the purpose of robbing their home. On their way to the Kenney residence, Gallamore and Steiner discussed their proposed robbery and decided that if any of the occupants of the home tried to stop them, they would kill them. When Gallamore and Steiner arrived at the Kenney residence, they parked away from the house and walked to the door. Along the way, Gallamore picked up a cedar branch and handed it to Steiner. Steiner also carried a tire iron. Gallamore knocked on the front door while Steiner, who was known to the Kenney family, hid out of sight. After Adrienne opened the door, the two men forced their way in, knocking her down in the process. Gallamore and his accomplice then began beating Adrienne and Clayton, who had come to her aid, with the tire iron and a wooden club. Adrienne struggled for her life, sustaining 12 blunt force blows to her head and face, and 14 blunt force blows to her upper extremities, back, and right thigh. Clayton sustained six blunt force injuries to his head. These injuries were sufficient to cause the deaths of the two victims. Gallamore then grabbed a knife from the Kenney's kitchen and began stabbing Adrienne and Clayton. Adrienne sustained a stab wound to her right, middle finger, consistent with a defensive laceration. In addition, Gallamore stabbed Adrienne twice in the neck, creating a three-inch wound. Gallamore proceeded further into the house, where he discovered Juliana, partially paralyzed, immobile in a chair, and unable to defend herself. Gallamore, wielding the kitchen knife, stabbed Juliana in the neck. The knife wound would have been sufficient to cause Juliana's death. Gallamore, however, continued to beat Juliana, hitting her at least five times with a blunt object. The blows were so powerful that they created a gaping hole in Juliana's skull measuring 7 inches long by 2 inches wide. All three victims died. After stabbing and beating all three of the residents, Gallamore and Steiner took several spoons, cash from Adrienne's purse, and various small items on display in the house. They buried most of the items taken from the Kenney residence on property owned by Gallamore's parents. Much of the detailed and graphic description of the events surrounding these murders came from Gallamore himself, in two tape-recorded confessions which were produced for the jury, and from Gallamore's testimony at trial. UPDATE: Death row inmate Samuel Gallamore says the bloody 1992 slayings of a partially paralyzed woman, her husband and their daughter didn't have to happen. "Things went wrong, terribly wrong," Gallamore said last week from death row. "I am sorry. I have no problem giving my life in payment, but I only have one life and I take responsibility for all three." Gallamore said his friend James John Steiner directed him on March 29, 1992, to the rural Kerr County home where the pair planned a robbery for drug money. Julianna Kenney and her husband, Verle Clayton Kenney, lived there with their daugher, Adrienne Arnot. "I was under the impression that people weren't supposed to be there," Gallamore said. "They were. One thing led to another. Everything happened so fast. I had a split second to react. I don't know why I made the decision that I did, but those people had a chance to live. No one had to die. I could have left." Gallamore and Steiner, who had cared for Julianna Kenney in her home, brutally beat Kenney's husband and their daughter. Arnot was struck 12 times in the head and face and suffered 14 blows to her upper body, back and right thigh. Her father was hit 6 times in the head with a tire iron and a cedar stick. Gallamore then grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Arnot and her father. "(Mrs. Kenney) literally kind-of had to watch everything that was happening to her husband and her daughter but could not move," Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer said Monday. Gallamore said he killed Julianna Kenney. She was found with her throat slit and skull bashed with so much force that a gaping hole measuring 7 inches by 2 inches wide was left in her head. Hierholzer said a maid who arrived at the family's home discovered the gruesome scene. "You walk into any crime scene that is as brutal and gory as that one was and it definitely changes you," Hierholzer said. "It is the type of crime you never forget. It was just so senseless. It is so hard to understand. She couldn't even defend herself if she wanted to." It took 18 months for police to track down Gallamore and Steiner. Gallamore had moved to Chicago, where he was working as a home repairman. "After the crime happened I wasn't running from it," Gallamore said. "I wasn't going to turn myself in, but if I got caught, I got caught. It wasn't something I was proud of." Heirholzer said had it not been for the bloody cedar stick found with a partial fingerprint from Gallamore in the brush outside the Kenneys' home, police officers might not have ever suspected the young man who had previously been in trouble for marijuana possession, resisting arrest and misdemeanor assault. "We had handled him for some minor offenses, but nothing anywhere like this crime," said Heirholzer, who was the case's lead investigator back in 1992. "It was a nightmare. It was one of the worst crimes we have ever had around here." Kerr County prosecutor Ronald Sutton said Gallamore confessed to the crime shortly after his arrest. Jurors heard a poem Gallamore wrote from his jail cell during his trial in which he described the begging and pleading of "the people I sat and watched bleed. I say I am guilty and that is true. Now I ask mercy from all twelve of you." Gallmore was sentenced to death on Feb. 3, 1994. Steiner received a life sentence. "My life is worthless since I've done this," said Gallamore, who says he began using marijuana when he was 5, dropped out of school as a teenager and often fought to protect his older brother who was in a gang. "When it comes to having a life, you can pretty much say mine was a failure," he said. "I was just a mixed-up, confused kid. A lot of it had to do with the drugs. ... If it wasn't for me shooting the bathtub crank we were making, I wouldn't be (on death row.)" Gallamore said he and Steiner had been on a 2-week drug binge the night of the killings and both were high on methamphetamines. "If I could, I would take it back, not just to save my own life, but to save everybody," Gallamore said. "I have got people I don't even know who are crying because of me, because they feel for me or they feel for the victims. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think this would cause so much pain to so many people."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 14, 2003 Oklahoma Louise Schem, 77  Bobby Fields stayed

Bobby Joe Fields pleaded guilty in 1994 to the 1983 murder of 77-year-old Louise Schem in Oklahoma County. Fields was burglarizing Schem's home for money to support his drug habit when she confronted him, prosecutors say. Fields shot her to death.  On March 1, 1993, Shirley Masterson, Bobby Joe Fields's girlfriend, invited Fields to party at her duplex. Masterson's Aid to Families with Dependent Children check had arrived and she planned on using the money to buy alcohol and cocaine. Shawanda and Yolanda Pittman, Masterson's grown daughters, and Dia Russell, Shawanda and Yolanda's friend, were partying with Masterson and Fields. The party continued the next day, March 2, 1993. Sometime around noon, Fields walked two doors down to Louise Schem's house ostensibly to ask if he could do yard work for her. She declined. In the mid- to late-afternoon, Fields went to the upstairs-half of Masterson's duplex to ask Albert Anuario if he wanted to buy a television and VCR for $70. Anuario, who had also been drinking, replied that he was interested but that he did not have enough money. Fields decided to steal Schem's television and sell it to buy more cocaine. When, around 5 p.m., he again walked down the block to carry out the robbery, he thought Schem was not at home. He opened the screen door, pushed open the front door, crossed the living room to the television (which was on), and reached to unplug it. At that moment, Schem entered the room carrying her .25 semi-automatic pistol. A struggle ensued as the two of them wrestled to control the gun. Despite the fact that, at the time, Fields was thirty years-old, 5' 7" tall, and weighed 140 pounds while Schem was elderly, 5' 4" tall, and 114 pounds, their struggle was protracted: it began in the living room, spilled out the front door and down the steps, and ended on the sidewalk in front of Schem's house. Robert Vallejo happened to be driving by and saw the final seconds of the altercation. He testified that he saw them struggling on the sidewalk, heard Schem cry "Help! Help!", heard a gunshot, and watched Schem fall to the sidewalk. The government's medical examiner testified that the bullet had a flat trajectory it entered the back, left-side of Schem's neck, beneath her left ear, passed through her spinal cord and the back of her mouth, and exited her mouth, fracturing two of her incisor teeth. The gunpowder residue on the back of her neck indicated that the shot was fired from six to twelve inches. Vallejo drove away a short distance, made a U-turn, and returned to the scene. Fields had fled, but he returned to Masterson's house thirty to forty minutes later. As he walked in Masterson's back door, the pistol went off. Dia Russell testified that Fields looked hysterical he was talking fast and breathing heavily. Perhaps half an hour after returning to Masterson's house, he went upstairs and sold the gun to Anuario for $40. Shortly after the police and medical personnel started arriving at Schem's house, Russell took Masterson and Fields to Fields's sister's house. Russell testified that during the drive Fields said that "he didn't have any kind of remorse or guilt" and "he wouldn't lose any sleep" because "white people deserve what they got." (Fields is black; Schem was white.) In addition, she testified that later, while they were watching a news story of how the police had arrested a different black man for the murder, he said that he was "relieved" that he might not get caught and that "he had thought about being on the television show America's Most Wanted."  Two days after the murder, on March 4, 1993, Fields was arrested and interrogated. He told the police that, thinking Schem was not home, he went to her house to steal her television. When she surprised him with a gun, he jumped at her in self-defense, and they wrestled over the weapon. The struggle spilled out onto the sidewalk, where he pulled the gun from her hands. As he did so, it went off accidentally, killing her. UPDATE: Gov. Frank Keating issued a stay of execution Tuesday for a man who was scheduled to die by injection for the murder of an elderly woman. Keating said he was issuing the stay because he did not have enough time to consider a clemency recommendation for Bobby Joe Fields before he leaves office on Jan. 13 and is succeeded by Brad Henry. Fields had been scheduled to be executed on Jan. 14. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency Monday, urging Keating to commute Fields' death sentence to life imprisonment. "Because the board's vote came just one week before the scheduled execution on Jan. 14, there is simply insufficient time to engage in the kind of careful and deliberate review tat is to be expected in such cases," Keating said. "For that reason, I have issued a stay of execution, and I will communicate all pertinent information on this case to Gov.-elect Brad Henry's transition team, since he will assume the power to act in this case next Monday" This is the fifth time since Keating took office in 1995 that the board has recommended clemency for a death row inmate. Keating has only granted one recommendation, for Philip Dewitt Smith in March 2001. Three of the five board members voted Monday in favor of clemency. One voted against it and one abstained, said Terry Jenks, Pardon and Parole Board executive director. Fields, 39, pleaded guilty in 1994 and was sentenced to die for the 1993 slaying of Louise Schem at her Oklahoma City home. At issue is whether Fields deliberately shot Schem or if the gun fired accidentally. At trial prosecutors claimed Fields took the gun from Schem, then shot her as she tried to flee. At Monday's hearing, Fields' attorneys said the gun accidentally fired during the struggle, resulting in the fatal wound. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence. The state Attorney General's office plans to ask that the board's recommendation be rejected, said Charlie Price, Attorney General Drew Edmondson's spokesman.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 15, 2003 Texas Adriana Marines, 5 John Baltazar executed

John Baltazar was sentenced to death for killing a five-year-old girl in Corpus Christi. Allegedly seeking revenge for the beating of his mother by her boyfriend, Baltazar kicked down the door of the man's sister's home in Corpus Christi and opened fire, shooting at two children who were watching a videotape of Sleeping Beauty.  After Baltazar was found guilty of Adrianna's murder, the girl's mother said she hoped a jury would decide he should die for the crime. "I want him to get death," said Matilde Cuellar, Adriana's mother. "Every night I see the same thing when I shut my eyes." But even a death sentence will not wipe out the image of the shirtless Baltazar smashing into her home and opening fire on her child, Cuellar said. That vision, she said, will haunt her the rest of her life. The jury deliberated less than five hours before delivering guilty verdicts on one count of capital murder for the death of Adriana and two counts of aggravated assault for the shooting of her father, Jose Arturo Marines, and her cousin, 11-year-old Vanessa Marines. On Sept. 27, Baltazar meant to retaliate against Adriana's uncle, Ted Cuellar, who was reported to have beaten up Baltazar's mother earlier in the day, according to trial testimony. After recruiting a friend to back him up and collecting bullets for his .22-caliber revolver, Baltazar drove to the Marines residence on Panama Drive, witnesses said. There, those in the home say, he kicked in their locked door and began firing at Adriana and Vanessa as they watched ``Sleeping Beauty.'' After shooting Adriana in the head and Vanessa in the chest, Baltazar continued to a back bedroom where he shot Jose Arturo Marines in the mouth and neck. During the trial, five people identified Baltazar as the gunman. Police recovered a footprint on the kicked-in door that matched the black Nike sneakers Baltazar was wearing when he was arrested hours after the shooting. Jurors heard that Baltazar had threatened to kill Cuellar if he ever broke up with Baltazar's mother. And home surveillance equipment at Baltazar's home, where he was supposed to spend his nights because he was on parole, showed that he left the home before the shooting and returned shortly thereafter. Defense attorney Grant Jones tried to persuade jurors that the shooter could have been Baltazar's backup, Johnny Gonzales, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison for his role in the shooting, or a 14-year-old who testified that he waited outside in a car while Baltazar was shooting inside the home. In the sentencing phase, Jones and co-counsel Mickey Kolpack said they planned to delve into some of Baltazar's social background in an attempt to persuade jurors not to sentence their client to death. ``We'll show his redeeming social qualities,'' said Kolpack, adding that Baltazar had taken part in educational programs during past stays in prison and in juvenile detention facilities. Assistant District Attorney Diana McNeill said she and Chief Prosecutor Gail Sadoskas would go through Baltazar's criminal history and present witnesses who can speak about his behavior in prison. During her closing arguments in the trial, McNeill asked jurors to send a message to the community with a guilty verdict. ``In Nueces County, we do not tolerate people like him - people who kick in doors and kill a little girl watching `Sleeping Beauty,' '' McNeill said. After the verdicts were returned, she said the death penalty is appropriate for a man she described as ``the devil'' who haunts Adriana's family's dreams. ``If it's not for people like him, who do you use it for?'' McNeill asked. Baltazar will have spent not quite five years on death row since he entered the prison system for the killing, a significantly shorter time than the 10-year average in Texas. Laws enacted at both the state and federal level have contributed to shorter stays on death row. In 1995, then-Gov. George W. Bush signed a law altering the timetables and deadlines for inmate appeals. One year later, former President Bill Clinton approved legislation that limited federal appeals by death row inmates. Recently, Baltazar's lawyer requested a minimum 90-day reprieve with the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. He is also trying to have Baltazar's sentence commuted to life in prison. In a Dec. 14 letter to the board, Nueces County Chief Prosecutor Gail Gleimer, who prosecuted Baltazar, wrote that he is a habitual felony offender and a member of the Texas Syndicate prison gang. "I see no moral reason to grant leniency," she wrote. An official with the board said a decision could be made Monday on Baltazar's request for executive clemency. In the meantime, the Marines family is preparing to travel to Huntsville this week to witness the execution. Since the shootings, people approach them about what happened that night. The answer Arturo and Matilda always give is that it's a long story. Until last week, Vanessa Marines, now 16, didn't want to talk about it. Not even to her mother. Everyone's recollection about that night, including Baltazar's, is sketchy. Vanessa Marines remembered Adriana discussing upcoming birthday plans and the movie just starting when Baltazar stormed into the living room and shot them. Adriana's mother, Matilda Marines, said she heard one loud bang. She was in the bedroom watching television when Baltazar entered their home. Her husband went to find out what happened. But at that point, Baltazar was near the bedroom door, gun in hand. "I remember going to the house," Baltazar said. "Then the next thing I remember is the dude jumping out of his bed, and I shot him." He chuckles when asked why he fired. "He was a male coming at me," he said. "He was pretty close to me when I shot him." Arturo Marines still has bullet fragments in his jaw, and his teeth are crooked. Vanessa Marines also carries a bullet in her chest. Doctors couldn't remove it sooner because it was lodged close to her heart. Since then, the bullet has migrated toward her back, closer to her spine. Doctors hope to remove it when she's older. Until then, the bullet is a painful, physical reminder that she feels "when the weather changes," she said. Baltazar, who said he had been drinking since 9 a.m. the morning of the shootings, is frustrated that his intended target wasn't at the house when he fired those shots. He went there looking for Adriana's uncle, Narciso "Ted" Cuellar, who reportedly beat up Baltazar's mother earlier that day. Firing at the two girls was accidental, he said. "It might have been just reflex," he said. "It was dark. I don't know. I really don't. I'm sorry for Adriana. There's not even enough words for me to say how sorry I am for the little girl. If I wasn't sorry I'd be one sorry dude." Less than a year after the shooting, a Nueces County jury convicted Baltazar of capital murder and sentenced him to death. He was also convicted of aggravated assault and given 2 life sentences for shooting Vanessa Marines and Arturo Marines. Johnny Gonzales, who also stormed into the Marineses' Panama Drive home that night, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for Adriana's death, 40 years for burglary of a habitation, 60 years for aggravated assault on Arturo Marines and 80 years in prison for aggravated assault on Vanessa Marines. UPDATE: John Baltazar had no final statement before his execution on Wednesday evening. Relatives of Adriana Marines witnessed the execution. A stoic Arturo Marines comforted his wife, Matilda, as she and her sister, Dalinda Cuellar, sobbed as the death occurred. Marines said his daughter's 1997 death was no accident. "He pretty much knew what he was doing," Marines said earlier. "He kicked the door in and just started shooting. He was executioner. He was judge and jury for my daughter all in one evening." Baltazar, who was paroled from prison just two months before the shootings, said he feels bad about killing Adriana Marines and wounding her cousin, but said he doesn't regret shooting Arturo Marines. "He jumped up and he was in my face," Baltazar said. "That's why he got shot." Arturo Marines says Baltazar turned his family's life "inside out. I don't believe shooting innocent children, or for that matter, anybody, is an accident," he said. "Why couldn't you go after who you were really looking for instead of destroying an innocent family the way you did?" Baltazar said he didn't know the answer to that question. "I've been locked up most of my life," Baltazar said. "There ain't too much I can say about it." Before the shootings, Baltazar had pleaded guilty in 1994 to a felony burglary charge and a felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge. In 1992, he also had served time for two earlier burglary charges. Between 1989 and 1993, Baltazar pleaded either guilty or no contest to 10 misdemeanor charges, including four charges of marijuana possession, three charges of evading detention and a theft charge. "I already knew that if I was found guilty that I was going to death row, simply because of my prior convictions," Baltazar said of the jury's guilty verdict and the death sentence it later handed down on March 11, 1998. "You can't find someone not to be a continuing threat to society with the record that I have." Baltazar said he wasn't afraid to die but thought his crime wasn't one he should be paying for with his life. "I'm not one to sidestep or shy away from my actions," he said. "Every thing I have ever been down for, if I'm guilty, I admit to my guilt. But I don't think being put to death for an accidental killing is right." Arturo Marines, meanwhile, says he hopes Baltazar's punishment will finally help his family to heal. "I'm just glad it is going to be over," he said. "Hopefully after this, everyone can go on with their lives. "This is the end of the book."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 16, 2003 Oklahoma Mark Gomez, 1 Daniel Revilla executed

Daniel Revilla was convicted in 1987 for the Jackson County beating death earlier that year of 13-month-old Mark Gomez, the child of Revilla's teenage girlfriend. Prosecutors say Mark was abused for weeks before his death. A convicted Oklahoma baby killer who once wanted to die for his crime is now a bit closer to that old wish. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 against Daniel Juan Revilla in his effort to avoid execution for the murder of 13-month-old Mark Gomez in Altus. The baby, the child of Revilla's teen-age girlfriend, was beaten to death in 1987. Revilla was 18 and had abused the baby repeatedly for at least a month, according to court records. The child had many wounds including bruises, blisters, burns and lacerations. The autopsy of Mark Gomez showed swelling and bleeding of the brain and a severed liver. Revilla claimed that he had taken his girlfriend to the clinic for a checkup and left Mark, only 13 months old, at the house alone. Upon interrogation, Revilla claimed he arrived home and found the baby lifeless on the floor. He tried to revive Gomez by hitting him in the abdomen, and when that failed, he placed him in the bathtub and ran some water over him. In a panic, he accidentally turned on the hot water, causing burns to the child. He then decided to take Gomez to the hospital, and while hurriedly leaving the house he tripped and fell on a concrete floor. He then showed up at the county hospital, running through the lobby carrying Gomez in his arms, screaming that the child was not breathing. Revilla escaped from the Jackson County Jail in October of 1987. He apparently had a girlfriend waiting for him, and the 2 traveled to Mexico. During the spree, Revilla managed to slip away from law enforcement officials in Wellington, Texas just a few days after his escape. Mexican authorities captured Revilla in Acapulco, Mexico. In February of 1988 Revilla reportedly said he was glad to be on death row because of the privileges he had there. In 1996, after 10 years on death row, Revilla maintained his innocence but told a judge in Altus that he wanted to stop his court appeals. He said he wanted to die within 60 days. Two years later, however, Revilla began his current appeal. He claimed that several aspects of the guilt phase of his trial and the penalty phase violated his constitutional rights. The federal appeals court disagreed in a 34-page decision. UPDATE: A man who brutally beat his girlfriend's baby boy to death 16 years ago died for the crime Thursday. Mark Gomez of Altus was just 13 months old when he was killed in a beating so brutal it severed his liver. Daniel Revilla, 34, denied intentionally harming Mark. He told authorities he panicked when he found the boy wasn't breathing and struck and accidentally scalded the child while trying to revive him. The baby was bruised, burned and had cuts on his thighs and peeling skin on his chest and groin when he died. An autopsy showed swelling and bleeding of the brain, along with a severed liver. The boy's father and four other family members came to the prison to see Revilla die. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Revilla's last-ditch plea for a stay Thursday afternoon. At the time of the murder, Revilla was 18 and working on a farm. The boy's mother wasn't at home when Revilla said he found the child had stopped breathing. Revilla told authorities he was trying to revive the baby when he struck him in the abdomen and then accidentally scalded him with hot water. He said he rushed from the bathroom and struck the boy's head on the door frame. He said he then tripped and fell on top of the boy. Mark's mother, Michelle McElmurry, and two other witnesses testified that Revilla hated the boy because he was not his child. She told of previous abuse, saying Revilla had shut the baby in a kitchen drawer, folded him in a hide-a-bed, dunked him in cold water and hung him by his ankles with duct tape. Mark's father, Juan Gomez, said his son was a playful blue-eyed baby. The murder took place two days before he was to take custody of him, he said. "I've got pictures of him from when we were together," he said. "I look back at those times and I sob. It was a short time, but it was still a good time."  Gomez said he wanted to witness the execution because he thought it might bring him peace.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 22, 2003 Texas Adeline Waunita Dannenberg
Gloria Hoopengarner 
Robert Lookingbill executed

When Robert Lookingbill was 24 years old, he beat his grandparents with an iron bar as they slept in San Juan, Texas.  Robert Andrew Lookingbill was living with his grandparents, Lorenz and Adeline Dannenberg, in San Juan, Texas. Sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 5, 1989, Lookingbill knocked on the door of an apartment behind his grandparents' home and told the residents that someone had beaten up his grandparents. One of the residents testified that he did not think Lookingbill's voice was very convincing. They followed Lookingbill to the Dannenberg house. On the way, the man noticed a motorcycle that was not there when he and and the woman had arrived around 11:45 pm. Upon entering the Dannenberg residence, the couple observed Lorenz Dannenberg lying on the floor with blood on his head. They then observed Adeline Dannenberg lying on her bed. Her face appeared to be badly beaten. It was later determined that both victims suffered massive head wounds as a result of being struck by a blunt instrument. Lookingbill informed the man that he had called the police, and shortly thereafter the police arrived. While the couple waited outside, Aguilar heard a "metal clinking" noise from the storage shed behind the house. Officer Gilberto Alaniz testified that he observed no signs of forced entry to the residence, nor did it appear that the Dannenberg house had been ransacked. Alaniz saw blood stains on Lookingbill's boots and blood spatters on Lookingbill's jacket. Alaniz investigated the tool shed twice. On the second occasion, he saw Lookingbill enter the shed. When asked what he was doing, Lookingbill indicated that he was nervous and worried about his grandparents. He was told to leave the shed. A subsequent investigator discovered in the shed, a metal bar that was 54-inches long, two inches in diameter, and 20 to 40 pounds, on which were blood stains and hair strands. Lookingbill indicated to Alaniz that he had just arrived at the residence and found his grandparents in their condition. Alaniz checked the engine of the motorcycle, expecting that it would be hot if, in fact, Lookingbill had just arrived at the house. The engine was only warm. The jacket, boots and jeans Lookingbill was seen wearing the night of the offense were recovered by police. An investigator discovered $568.31 in the jeans when they were inventoried. Joyce Dannenberg, the Dannenberg's daughter, testified that her parents received more than $500 in social security income in December, which would have been received around the first of the month. Her mother usually kept some of the money in her purse. It was determined that the blood on Lookingbill's boots was consistent with the blood of Lorenz Dannenberg. The blood on the metal bar was also consistent with Lorenz Dannenberg's blood. Lorenz survived the attack but suffered serious and permanent injury. Adeline Dannenberg did not survive the attack. She died on Dec. 15, 1989. Her treating physician indicated that she had been treated for fractures of the skull, jaw and hand. Surgery had been performed to remove bone fragments and a blood clot from the brain. It was the physician's opinion that the injuries were caused by a blunt instrument. A pathologist who performed the autopsy concurred that a blunt instrument was probably the cause of the injuries and further testified that the metal bar recovered from the tool shed could have caused the injuries. Lookingbill gave two statements to police on the morning of the offense. In the first statement, he declared that he arrived at the Dannenberg residence at about 1:15 a.m. on December 5 and discovered his grandparents as the police subsequently found them. In the second statement, Lookingbill declared that he arrived at the residence about 1:15 a.m., and that he was "all coked up" and had been drinking. He retrieved a long metal bar from the garage. In his confession, Lookingbill stated, "My grandfather was sleeping on the floor. I approached him with the long metal bar. I just raised the bar and struck him in the head. I was standing right above him . . . My grandfather did not yell out. He just groaned in pain. I must have hit him more than one time." Lookingbill then went down the hall into his grandmother's bedroom and, by Lookingbill's account, "She was sleeping. I hit her on her head with the same pipe. It was dark I could not see her but I knew where she was sleeping. She did not yell out." He took the money in Adeline's purse and then called the police, after which time he went to the rental residence. Lookingbill was on parole from a burglary conviction for which he had served about 9 months of a 7 year sentence.  Evidence was also admitted that Lookingbill committed an unadjudicated extraneous assault -- the December 1984 murder of Gloria Hoopengarner, a neighbor to Lookingbill's grandparents -- and then bragged about the murder and robbery to several individuals.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 23, 2003 Texas Otis Flake, 65
Unnamed male victim
Elkie Taylor stayed

Elkie Taylor was convicted in the robbery and murder of 64-year-old Otis Flake in Fort Worth.  Taylor was on parole after serving about 9 months of an 8 year sentence for burglary of a habitation. On the evening of April 1, 1993, Elkie Lee Taylor (aka Ronnie Lee Watkins) and an accomplice smoked crack cocaine with an acquaintance staying at the home of Otis Flake, a 65-year-old mentally ill man. While at Flake's home, Taylor and his accomplice were observed looking around the house for things to steal and were asked to leave. Flake's houseguest departed shortly thereafter. Taylor and his accomplice returned in the early morning hours of April 2, 1993, and ransacked Flake's house, taking jewelry, cash, a television, and other items to sell for crack. Flake's houseguest returned to find the front door open and the house in disarray. She also saw Taylor and his accomplice coming from the back of the house and called to them. Taylor had a white bag in his hand. Upon entering the house, Flake's houseguest found Flake sitting up against his bed. His hands were tied behind his back with white plastic tubing, his feet were tied together with a coat hanger, and a T-shirt and two coat hangers were wrapped around his throat. Flake died of asphyxiation due to strangulation. Taylor admitted to his roommates on separate occasions that he and his accomplice had committed two murders. The first murder occurred 11 days earlier and seven blocks down the street. The victim was an elderly man who lived alone. He was discovered with an apron and a coat hanger wrapped around his neck. Later, when asked if the police were in the neighborhood because of him, Taylor boldly admitted that he had wrapped a coat hanger around a different man's neck and that "dead men can't talk." Taylor smiled and laughed about his offenses. When Taylor was apprehended after leading police on a four-hour chase, he was driving the cab of a stolen 18-wheeler. The chase ended when a Texas State Trooper stood in front of the truck and shot out its tires with a shotgun, causing the truck to stop. Taylor admitted to police that he and his accomplice had gone to Flake's house, and that he had tied Flake's mouth, hands and feet, and that he had taken jewelry, cash, a television, and other items to sell for crack, netting a total of $16. However, Taylor claimed that his accomplice killed Flake. Taylor also admitted that two weeks before, he and his accomplice stole a TV from an 87-year-old man but had been caught by him in the house. Taylor admitted that he grabbed the man. However, Taylor again claimed that his accomplice killed the victim with a coat hanger. Co-defendant Darryl Birdow received a life sentence for Flake's murder. 

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 24, 2003 North Carolina Jackie Ransom
Larry Jones
Henry Hunt stayed

January 24, 2003 has been set as the execution date for death row inmate Henry Lee Hunt. The execution is scheduled for 2 a.m. at Central Prison in Raleigh. Hunt, 58, was sentenced to death on December 20, 1985 in Robeson County Superior Court for the September 1984 murders of Jackie Ransom and Larry Jones. Hunt also received two 10-year sentences for two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. At Hunt’s state-court trial, the state prosecutor presented evidence that Dottie Ransom and her husband, Rogers Locklear, hired Elwell Barnes for $2,000 to kill Jackie Ransom, Dottie Ransom’s other husband. (Dottie Ransom married Jackie Ransom without divorcing Locklear.) Dottie Ransom’s motive was to obtain the $25,000 proceeds from a life insurance policy that she purchased on Jackie Ransom’s life so that she could buy a trailer home. Barnes recruited Henry Lee Hunt to help in the murder, and on September 9, 1984, Hunt advised Locklear that he had killed Jackie Ransom "last night" and demanded the $2,000 payment. Hunt threatened to kill Locklear and Dottie Ransom if Hunt was not paid within 30 days. The next day, Hunt heard that Larry Jones, an acquaintance and a first cousin of Hunt’s girlfriend, was "running his mouth" by talking to the police about who had killed Jackie Ransom. Hunt told his girlfriend that "he was going to put a stop to [Jones’] damn mouth" and, on a separate occasion, that he was going to "kill that water-headed, ratting son-of-a-bitch Larry Jones." During the evening of September 14, 1984, Hunt, Barnes and Jerome Ratley picked up the unsuspecting Jones and drove him to a deserted spot where Hunt shot Jones several times, point blank, telling him, "You don’t eat no more cheese for no damn body else. I’ll meet you in heaven or hell, one." When the three men dragged Jones out of the truck, he was still alive, so Hunt shot Jones again in the head. After the bodies of Jackie Ransom and Jones were later discovered, one in Lumberton, North Carolina, and the other in Fairmont, North Carolina, 10 miles away, Hunt was indicted for two counts of capital murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the murders. The state court appointed two attorneys to represent Hunt, and he was tried jointly with Barnes. Following trial, the jury convicted Hunt on both counts of capital murder.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 28, 2003 Texas David Vela, 20 
Brendon Proske, 23
Alva Curry executed

Alva Curry was condemned for the October 16, 1991 slaying of an Austin convenience store clerk.  A jury sentenced Curry to death in 1991 for the slaying of David Vela, a 20-year-old clerk at a Texaco station on Techni Center Drive off Ed Bluestein Boulevard in East Austin.  David was alone in the store when the robbery and murder happened shortly before 2:00 am.  A security camera captured the slaying on tape.  Jurors watched as Curry and an accomplice smashed their way through the store window. Curry then jumped over the counter and put a gun to Vela's head. Vela complied with Curry's demand that he open the store's cash register, which held $220. After pocketing the money, Curry turned and shot Vela in the head. Though he died immediately, Curry and Davis shot Vela 4 more times before fleeing. In spite of having the tape, which gave investigators a good description of the 2 assailants, Curry was not arrested until Nov. 8, when a tip led Austin police to him. In the meantime, Curry and Davis had committed a similar crime one week later, on Oct. 23, 1991, when they robbed a Payless convenience store. That robbery netted the 2 less than $75 and left Brendon Proske, 23, dead. Proske, the clerk at the store, was killed in a similar fashion. The case against Curry presented by Travis County prosecutors featured the videotape from the Texaco and Curry's videotaped confession, which he gave the day he was arrested. The evidence was overwhelming, said Larry Sauer, Curry's defense attorney at trial. "People who saw the video said they recognized that as Alva who jumped over the counter," Sauer said. "You can see Alva firing, and the guy was found there on the ground, dead. It was pretty grainy, but you could still make it out." The 33-year-old laborer also is serving a life sentence for the murder of Brendon Proske in another convenience store robbery a week after the Texaco slaying. Proske, 23, was killed in much the same fashion as Vela in a robbery that netted less than $75. A jury sentenced Curry's friend, 29-year-old Mark Davis, to life in prison for his part in the robbery spree.  Curry pled not guilty to a single count of capital murder, but was convicted on Oct. 28, 1992. He was sentenced to death a week later. Curry's lawyer said the evidence against his client made any defense difficult. Curry accepts his sentence. "I believe I deserve to die," he said. "They say you reap what you sow. When you live a life -- especially out on the streets -- you have a certain mentality that if someone wrongs you, then that person pays with their life." As he spoke, Curry smiled often and had the relaxed manner of someone chatting over a cup of coffee rather than facing death by lethal injection. Curry said he doesn't know why he killed the clerks, but his life had just taken a "wrong turn. If I could, I would take back the nights that all this mess happened. I hope with the help of God the relatives of the victims can forgive me," he said in an interview the week before his execution date. UPDATE: An apologetic former gang member and drug dealer was executed tonight for fatally shooting a convenience store clerk during a robbery in Austin more than 11 years ago. Alva Curry's execution was delayed about two hours until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected final appeals in the case. "I pray with the help of God that you will forgive me for the pain that I have caused your family," he said, looking at relatives of his victims who watched through a window. "I'm truly sorry. I wish I could take it back. I just pray and ask you forgive me."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 29, 2003 Texas Katherine Thompson, 46 
Shelly Cutler, 32
Richard Dinkins executed

Richard Dinkins killed Katherine Thompson, 46, and Shelly Cutler, 32, on Sept. 12, 1990, at Thompson's massage therapy clinic in Beaumont. Both Dinkins and Cutler were clients of Thompson's at Therapeutic Massage, and Dinkins had an appointment that evening to discuss a bad check he had written to her. Prior to his appointment with Thompson, Dinkins placed a .357 Magnum revolver and a .25-caliber automatic handgun in a shoulder sling he wore due to an old injury. He had purchased the .357 handgun and ammunition a day prior to the offense. Following a brief discussion about the bad check, a heated argument took place. Thompson pushed Dinkins toward the door into the waiting room where Cutler sat. Dinkins stated that Thompson struck his injured arm, hurting him. At some point during the altercation, both handguns fell from Dinkins' sling to the floor. He picked up the .25 and fired at Thompson but missed. While attempting to fire again, the gun jammed. Dinkins then picked up the .357 and shot Thompson in the upper abdomen and then in the head. Both shots were at close range. Cutler, who was in the waiting room when the shooting started, tried to lock herself in Thompson's office. Dinkins fired through a reception window at Cutler, striking her once in the top of the head. Dinkins then fled in his vehicle as the fire alarm sounded. Thompson suffered two fatal gunshot wounds, one to her head and one to her abdomen. She died at a hospital shortly after the shooting.  Cutler, a registered nurse, died the next morning of a single gunshot wound to the head. Dinkins was arrested after his name was found in an appointment book at the business.  He confessed to the murders after the murder weapon was found in his truck and blood was spotted on his jeans.  A firearms expert testified that slugs recovered at the crime scene were fired from Dinkins' .357 revolver. An FBI forensic serologist testified that blood found on Dinkins' blue jeans was consistent with Thompson's blood type. Dinkins had no juvenile criminal history and no adult incarcerations. He was convicted of theft by a check in 1986, in Abilene, Texas. He was fined for issuance of bad checks in July 1990, in Lumberton, Texas. If Kitty Thompson and Shelly Cutler still were alive, their work likely would continue to revolve around helping people, friends and family members said. The 2 women, both nurses, had known each other only briefly when together they became victims of Richard Dinkins' bullets. Dinkins, now 40, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for shooting the 2 women to death in Thompson's Therapeutic Massage offices at 3420 Fannin St. on Sept. 12, 1990. "I was so angry for so long because she helped so many people," said Diane Shaffer, a friend of Thompson, who was 46 when she died. That anger has since been replaced by sadness. "Knowing what Kitty was all about, it's a little difficult to stay angry at something she wouldn't have stayed angry about," Shaffer said. "...There's a person who's now gone who could still be helping people." In addition to nursing, Thompson worked as a substance-abuse counselor and massage therapist. The night she died, Thompson left Shaffer's offices on Fannin Street after a private substance-abuse counseling session and headed to her massage offices a block away. "The last thing I remember her saying is 'Lock your doors because there's crazies around,'" Shaffer said. But, despite the comment, Thompson was not a person who lived in fear. "She was an extremely aware person," Shaffer said. "She was built like a little bulldog." To succeed in her jobs, Thompson needed, and had, both physical and mental strength, Shaffer said. "I know when this happened down there she was given no opportunity to try to diffuse the situation because she was very confident she could do that with just about anyone," Shaffer said. Dinkins was a 27-year-old assemblies specialist at American Valve & Hydrant at the time who lived in Sour Lake and had served in the U.S. Air Force. He had a 6:30 p.m. appointment with Thompson under a false name. When he arrived at her office, they began arguing then physically fighting about money he owed her for bounced checks from prior appointments, testimony in Dinkins' 1992 trial showed. Hidden in a shoulder sling, Dinkins had a .25-caliber pistol and a .357 Magnum that he bought the day before. When the smaller weapon jammed, he used the .357 Magnum to shoot Thompson in the head and abdomen and Cutler in the head. Firefighters found the two injured women around 8 p.m. when they responded to a smoke alarm at the office probably tripped by the gun's discharge. Thompson died before reaching the hospital, and Cutler died the next morning. Cutler, a 32-year-old traveling nurse who had been in Beaumont only 9 days, was in the office filling out an application for her 1st appointment with Thompson at 7:30 p.m. Cutler planned to work in Beaumont for 3 months, then return to Idaho. Cutler loved snow skiing and worked part-time as a ski instructor, her parents, Marcille and Larry Cutler of Willow Springs, Mo., said in a telephone interview this past week. She planned to buy a condo in Idaho to live in half and rent out the other half, her parents said. As a traveling nurse, Cutler had worked in Hawaii and South Padre Island, where she could pursue scuba diving and windsurfing, other hobbies she loved, while earning more money than she could staying in one place. When she left her parents' home for the last time, "she turned around and said, 'I'll see you guys Christmas,'" her mother said. "No matter where she was, she'd always be home Christmas," her father said. "That's probably one of the hardest times for us." Dinkins has a clemency petition pending with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles but has exhausted all other appeals, said his attorney, J.D. Hamm of Beaumont. Hamm said he has requested a stay of execution to explore possible jury misconduct and a change from the death penalty to a life sentence. During his post-trial investigation, Hamm said, two jurors admitted to him that they considered Dinkins' silence at trial in determining punishment. Hamm argues that the possible constitutional violation has not been fully explored during the appeals process. The board is expected to vote on the clemency petition early this week. After 12 years of waiting, Cutler's family members are ready to see the sentence carried out. "None of us feel resentful," Marcille Cutler said. "We just feel like justice will be served because we're confident that the trial was a fair trial. The evidence was so overwhelming. We felt like he was guilty and the jury did too. We just feel like this is justice." Pollie Dean, who supervised Thompson in her substance-abuse counseling at Beaumont Neurological Hospital, said the approaching execution date has revived some of the tension and fear that those who worked near Thompson's offices felt immediately after the murders. "I believe he deserves it, and I've never been real for or against the death penalty," Dean said. "But when it hits you personally and you see the devastation it causes for the entire family and the entire community ... I wouldn't feel safe with him being turned back out into the community. It is, I think, what prisons are made for and the death penalty is made for." UPDATE: Before he was executed, Richard Dinkins declined to make a final statement, responding to the warden, "No sir" when asked if he wanted to say anything. In a written statement, however, he asked for forgiveness and expressed regrets. "I am sorry for what happened and that it was because of me that they are gone," he said. "If there were any way I could change things and bring them back I would. But I can't."  Dinkins accepted responsibility for the damage his actions caused but said he had made peace with God and hoped that "soon everyone will be able to have closure in their hearts and lives."  Last week Dinkins said, "It was my fault. I guess you just say -- stupidity. I can't be bitter," he said. "I'm the one who put myself in this situation."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 30, 2003 Texas Ronnie Hood Bennett, 39  Granville Riddle executed

Granville Riddle was sentenced to death for the murder of Ronnie Hood Bennett, 39. On Oct. 9, 1988, Granville Riddle and a friend, Brad Bybee went out drinking. The two proceeded to drive to the home of Ronnie Hood Bennett. Bybee remained in the car while Riddle entered Bennett's home and used a tire iron to strike Bennett on the head at least 15 times, causing his death. In his initial statement to police, Riddle stated that he entered the premises through a screen window, which he pried open with the tire iron. Riddle explained that Bennett became angry at him for damaging his property and, in an effort to defend himself, Riddle hit Bennett in the knee with the tire iron. When this angered Bennett even more, Riddle proceeded to hit him over the head until he died. During the course of the trial, Riddle maintained that he had consent to enter Bennett's home when the murder occurred because Bennett was a close friend, akin to a stepfather. Riddle testified that he took a tire iron with him, which he intended to use to pry the screen off the kitchen window, but when he arrived, he found a sliding door unlocked. The kitchen window, however, was found pried open. In yet another version, Riddle testified that Bennett made sexual advances toward him and when he refused, Bennett grabbed him, pulled him down, put his lips on Riddle's ear and a hand on his buttocks. According to Riddle, he then hit Bennett with the tire iron repeatedly, causing his death. After he realized that Bennett was dead, Riddle tried to make the home look burglarized in an attempt to cover up for his actions. Although Riddle admitted that Bennett was drunk when he arrived, forensic evidence proved that Bennett's blood-alcohol level was .29 percent. This level of extreme intoxication would have rendered Bennett unconscious. Bybee testified that Riddle called him into the home, pointed to a few items piled on the floor, and informed him that the items were theirs to keep. Bybee also testified that Riddle told him that he wanted "to see how strong your stomach is," and Riddle hit Bennett in the head once more, imbedding the tire iron into Bennett's skull. Bybee then secretly left. It was at this point, according to Riddle, that he panicked, grabbed Bennett's wallet and his truck, and left.  The truck was found the next day, burned out in a ravine.  Riddle was arrested five days after the murder following a statement to police from the 18-year-old man who drove Riddle to the residence.  That man was initially charged with murder, but the charges were dropped. While awaiting trial, Riddle escaped from the Potter County jail and was recaptured 3 days later.  He had a .22-caliber rifle in his possession and the gun was traced to a residence Riddle had burglarized during his flight.  Riddle had been on parole for less than 6 months after serving only 2 and a half months of a 7 year sentence for burglary.  UPDATE: "I'm just a normal small town boy," Riddle, who declined to speak with reporters in the week's preceding his execution, said on an Internet Web site devoted to prisoners seeking pen pals. "I am caring and I am considerate." His record disputed that. "He's been a problem for law enforcement since he got old enough to even think about being a problem for law enforcement," said Randall Sims, an assistant district attorney in Potter County who indicated Riddle's first burglary was at age 8. "That's not good old country boys. That's prison material." Besides numerous burglaries, including a church, school and a restaurant where his mother worked, he had arrests for drug possession and auto theft. In April 1988, he was sent to prison after getting a seven-year term for burglary but was paroled after just 2 1/2 months during a time when Texas was experiencing a prison bed shortage. In November 1988, the then 19-year-old was indicted for capital murder for killing Bennett. "It was one of the bloodiest crime scenes I've ever seen in 20 years," said Sims, who prosecuted the case. "The (victim's) skull looked like a volleyball that was a sponge, just holes everywhere." Before arriving at death row, Riddle, from Stinnett, tried escaping from the county jail numerous times -- succeeding once for three days. He also attempted to electrify his cell door with wires from his radio and television and was involved in several fights with other inmates.

 

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