June 2007 Executions
Home Up Info & Resources Death Penalty Issues Death Penalty Links Articles of Interest News & Polls Death Penalty Paper Books & Tapes Legislation Table of Contents Search the Site Discussion

 

Back
Up
Next

Eight killers were executed in June 2007.  They had murdered at least 11 people.
Four
killers were given a stay in June 2007.  They have murdered at least 6 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 6, 2007  Texas Deborah Jean McCormick, 44  Michael Griffith executed 

In December 1995, former sheriff's deputy Michael Durwood Griffith was convicted and sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing, rape and robbery of a woman at a northwest Houston floral shop where he was a regular customer. He was arrested after using credit cards stolen from the victim.  On October 10, 1994, Griffith stabbed Deborah McCormick at least eight times after he sexually assaulted and robbed her. During the penalty phase, the State proved that Griffith 1) was a former Sheriff’s Deputy; 2) had a poor reputation for being peaceful and law-abiding; 3) had a volatile temper; 4) was fired from the Sheriff’s Department following a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse; 5) was angry, physically and verbally abusive, and extremely possessive and controlling toward two ex-wives and two ex-girlfriends; and 6) was violent with his children. Griffith was fired from his deputy's job in 1993 after complaints from his ex-wives and a girlfriend of violence and torture. The State also demonstrated that Griffith had committed a bank robbery in which he shot a teller in the back of the head, and a bridal shop robbery during which he sexually assaulted a sales clerk. Billy Ringer, Jr., the brother of Deborah McCormick, had a close relationship with his sister. At one time, she worked for him at his medical practice and was much-loved by all his patients. Deborah and her mother, Mary Jane Ringer, were also very close; the two enjoyed running the family wedding chapel business together. Billy said that Deborah McCormick’s death adversely affected their father, Billy Ringer, Sr. Deborah McCormick was the heart of the family who planned birthday, holiday, and family events; and she was a good Christian. Billy added his belief that, because of his sister’s death, their father gave up his fight against cancer and passed away. He said that his father showed progress before Deborah’s murder but stopped eating on news of the murder and died shortly thereafter. UPDATE: Deborah McCormick's daughter, Dawn Kirkland said that her mother loved having a chance to bring a smile to others through her floral shop and wedding chapel. “There were a lot of lives she touched, a lot of people. She wanted to make weddings affordable. She wanted to make flowers affordable for families who couldn’t. She made every person that walked in there feel very special.” Daughter Brandy Ridley said, “Some people have been able to forgive him, but there’s not one part of me that thinks I ever could.” Brandy was only 18 when a drive to her mother’s shop changed her life forever. “Seeing the cops and the media and the yellow tape surrounding the flower shop that we all grew up in was, I think … was the worst thing about it and finding out that way." After the execution, Dawn Kirkland issued a prepared statement on behalf of her family. "Our family lost much more than a beautiful daughter, mother, sister and friend on Oct. 10, 1994," she wrote. "We lost the glue that held our family together. In the many years since, our family has renewed itself with new grandchildren and new family and friends. However, we will never be the same. The heavenly light that was our Debbie was taken from this earth way too soon." Kirkland said her family will pray for Griffith's relatives. For the killer, though, she said, "Michael Griffith will meet his judgment today and not only here on earth."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 13, 2007    Virginia John Langley, 43  Christopher Emmett stayed 

In the early morning hours of April 27, 2001, Christopher Scott Emmett beat his sleeping coworker John Langley to death with the base of a brass motel room lamp in order to rob Langley and use his cash to buy crack cocaine. Weldon Roofing Company employed Emmett and Langley as laborers for its roofing crews. During late April 2001, both men were assigned to a project in the City of Danville and shared a room at a local motel where the roofing crew was staying. On the evening of April 26, 2001, Emmett, Langley, Michael Darryl Pittman, and other members of the roofing crew cooked dinner on a grill at the motel, played cards, and drank beer. During the course of the evening, Langley loaned money to Emmett and Pittman, who used the money to buy crack cocaine. At approximately 11:00 p.m. that evening, Rainey Bell, another member of the roofing crew, heard a noise he described as "bang, bang" coming from the room Emmett and Langley shared. Shortly after midnight, Emmett went to the motel office and asked the clerk to call the police, saying that he had returned to his room, "seen blood and stuff . . . and didn’t know what had took place." The police arrived at the motel at 12:46 a.m. on April 27, 2001 and accompanied Emmett back to his room. There they discovered Langley’s dead body lying face down on Langley’s bed beneath a comforter. Blood spatters were found on the sheets and headboard of Langley’s bed, on the wall behind it, and on the wall between the bathroom and Emmett’s bed. A damaged brass lamp stained with Langley’s blood was discovered beneath Langley’s bed. In his initial statement to police, Emmett denied killing Langley. He stated that he had returned to the room and gone to bed. Emmett claimed to have discovered the blood and Langley’s body later that night when he got up to use the bathroom. Observing what appeared to be bloodstains on Emmett’s personal effects, the police took possession of Emmett’s boots and clothing with his permission. Emmett suggested that the blood might be his own because he had injured himself earlier in the week. Subsequent testing, however, revealed that Emmett’s boots and clothing were stained with Langley’s blood. Later in the morning of April 27, Emmett voluntarily accompanied the police to the Danville police station. There he agreed to be fingerprinted and gave a sample of his blood. Emmett admitted to the police that he had been drinking and using cocaine on the previous evening. Over the course of the next several hours, Emmett related different versions of the events of the previous evening to the police. He first implicated Pittman as Langley’s murderer, but ultimately Emmett told the police that he alone had beaten Langley to death with the brass lamp. Emmett was given Miranda warnings and he gave a full, taped confession. Emmett stated that he and Pittman decided to rob Langley after Langley refused to loan them more money to buy additional cocaine. Emmett stated that he struck Langley five or six times with the brass lamp, took Langley’s wallet, and left the motel to buy cocaine. "Based upon the amount of blood and bruising of Langley’s brain tissue at the point of impact," the medical examiner opined that "Langley was not killed immediately by the first blow from the lamp, but might have been unconscious after the first blow was struck and may have suffered ‘brain death’ prior to actual death." At the conclusion of the guilt phase of Emmett’s trial, Emmett was convicted by a jury of the capital murder and robbery of Langley. At the separate sentencing hearing, the Commonwealth sought the death penalty based upon Virginia’s statutory aggravating factors of future dangerousness and of vileness based upon aggravated battery and depravity of mind. In support of the future dangerousness factor, the prosecutor presented Emmett’s prior criminal history, to the extent it could be determined. The prosecutor was unable to establish why Emmett was incarcerated as a juvenile. Emmett’s juvenile criminal record had been destroyed pursuant to North Carolina procedure, and defense counsel intentionally avoided opening the door to Emmett’s extensive juvenile criminal history. The history presented consisted of juvenile convictions for felonious larceny and for assault and battery arising from an incident in which Emmett, while incarcerated in a maximum-security juvenile detention facility, rushed a guard and locked him in a closet in order to escape. In addition, the prosecutor presented evidence of an adult conviction for involuntary manslaughter arising from an incident in which Emmett, while driving a van in the wrong direction and under the influence of alcohol, struck and killed a motorcyclist. Testimony was presented that the drunken Emmett was smiling after the driver was killed and told an officer "‘that there was no need to worry about the man on the motorcycle. He was already dead, and that he, (Emmett) could do nothing to help him.’" As noted by the state court, the evidence showed that Emmett lacked remorse for this earlier violent crime and for the current case of killing a coworker. Indeed, Emmett himself confessed that he killed Langley simply because it "just seemed right at the time." Such lack of regard for a human life speaks volumes on the issue of future dangerousness and leaves little doubt of its probability. In support of the vileness factor, the prosecutor highlighted to the jury the aggravated nature of the beating that Emmett inflicted upon his victim. As noted by the state court, Emmett’s actions demonstrated both aggravated battery and depravity of mind. Specifically, "the use of a blunt object to batter the skull of the victim repeatedly and with such force that blood spatters several feet from the victim is clearly both qualitatively and quantitatively more force than the minimum necessary to kill the victim." Additionally, "the evidence established that Emmett violently attacked a co-worker with whom he had apparently enjoyed an amicable relationship. The brutality of the crime amply demonstrates the depravity of mind involved in the murder of Langley."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 13, 2007    Texas Brandon Baugh, 3 mos  Cathy Henderson stayed 

On the morning of January 21, 1994, the parents of Brandon Baugh delivered their three-month-old baby to Cathy Lynn Henderson, the infant’s daily caregiver, at Henderson’s home near Austin, Texas. Tragically, Brandon died of massive head trauma later that day when, according to Henderson, he fell from her arms and struck his head upon the concrete floor of the home. Henderson had nursing experience, but when her efforts to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation did not succeed, Henderson panicked, buried the infant’s body near Waco, and fled to Missouri. On February 1, 1994, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Henderson in Kansas City on federal and Texas kidnapping warrants. F.B.I. Special Agent Michael Napier promptly initiated custodial interrogation, beginning with the familiar Miranda warning. Henderson first denied knowledge of the child's whereabouts and stated that she had left him with his grandmother, but the Agent persisted and later, through leading questions, Napier elicited from Henderson a confession that she killed the baby. He asked her, “When you say the whole thing, are you talking about that Brandon is dead, that you know where the body’s located, that it was an accident, that you’re sorry? She responded by nodding her head. Later, Napier said, “Brandon’s dead. It was an accident.” To this statement, Henderson replied, “Yes.” Napier asked, “Did you bury him?” She responded, “Of course I did. He’s just a baby.” Henderson Agent Napier then asked Henderson to sign a written statement, to tell him the specific location of the infant’s gravesite, and to draw a map depicting that location. The Agent’s persistence doubtless brought home to Henderson both the seriousness of her circumstances and the significance of the Miranda admonition he had delivered only moments before. Henderson therefore refused to sign any statement, refused to disclose the location of the gravesite, refused to draw the map requested by Agent Napier, and asked instead for the assistance of an attorney. Napier then terminated his interrogation. Henderson then met with Assistant Federal Public Defender Ronald Hall, the attorney initially provided in response to her request for the guiding hand of counsel. She spoke with him privately and in confidence, telling Hall where she had buried the body of Brandon Baugh, and drawing for Hall a sketch-map of that location as a means of reducing her words to paper. After Henderson agreed to extradition to Texas, attorney Hall sent the map and other confidential information to a Texas attorney, Nona Byington, who agreed to represent Henderson until the State court appointed a criminal law specialist to assume Henderson’s defense. After State officials learned that Henderson had exercised her Miranda rights and refused to draw a map for Agent Napier, but that attorney Byington now had the map drawn for attorney Hall, they turned the heat upon Ms. Byington. A grand jury subpoenaed Byington, and the local Sheriff demanded that she hand over the map. When Ms. Byington refused, the Sheriff had her arrested on a charge of “tampering with evidence,” and his officers searched her office and automobile, albeit to no immediate avail. The Sheriff also defamed Ms. Byington to an eager press, labeling her an “accomplice to an ongoing crime.” This whipped-up public frenzy well summarized in THE TEXAS LAWYER’S edition of February 14, 1994: Anyone listening to the radio call-in shows in Austin recently had no doubt who was the most hated lawyer in central Texas. Austin’s Nona Byington, three years out of law school and representing a woman accused of abducting a missing 3-month-old boy, endured five days of vilification for refusing to give authorities the maps her client had drawn showing the location of the infant’s body. On February 7, 1994, the grand jury issued another subpoena demanding that Ms. Byington relinquish her client’s map. But the hated and vilified Ms. Byington continued to stand her ground; she refused to comply, asserting the confidentiality of the privileged communications and her client’s rights under the fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments. The State immediately sought a court order compelling attorney Byington to surrender the map, on pain of jail if she refused. An evidentiary hearing on the State’s motion was held the same day. Consistent with the Sheriff’s inflammatory defamations, the State chiefly argued that by withholding the map, attorney Byington was facilitating the “ongoing crime” of kidnapping, and that the crime-fraud exception to the attorney client privilege therefore trumped Henderson’s assertion of the privilege. However, after considering all the evidence presented to him at the hearing, the presiding judge rejected the “ongoing kidnapping” argument, saying, “I’m convinced that the child is deceased, and since I’m convinced the child is deceased, I really don’t see how it can be an ongoing crime.” The next morning (February 8, 1994), however, the judge nevertheless ordered Ms. Byington to surrender the map, saying that the map was not a confidential communication because, at the time she prepared it for attorney Hall, Henderson harbored the subjective intent of assisting the authorities in locating the infant’s body. Ms. Byington reluctantly capitulated to the court’s order and, using the seized map, State authorities located the body of Brandon Baugh on the evening of February 8. On February 9, 1994 the State charged Henderson with the capital murder of Brandon Baugh. Before trial, the same judge revisited his ruling of February 8, this time under a defense motion to suppress the evidence to which the seized map had led the State. The motion was denied on the same ground of nonconfidentiality, and also upon the ground that the crime-fraud exception to the attorney client privilege nullified Ms. Byington’s refusal to betray her client’s confidences. The judge ignored his prior finding that the child was dead, and revived the “ongoing kidnapping” rationale that he refused to invoke at the hearing on February 7-8, 1994. He then added that if the child were dead, the crime-fraud exception for “abuse of corpse” came into play. Trial was held in May 1995, and the jury convicted Henderson on the sole charge of capital murder of an infant, in violation of TEXAS PENAL CODE § 19.03(a)(8).5 The State’s chief evidence was of Henderson’s flight to Missouri after the infant died, her burial of the body instead of informing authorities of the death, and the testimony of the County Medical Examiner, who opined that the head trauma sustained by the infant was greater than one might expect had he simply fallen from Henderson’s arms to the floor of her home.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 15, 2007    Indiana Gregg Winters  Michael Lambert executed 

During the afternoon of December 27, 1990, Michael Lambert consumed several alcoholic drinks. At approximately 8:00 p.m., he went to the 300 Club Bar on the south side of Muncie, Indiana where he consumed additional alcoholic beverages. His conduct there was described as “radical” and “dancing around wild-eyed.” A little after 1:00 a.m., on December 28, 1990, Muncie Police Officers were dispatched to a property-damage accident. When they arrived, they observed a utility truck with the name “Jim Allen's Service Maintenance” painted on the side. Shirts inside the truck bore the name “Mike.” The driver could not be found and the truck was towed. A short time later, Officer Kirk Mace observed Michael Lambert trying to crawl under a car. When Officer Mace investigated, Lambert told him he was going to sleep under the car. He was lightly dressed, it was snowing and the temperature was in the teens. The officer concluded that Lambert was intoxicated and placed him under arrest for public intoxication. Lambert was subjected to a “quick pat-down search,” was handcuffed, and was placed in the back of the police car. Then, Officer Gregg Winters, with only he and Lambert in the police car, started driving to the jail which was approximately fifteen minutes away. A few minutes later, Deputy Sheriff Mike Scroggins and Deputy Greg Ellison were driving their patrol cars east on Riggins Road when they observed a westbound car approaching. It suddenly slid off the road, coming to rest against a fence in a ditch. As the car went into the ditch, the officers were able to observe that it was a police car. They observed Officer Winters immobile behind the steering wheel and Lambert in the back seat of the car. It was discovered that Officer Winters had suffered gunshot wounds to the back of the head and neck, and although Lambert was handcuffed, there was a .25 caliber pistol lying on the floor of Winter's police car. Ballistics tests later established the weapon was used to inflict the wounds on Officer Winters. It also was learned later that Lambert had stolen the pistol from his employer. Six empty cartridge casings were located in the car and five slugs were recovered, one from the body of Winters during the autopsy, two from the front seat of the car, one from Winters' clothing at the hospital, and one which was lodged between the dash panel and the left pillar of the car. An autopsy revealed that Officer Winters in fact had been struck by five separate bullets. Despite the fact that Lambert was handcuffed at the time, he apparently was able to recover the pistol from his clothing and fire the shots into the back of the head and neck of Officer Winters. Police conducted a demonstration to determine if such an act was possible. The demonstration was videotaped and clearly established the fact that a person of Lambert's height and weight in fact could accomplish such a feat although it did require a certain amount of physical dexterity. At the sentencing phase of the trial, the State presented victim impact testimony in support of the death penalty. Lambert's attorneys appealed his conviction because of the testimony of three witnesses as improper victim impact testimony: Muncie Chief of Police Donald Scroggins; Officer Terry Winters, a Muncie police officer and the victim's brother; and Molly Winters, the victim's wife. The court first permitted Chief Scroggins to testify, over Lambert's relevancy objections, about the effect that Officer Winters' death had both on Chief Scroggins personally and on the members of the Muncie Police Department. Chief Scroggins was permitted to testify that at Officer Winters' funeral over twenty different police agencies were represented, and that the Department had received cards and letters from police departments all over the country. He testified that he and other members of the department had sought psychological counseling to cope with Officer Winters' death, and that after the shooting, because he was unable to function as he felt a Chief of Police should, he contacted his physician for prescription medication. The court next heard from Officer Terry Winters, the victim's brother. Officer Winters testified, over defendant's continued relevancy objections, that his brother had loved being a policeman, and that his brother's death had adversely affected Officer Terry Winters' job performance and attitude toward his job. Next, Molly Winters, the victim's widow, provided penalty phase testimony regarding her relationship with Officer Gregg Winters. She too testified over defendant's continued objections. She stated that they had been married for six-and-a-half years and that they had two sons, Kyle and Brock, ages four-and-a-half years and twenty months old, who liked sports, roughhousing and bike riding. She was permitted to lay a foundation for admission into evidence of a photo of the family taken the previous Christmas. She testified that Officer Winters was a good father and husband. She further testified that he was a dedicated officer who loved his job, and that she had encouraged him to buy and wear a bullet-proof vest prior to the time that vests were issued by the department. “I told him ... I want you to get a vest and to wear it for added protection because I'm worried about you. I want to make sure that every night that you go to work, you come home safe, and I've got two little babies, and I don't want to raise them by myself.” Molly Winters then related the events that occurred between the time of Officer Winters' shooting and his death eleven days later: State: He survived 11 days, is that correct? Mrs. Winters: That's correct. State: Did your boys get to see him in the hospital before he died? Mrs. Winters: Yeah. I had a couple of doctors that told me don't subject them to that. But I told them they were wrong because it was very important to me that my children know that Daddy went to work. He did his job, and, as we put it, a bad guy got him. And we don't know the outcome, but Daddy is hurt very badly, and we could go and see him and talk to him, but he just can't talk to us. State: Did the boys go and see him? Mrs. Winters: I took them back, and I stayed out in the hallway, and I explained to my oldest son, Kyle, what was going on because the baby was nine and a half months and he didn't know. And I said, if you want to touch Daddy, you can, but you don't have to. So we went on in. When we went in, he asked me numerous questions, you know about the machines and different things, and then he said, Mommy, can you do me a favor? And I said yeah. He said, can you tell Daddy I love him? And I said, yeah, I can do that. And I said, do you want to hug Daddy or kiss him? And he said, no, I better not right now, but I will later. And he said, Daddy, you have good dreams. So we went out, and then I had Kyle with me the entire time I was in the hospital with Gregg. And every time he asked about his daddy or wanted to see his daddy or tell his daddy something, I took him in. And the night that we lost Gregg, they moved him to the hospice floor. And when he died, it was more of a homey atmosphere, and I took Kyle in ‘cause we had open visitation, and most of the machines were gone, and the sterile atmosphere was gone, and he climbed up on the bed next to Gregg, and he talked to him for the first time without telling me to tell him things. And he said, I love you, Daddy. UPDATE: The man convicted of fatally shooting a Muncie police officer more than 16 years ago was executed early Friday. Michael Lambert, 36, was pronounced dead at 12:29 a.m. CDT following the lethal injection procedure, Indiana State Prison spokesman Barry Nothstine said. Lambert did not offer a final statement. Some 25 anti-death penalty protesters carried signs and banged drums outside the prison’s main gate in the hours before the execution. What had largely been a demonstration against capital punishment changed around 10 p.m. Sirens north of the prison interrupted the calm, signaling the arrival of those wishing to show their support for Gregg and Molly Winters. A caravan of about 30 sport-utility vehicles and marked and unmarked police cars, some with lights flashing, ushered in at least 70 people. Many wore T-shirts emblazoned with a police badge and the words "In Memory of Gregg Wm. Winters." Most were either off-duty officers belonging to Indiana's Fraternal Order of Police or surviving family members of other officers killed in the line of duty. About a dozen were Muncie police officers in uniform, including Jeff Leist, who played softball on the Muncie FOP team with the Winters brothers. "We had a lot of good memories,' Leist said. "He was a good police officer, dad and husband. He was a great man." Mike Goodwin was in this group. His brother, Cpl. Thomas Goodwin of the Goshen Police Department, was shot and killed in 1998. Molly Winters helped guide Mike Goodwin and Goshen officers through their grief, he said. "She's done so much for our family," Goodwin said. "This is a small way to pay her back."  At 11 p.m., these supporters distributed blue glow sticks, an alternative form of candlelight vigil to express the "thin blue line" of law enforcement. As the execution neared, the crowd formed a line along the prison's wrought iron fence, holding the glow sticks in outstretched arms toward the prison. This was the image Molly Winters first saw as she left the prison after Lambert's death with her sons, Kyle, 20, and Brock, 17, at her side and Terry Winters nearby. Molly, Terry and Kyle Winters briefly spoke to reporters at the prison's gate before embracing their supporters one-by-one. Muncie police Detective Brad Wiemer, who was among those who traveled to the prison, said the group was there in a show of support for the Winters family. “In a horrible, tragedy situation like this, it’s just nice to see the support come out, especially from different areas,” Wiemer said. "It's just a relief," Kyle Winters said. "Even though it's still not going to bring my dad back." Molly Winters hugged supporters outside the prison soon after Lambert’s death was announced and said she was relieved it was over. “Justice has been served,” she said. “You look at all the blue lights behind you. It shows you that Gregg has not been forgotten and everything he stood for.” Terry Winters, the slain officer’s brother and deputy chief of the Muncie Police Department, witnessed the execution under a state law that took effect last year giving relatives of murder victims that right. When Michael Lambert was set to be executed two years ago, he had agreed to let Terry Winters watch him die. That execution was stayed. Since then, a change in Indiana law means he has no say over who in Muncie Officer Gregg Winters’ family can watch his execution. It’s a change Lambert did not like. “I don’t think anyone should be given that choice,” he said during an interview prior to his execution. “It’s not natural just to come in and watch someone die — not just die, but watch someone be killed. It’s not natural.” Terry Winters, deputy chief of the Muncie Police Department, thought it was unfair he needed to ask Lambert for permission two years ago. “My brother is the victim here and it shouldn’t be up to him,” Winters said. Following Lambert's execution, Terry Winters said, “It was not an easy thing, but his death was a lot smoother than what my brother’s was. His punishment for that crime was death and it’s been carried out. And that’s the end of it.” The rest of the family and about six Muncie police officers who were close to Gregg Winters awaited confirmation of Lambert's death inside a room used for parole board hearings. The news for them came in the form of a radio transmission from a victim advocate who witnessed the execution to a victim advocate stationed with the small group. "When I heard that I just kind of stood there," Molly Winters said. Molly had decided not to watch the execution, saying she was with her husband when he died and that she did not want Lambert’s death to also be in her memories. In an interview prior to the execution, Molly said, "Five days before Gregg was shot he said, 'Let's talk about something.' And I said, 'Okay, what do you want to talk about?' And he said, 'If anything ever happens to me this is what I would want at my visitation, this is what I want at my funeral. This is what I want for the future for you and the boys,'" Molly remembered. "That was God's way of as much as he could prepare me, prepare me," she said. "I went to bed about 1:30 that night and at about 20 till 2:00, Brock who was 10 months at the time cried out. And I thought oh, we have another ear infection and I later found out that's when Mike Lambert shot Gregg in the head." "I was with Gregg when he took his last breath and will remember that. It'll be forever etched in my mind. I will not give Mike Lambert the honor of being in my memories for the rest of my life. That's not going to happen," she said. "Every milestone that my children has gone through has been difficult, when they learned to write their name, they had to write it on a piece of paper and attach it to a helium balloon and send it to heaven so Daddy could see that they now could write their name. Same way when they started writing numbers. They're very angry that they haven't had their dad here to share things with them. It's been 17 years of fighting the battles and fighting for victims rights and trying to make a huge positive out of a horrible tragedy and now it's time for Gregg and it's time that he get to rest," she said. "I will be there. I will be standing there quietly with my blue glo-stick that represents Gregg and the thin blue line of law enforcement and I'm ready for justice." The couple’s two sons, 19-year-old Kyle and 17-year-old Brock, joined their mother at the prison. “It’s just more relief that this part’s over even though it’s still not going to bring Dad back,” Kyle Winters said. Brock Winter’s eyes welled up and he did not speak as his family members commented.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 19, 2007    Pennsylvania Robin Little Mitchell  Wayne Mitchell stayed 

Wayne Cordell Mitchell and Robin Little met and began dating while the two were students at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh. Entries from Robin’s diary, which were admitted at trial over Mitchell’s objections, chronicled their volatile relationship and Mitchell’s violent behavior toward her. Mitchell and Robin often argued and, in September 1996, Mitchell threatened to kill her, if she ever left him. The couple’s son Malik was born in January 1997, and the two were married in April 1997, when Robin was eighteen and Mitchell was nineteen. Notwithstanding the marriage, Robin continued to live apart from Mitchell with her mother, Debra King, on Hamilton Avenue in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, until Mitchell came to stay with them in the late spring of 1997. Mrs. King testified that she often heard Robin arguing with Mitchell on the phone about his drinking, smoking, and failure to get a job, as well as the lack of time he spent with the baby and her. Mrs. King testified that in June 1997, she came home to discover holes in the wall of her living room. Robin told her that Mitchell and she had gotten into a fight and that he had punched the wall. Fearing further violence, Robin ended the relationship in July 1997, telling Mitchell to leave. That same month, Robin took Malik and moved to her brother’s home in Lancaster. During that time, Robin told her sister-in-law, Timberlin King, that she feared Mitchell, and believed that one day he would kill her. Because she was homesick, however, Robin returned to Pittsburgh in August 1997, and moved back into her mother’s Hamilton Avenue home. On September 1, 1997, Mitchell was working at the People’s Natural Gas Company near Robin’s home when he telephoned her. During their conversation, Robin asked to use Mitchell’s bus pass. He told her that she could use it, but had to come to People’s to get it. After her arrival at People’s, the two began discussing a man named Brian, whom Robin was seeing. Robin told Mitchell that she and Brian had engaged in sexual relations. Mitchell became angry and dragged Robin into a supervisor’s office and raped her. As Robin screamed and begged him to stop, he threatened that if she continued screaming or told anyone about the rape, he would “snap her neck.” Mitchell finally let Robin go and returned to work. Later that evening, Mrs. King drove Robin to the Pittsburgh Zone 5 Police Station where she reported the attack. Mrs. King then took Robin to Magee Women’s Hospital for an examination. Hospital personnel prepared a rape kit, and when Robin returned home, her mother took pictures of the bruises on her arms and thighs. While Robin was at the hospital, the police went to Mitchell’s address and arrested him. After waiving his Miranda rights, Mitchell agreed to have his statement taped and admitted to Wilkinsburg Police Detective Doug Yuhouse that he had raped Robin. Although Robin initially reported the rape to the Pittsburgh Police, it was later determined that the incident occurred just outside the city-limits of Pittsburgh in neighboring Wilkinsburg. Therefore, the rape investigation was turned over to the Wilkinsburg Police. Detective Yuhouse noted that Mitchell was cooperative and did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol when he made his taped confession. Mitchell was charged with rape, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, and simple assault for the September 1 attack on his estranged wife. He was arraigned and remained in jail pending a preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for September 9, 1997. On September 4, 1997, while Mitchell was still in jail awaiting his preliminary hearing, Robin filed for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. The court granted her petition entering a ten-day temporary order directing that Mitchell have no contact with Robin pending a full hearing on the matter, which was scheduled for September 10, 1997. Upset over what was happening, Mitchell called Sheila Britton, the former director of a college-counseling program at Schenley High School, where both he and Robin attended. Mitchell first met Ms. Britton through school, and remained in contact with her even after Mitchell transferred out of Schenley and Ms. Britton was no longer employed by the Pittsburgh School Board. After graduation, Mitchell had several conversations with Ms. Britton, and she was aware of the couple’s problems. In fact, Mitchell called Ms. Britton from jail after he was arrested for raping Robin on September 1, 1997. Robin also called Ms. Britton prior to the preliminary hearing to ask for advice on whether she should drop the charges. Robin told Ms. Britton that she was afraid Mitchell would retaliate if she pursued a PFA order against him. At the trial of this case, the court allowed Ms. Britton’s testimony concerning her conversations with both Robin and Mitchell over the defense’s objection that they were privileged communications. Mitchell remained in jail on the rape charges until his scheduled preliminary hearing on September 9, 1997. At that hearing, Mitchell waived the charges to court in exchange for a nominal bond, with a condition that he seek immediate in-patient treatment for alcohol abuse at St. Francis Hospital. Mitchell signed the right-to-preliminary-hearing waiver form and his next court appearance was scheduled for October 27, 1997. Robin and her mother were present at the preliminary hearing and thus aware of this arrangement. Robin agreed believing that Mitchell’s hospitalization would protect her from him. At trial, the defense claimed that Mitchell reported to St. Francis as required, but was immediately released; whereas the Commonwealth claimed that he never reported to the hospital. Regardless, Mitchell was never admitted to the hospital for treatment on September 9, 1997 as required by the agreement. Instead, he went home and began calling Robin. During the afternoon of September 9, 1997, Robin reported to her mother that Mitchell was out of jail, that he was never admitted to the hospital for alcohol treatment, and that he had called her several times. Mitchell continued to call until he convinced Robin to allow him come to her home. After his arrival at 4:15 p.m., the conversation quickly turned to Brian, the man Robin was seeing. Mitchell became angry when Robin indicated that Brian was better than Mitchell. The couple argued until Mitchell left the home shortly after 6:00 p.m. Mitchell later confessed to Detective Dennis Logan that he went out that evening with friends and had “a couple of drinks.” At some point during the evening, he called Robin and continued to argue with her over the phone. When he returned home at 1:00 a.m. on September 10, 1997, Mitchell called Robin, apologized, and convinced her to let him come to her home again, so that they could talk about their son. Mitchell called Ms. Britton at approximately 1:00 a.m. and angrily told her several times that he was going to Robin’s house to kill her. He said Robin had “disrespected” him and he repeated his threat several more times even though Ms. Britton told him that going after Robin would not resolve anything. Mitchell replied that he was going to dress in black, go to Robin’s home, and “do what he had to do.” Ms. Britton told Mitchell just to go to bed. When he abruptly ended the conversation and hung up, she tried to call back, but Mitchell’s mother answered. When Ms. Britton explained why she was calling Mitchell, his mother dismissed her concerns and told her that she did not have time to worry about it, so Ms. Britton gave up. Ms. Britton could not call Robin because she did not have her number. At trial, Ms. Britton testified that during her conversation with Mitchell, he did not slur any of his words and he spoke in coherent sentences. Mitchell later told Detective Logan that instead of going to bed, he walked to Robin’s home. When he arrived at 1:30 a.m., Robin was sitting on the porch with a man who quickly left after Mitchell said, “Who the f--k is this?” Mitchell argued again with Robin about her seeing anyone else. He punched Robin in the face and stomach, causing her to fall against the door. When she tried to run, Mitchell grabbed her and said he would stop hitting her if she walked with him. When she resisted, Mitchell dragged her toward an empty lot near her home and continued to punch her as she tried to break free. At that point, Robin screamed for help, yelling, “He’s going to kill me.” Mitchell put a hand over Robin’s mouth and continued to drag her. As they passed a house, Mitchell saw a knife lying on a porch. At first, he walked past the house, but then stopped and punched Robin several more times, temporarily disabling her while he returned to the porch to get the knife. When Robin attempted to pull herself up off the ground, Mitchell pushed her down and stabbed her in the stomach. Then, Mitchell removed Robin’s clothes, wrapped his hands around her neck, and raped her, first vaginally and then anally. When Robin vomited blood, Mitchell wiped her mouth with a rag and continued raping her. When he finished, he turned her over and stabbed her multiple times in the neck. Mitchell then took Robin’s clothing, the knife, and the bloody rag, and threw them into a sewer on nearby Kelly Street. He later remarked to Detective Logan that because he had worked as a security guard, he knew not to leave behind any evidence. He also explained that he left her body naked because “if she wanted to f--k everybody, now everybody could see her f--king body.” Mitchell called Ms. Britton again at 4:00 a.m. When she asked about Robin, he told her, “Robin Little is no more.” He also told Ms. Britton that he was going to his uncle’s home so that he could establish an alibi, and that he planned to appear at the PFA hearing as scheduled, knowing that she would not be there. In his confession to Detective Logan, Mitchell never mentioned his phone call with Ms. Britton, but instead indicated that he immediately went to bed upon returning home. Mitchell admitted, however, that when he got up later that morning, he took the clothes he had been wearing, including a black Steelers’ football shirt, black pants, a black tank top and black boots, put them in a garbage bag, and threw them into an abandoned house. Mitchell then went to court for his final PFA hearing. At 9:00 a.m., Mitchell appeared in court for the hearing, but when Robin did not appear, the court dismissed the temporary PFA order. When Mitchell returned home, his mother told him that Robin was found dead. He later confessed to Detective Logan that he tried to act surprised and denied any involvement, but his mother was concerned and insisted that he go to St. Francis Hospital. That same morning, Mrs. King was worried when she discovered that Robin was not home. After searching outside and becoming even more upset, she contacted police and explained the situation between Robin and Mitchell. At approximately 10:00 a.m., an officer arrived at her home to take a report. Mrs. King was still talking to police, at 10:15 a.m., when the fire station located a block down the street from Mrs. King’s home received a call that a woman’s body was discovered in a nearby backyard. Several firefighters walked to the lot and saw the victim’s naked body lying face-up in the weeds. When Mrs. King saw the police car and an ambulance arrive, she ran to the vacant lot to find her daughter’s body. Police later discovered Robin’s clothes in a sewer a few blocks away. Mitchell’s clothing was recovered from a vacant house in a nearby neighborhood. In the meantime, Mitchell took his mother’s advice and went to St. Francis Hospital sometime around noon on September 10, 1997. As soon as Robin’s body was discovered, homicide detectives began looking for Mitchell and learned that he was at St. Francis Hospital. The police went to St. Francis’ emergency room, where they were informed that Mitchell was being evaluated and that they could wait for him. When Mitchell was released fifteen or twenty minutes later, the detectives approached him in the waiting area and asked him if he would accompany them to their office. Mitchell agreed. He drove with detectives to the homicide offices where he made a full statement to Detective Logan admitting that he raped Robin Little on September 1, 1997, and that he raped her again and murdered her on September 10, 1997. Detective Logan noted that Mitchell appeared in full control of his faculties and provided a remarkably detailed account of his turbulent relationship with Robin, as well as a full explanation of how and why he raped her twice and then murdered her. Mitchell was charged with rape, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, and simple assault for the September 1 sexual assault of Robin Little. Mitchell then was charged with rape, IDSI, and unlawful restraint for the September 10 attack of the same victim. Finally, Mitchell was charged with one count of criminal homicide for the September 10 strangulation and stabbing death of Robin Little. The Commonwealth then filed and served a timely notice of its intention to seek imposition of the death penalty. Mitchell filed several pre-trial motions, including a motion to suppress his statements to police and a motion to sever the informations. Hearings were held on these motions from September 27 to October 1, 1999. The only witness to testify at the suppression hearing was Detective Logan. Following completion of the proceedings, the court denied Mitchell’s suppression motion and his motion for severance. On October 1, 1999, Mitchell appeared before the trial court and pleaded guilty to the rape, IDSI and unlawful restraint counts arising from the September 10 sexual assault. The court deferred imposition of sentence until after trial on the remaining charges, which commenced before a jury on October 4, 1999. At trial, the Commonwealth presented evidence from a number of witnesses. Robin’s mother testified about the couple’s tumultuous relationship and read excerpts from Robin’s diary. Robin’s sister-in-law from Lancaster testified that Robin lived with her temporarily to get away from Mitchell. Ms. Britton offered a timeline of the events of September 9 to 10, and told about her conversations with Mitchell before and after the killing. The Commonwealth also presented testimony from the doctor who examined Robin after the first rape, the nurse who prepared the rape kit, the police officer who took the initial report after the first rape, the police officer who took Mitchell’s first confession to the September 1 rape, and court personnel who explained that the PFA order was in effect when Robin was attacked and murdered. Additionally, the Commonwealth offered testimony from a firefighter who initially found Robin’s body, police who investigated the murder scene, and Detective Logan, who took Mitchell’s confession to both rapes and the murder. Finally, the Commonwealth presented testimony from Dr. Leon Rozin, the Chief Forensic Pathologist from the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office, who concluded that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the neck, as well as compression of the neck, more commonly referred to as strangulation, and the manner of death was criminal homicide. At the close of trial, the jury found Mitchell guilty of first-degree murder as well as the remaining charges of rape, unlawful restraint and simple assault. Accordingly, as the Commonwealth was seeking the death penalty, the jury remained empanelled for a separate penalty phase hearing. On October 13, 1999, after hearing additional testimony, argument from both the defense counsel and prosecutor, and instructions from the trial court, the same jury unanimously found two aggravating circumstances: Mitchell committed the killing while in the perpetration of a felony (rape) and Mitchell was subject to a PFA order restricting his contact with the victim when he killed her.9 The jury found no mitigating circumstances. Consequently, the jury sentenced Mitchell to death. On December 8, 1999, the trial court imposed a sentence of death for the first degree murder conviction and consecutive terms of eight and one-half to twenty years of imprisonment for the September 1 rape, two and one-half to five years for unlawful restraint and one to two years for simple assault.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 20, 2007    Pennsylvania Victoria Wholaver
Elizabeth Wholaver
Jean Wholaver 
Ernest Wholaver stayed 

As background, in July 2002 Ernest R. Wholaver, Jr. was charged with multiple sexual offenses for alleged conduct involving his two daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth, the latter of whom was still a minor at the time the charges were lodged. On behalf of Elizabeth, Wholaver’s wife, Jean Wholaver, obtained an order under the Protection From Abuse Act which included provisos that Wholaver was evicted from the family’s Middletown residence, with no right or privilege of entry, and was prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms. Wholaver subsequently took up residence with his mother, father, and younger brother, Scott Wholaver, in Cambria County. Just after midnight on December 24, 2002, Wholaver set out for the Middletown residence with Scott Wholaver. While his brother waited in the vehicle about a block away, Wholaver approached the house; cut telephone and other wires leading to it; forcibly gained entry; and shot Jean, Victoria, and Elizabeth to death with a pistol, leaving Victoria’s nine-month-old girl, Madison, alive but alone and unattended. Wholaver and his brother then drove to Clearfield County, where Wholaver discarded the pistol, a shotgun, and other potentially incriminating items at a remote location. Following the discovery of the bodies and Madison (who survived) approximately twenty-eight hours after the killings, police obtained search warrants for the Middletown residence to gather evidence. They later executed warrants to search Wholaver’s person, his vehicle, and the Cambria County home where he was living. Wholaver was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and the Commonwealth furnished notice that it intended to pursue imposition of the death penalty. Prior to trial, Scott Wholaver pled guilty to third-degree murder and agreed to cooperate as a Commonwealth witness. He led police to the Clearfield County location, from where they retrieved the firearms and other evidence. Also before trial, the prior sexual offense charges were consolidated with the murder cases. Wholaver secured a change of venire, in light of pre-trial publicity. At trial, the Commonwealth presented Scott Wholaver as a central witness. He testified that, following Jean Wholaver’s decision to seek a divorce, Wholaver stated that he would shoot her. He then described the brothers’ nocturnal trip to the Middletown residence on December 24th, indicating that Wholaver had claimed that he wished only to retrieve his dog. The trip involved furtive activities and was corroborated by a surveillance video obtained by police from a convenience store located mid-way between Cambria County and Middletown. Scott Wholaver testified that, upon arrival in Middletown, he was told to stop the vehicle to permit Wholaver to access the rear seat; Wholaver then directed him to proceed to a location about a block from the Wholaver residence; he parked the vehicle there and waited as Wholaver proceeded toward the residence; Wholaver returned five to ten minutes later appearing shaken; Wholaver instructed him to drive to the remote Clearfield County location where he saw the shotgun in the rear of the vehicle and watched Wholaver shuttle from the vehicle to the woods; and Wholaver told him to repeat a false story if asked about his whereabouts during the time period spanning these activities. The Commonwealth also offered testimony from several prisoner-witnesses, who described various incriminatory statements by Wholaver, as well as evidence of Wholaver’s jail-based efforts to hire a West Virginia man to kill the father of Victoria’s child, Francisco Ramos, and to fabricate evidence suggesting that Mr. Ramos had killed Jean, Victoria, and Elizabeth Wholaver. A prisoner-witness involved police at an early stage in these efforts, and undercover officers documented Wholaver’s subsequent solicitation attempts. This conduct was acknowledged by the defense in closing argument, where Wholaver’s trial counsel suggested that the attempt reflected only an effort by a distraught husband and father to avenge the killing of his family against the man that he believed was the perpetrator. Parenthetically, the defense theory of the case recognized that Mr. Ramos was not the killer but asserted that another man, who had also been intimately associated with Victoria, had perpetrated the murders. Ballistics evidence was presented to connect the pistol found in Clearfield County to the killings (although the association could not be made firmly, because both the firearm and bullets were degraded). Further, the Commonwealth presented evidence that the pistol was registered to Wholaver’s uncle. The Commonwealth also introduced the preliminary hearing testimony of Elizabeth and Victoria Wholaver from the sexual assault case under the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception to the hearsay rule, on the theory that they were killed to prevent their testimony. Wholaver was convicted of first-degree murder pertaining to each of the killings, and of the separate crimes of killing prosecution witnesses, conspiracy, reckless endangerment (of Madison), burglary, and criminal solicitation related to his attempt to have Mr. Ramos killed. He was acquitted of the sexual offenses, however. In the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth pursued the in-perpetration-of-a-felony, grave-risk, multiple-murders, and protection-from-abuse-violation aggravators, incorporating the evidence adduced in the guilt phase. Wholaver pursued the no-significant-history-of-prior-criminal-convictions and catch-all mitigators. The jury found all of the aggravators, at least some of the jurors accepted Wholaver’s proffered mitigators, and the jurors unanimously returned three death sentences as a consequence of their individual weighing determinations.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 20, 2007    Texas Tracy Gee, 22  Lionell Rodriquez executed 

Lionell Rodriguez confessed to the murder for which he was convicted. According to Rodriguez’s confession, he became physically abusive in an altercation with his mother and sister on the night of the murder, September, 5, 1990. He then stole a shotgun and an automatic rifle from his stepfather and drove around with his cousin, Jaime Gonzalez, looking for a place to rob. Rodriguez unsuccessfully attempted to rob a gas station. While driving around, Rodriguez became angry at another driver and repeatedly fired shots at him. This occurred in a residential neighborhood. The other driver drove safely away and, at a distance, turned his car around to write down Rodriguez’s license plate number. Rodriguez jumped out of his car and fired another shot at the other driver. Rodriguez and Gonzalez continued driving. While stopped at a stop light, Rodriguez noticed a young woman, Tracy Gee, sitting alone in her car. He decided to rob her and steal the car. He confessed to shooting at her one time with the rifle. The shot pierced the passenger side window and Gee’s head fell forward. Her car started rolling, and Rodriguez jumped out of his car and ran over to the other car. He managed to get into the car and pushed Gee out the driver side door onto the street. He then drove off in the stolen car. Gonzalez drove away from the scene, and a police officer, Theron Runnels, pulled him over. Gonzalez exited the car and, after initially approaching the officer, began to run. After a chase, a second officer, Randy West, arrested Gonzalez for evading arrest. In the meantime, Runnels found a rifle and shotgun in the car. When West brought Gonzalez to Runnels so that the latter could identify him, Gonzalez shouted that he did not kill Gee but that his cousin did. Rodriguez was arrested in the victim’s car while fleeing the scene of the crime. His pants were stained with blood, and there was blood, bone, and brain matter inside the car. Rodriguez had brain matter in his hair. Police also recovered a fired bullet from the victim’s car and found gunpowder residue in Gonzalez’s car. The gunpowder residue showed that a gun was fired from inside that car. An autopsy revealed a massive entrance gunshot wound to Gee’s right temple that had very large lacerations radiating around it, and an exit wound with extensive lacerations on the left forehead. Gee’s skull had massive fractures. Some of her brain extruded through the wounds. Gee lost some bone fragments from her skull when she was shot. The cause of death was the gunshot wound. During Rodriguez’s sentencing, the State presented evidence that Rodriguez shot at the other driver. Officers Runnels and West testified that, when West brought Gonzalez to the scene of the crime where Runnels was performing inventory on Gonzalez’s car, Gonzalez stated that his cousin, Rodriguez, killed Gee. The State produced evidence that Rodriguez burglarized an elementary school in January 1990. Rodriguez received probation for the burglary, but his probation was later revoked. His probation officer testified that Rodriguez was physically abused by an alcoholic father during childhood. The probation officer characterized Rodriguez as having average to somewhat above average intelligence and having the potential to do something with his life. The State introduced records from the Harris County Jail naming Rodriguez as an “escape threat” and as “aggressive towards staff,” instructing jail staff to use handcuffs and leg irons when moving Rodriguez from his cell. A Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy testified that, during Rodriguez’s incarceration at the Harris County Jail on the capital murder charge, there was a standing order that Rodriguez was to wear leg irons and handcuffs when he was out of his cell. Rodriguez became belligerent to a jail deputy while being brought to a visit with his mother. Upon returning to his cell, Rodriguez broke a window. There was also evidence that while at Harris County Jail, Rodriguez was frequently disruptive, and jail staff tried to perform a daily search of his cell for shanks or weapons. During one of these searches, deputies found a homemade shank. Veronica Vinton and her father testified that, after Veronica refused Rodriguez’s request for a date, Rodriguez stalked her. Another witness testified that Rodriguez assaulted him and damaged his car with a baseball bat. Other witnesses testified that Rodriguez had a bad reputation for not abiding by the law. Gee’s sister Susan offered victim impact testimony. She testified that her mother’s health was affected by Tracy Gee’s death. She also described Tracy as a person of integrity, and one who loved children. UPDATE: Apologetic convicted killer Lionell Rodriguez was executed for the fatal shooting almost 17 years ago of a Houston woman during a carjacking just three weeks after he had been paroled from prison. "You have every right to hate me. You have every right to want to see this. To you and my family, you all don't deserve to see this," Rodriguez told the relatives of Tracy Gee, as he looked directly at them as they watched through a window nearby. He said he did not write them a letter to apologize because he wanted to do it "face-to-face." "It is the right thing to do. None of this should have happened. I've got a good family just like you're a good family," he continued. Rodriguez said he hoped that Gee's family could put aside any bitterness because of what he did. "I'm responsible. I'm responsible," he repeated. "I'm sorry to you all. This should have never happened." He thanked his relatives who watched through another window, adding, "We'll see each other again." He muttered a brief prayer, mouthed them a kiss and closed his eyes as the lethal drugs began to take effect. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m., eight minutes later. "It's one of those things where there's not a whole lot of doubt about what happened and who did it," said Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who handled the case as an assistant prosecutor. "We had her brains and bone and blood in his hair and all over his body after he sat in the seat where he shot her."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 21, 2007    Texas Yvette Barraz, 19  Gilberto Reyes executed 

The evidence at trial showed that Gilberto Guadalupe Reyes and Yvette Barraz had dated for approximately eight months before their relationship ended in January 1998. At around 6:00 p.m. on March 11, 1998, nineteen-year-old Barraz left her parents' house for her waitressing job at Leal's Restaurant in Muleshoe, Texas, driving her 1996 silver Mitsubishi Eclipse. Yvette's co-worker testified that after work Yvette had left the restaurant before she had and that Yvette's car was not in the parking lot approximately twenty minutes later. When Yvette failed to return home by the next morning, her parents called the police. Upon receipt of the call, police officers went to the parking lot of Leal's Restaurant where they discovered blood on the ground with some loose change nearby. Yvette's mother testified that her daughter generally kept the coins and dollar bills that she received as tips in the apron that she wore as part of her waitress outfit. At around 11:45 p.m. on March 11, 1998, Reyes arrived at his cousin's home in Pecos, Texas. Reyes spoke with his cousin's husband and asked him how to get to Ojinaga, Mexico. The man testified that when Reyes left his home, he observed him drive away in a "small gray car." Several hours later, on the morning of March 12, sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., Reyes was observed by officers at the border check point in Presidio, Texas walking on the highway heading towards Mexico. Because of a series of recent burglaries that had occurred in the area, the Presidio Sheriff's Office had previously advised officers at the check point to be on the lookout for any persons who were crossing the port of entry "under unusual circumstances." Officers stopped Reyes and asked him to empty his pockets. Reyes had in his possession a couple of sets of keys, a large amount of currency including one dollar bills and five dollar bills, and a couple of handfuls of change. Reyes told the officers that one of the keys was the key to his girlfriend's car. Once a records check was completed on Reyes, and it was determined that Reyes was not involved in the Presidio burglaries, he was permitted to cross the bridge into Mexico. On March 13, 1998, authorities at the Presidio County Sheriff's Office received a teletype informing them that Reyes was connected to a missing person and that it was possible that he used a gray 1996 Mitsubishi to get to Presidio. The authorities located Yvette's car parked behind a store about half a mile from the border in Presidio. Her body was found in the hatchback area of the vehicle under some articles of clothing. Her pants and underwear were pulled down to her knees. She had multiple head wounds and a laceration on one of the fingers of her left hand. There was a knife on the back floorboard of the car and a claw hammer on the passenger side between the seat and the edge of the door rail. Sergeant Dusty McCord, a Sergeant with the Texas Ranger Division of the Department of Public Safety, testified that he observed bloodstains on the passenger-side seat belt and "blood pooling" in the hatchback area and on the floorboard behind the passenger seat. It appeared to McCord that "the body had been moved around two or three locations in the back of the vehicle." At some point, Reyes returned to the United States. Acting on a tip, Reyes was arrested in Portales, New Mexico, on June 7, 1998. He had in his possession some keys. One of the keys matched the lock at the Barraz residence, and another key appeared to be a duplicate of the extra key to Yvette's Mitsubishi Eclipse. Samples of Reyes's blood and hair were collected once he was transported back to Texas. Javier Flores, a forensic serologist for the Texas Department of Public Safety Laboratory, performed DNA testing on the evidence collected from the crime scene and on the samples taken from Reyes. Flores testified that Yvette Barraz's DNA matched the bloodstains in the restaurant parking lot, inside the vehicle, and on the claw hammer. He also found that Reyes's DNA matched a semen stain on Yvette's underwear. Glen Groben, the deputy medical examiner in Lubbock County who performed an autopsy on Yvette Barraz, testified that she had six separate blunt force injury wounds to her head that were consistent with being struck by a claw hammer. Groben concluded that Yvette's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head but also noted that there was evidence of strangulation. He further concluded that Yvette was alive both when she was strangled and beaten. Groben also determined from his examination that she had been sexually assaulted at or near the time of death. Based on his observation of a crime scene photograph at Leal's Restaurant, Groben testified that while it appeared that Yvette was initially injured in the restaurant parking lot, there was not enough blood in the parking lot to suggest that she died there. Because of this, Groben concluded that she was still alive and bleeding in the car "at some point in time." UPDATE: When the parents of 19-year-old Yvette Barraz reported her missing after she failed to return home from work more than nine years ago, police wanted to ask Reyes, her ex-boyfriend, about her disappearance. Reyes already was known to authorities in Muleshoe in Bailey County along the Texas-New Mexico border about 70 miles northwest of Lubbock. A month earlier, Reyes had chased Yvette around town and took a shot at her with a rifle. "We certainly wanted to find him and visit with him," recalled Don Carter, the former Muleshoe police chief. "I don't think you have to be in law enforcement to figure that deal out. And the fact was we never could find him, which just made him even more so a suspect." It would take another nearly three months before police arrested Reyes in Portales, N.M., about 40 miles west of Muleshoe. "The sad part about it was he crossed over by the time she was determined to be a missing person," said Carter, now a captain with the Lubbock County Sheriff's Department. "So we were just behind him, and since he got across the border, it delayed apprehension." At his trial, witnesses told of the couple having a stormy relationship. A police officer testified Yvette had complained about Reyes stalking her two weeks before she disappeared. A Bailey County jury deliberated about two hours before convicting him of capital murder. They took another two hours before deciding on the death penalty. "She was a beautiful, vivacious, respectful young lady," Victor Leal, who ran the Muleshoe restaurant where Yvette had been working about three months, said. "I regret the fact apparently he'd been stalking her and she did not tell me that. I've always looked back and thought if I had taken time, sat down and known her a little better, maybe she would have shared that with me and I would have done something like make sure she was getting walked out to her car." Leal, a former mayor of Muleshoe, said the slaying was a jolt to his community. "When you have an employee abducted and attacked and eventually killed in your own parking lot, it takes away what you perceived was some safety in a small town," he said. UPDATE: A West Texas man who stalked his ex-girlfriend after their breakup was executed Thursday evening for raping, strangling and using a claw hammer to fatally beat the woman. "I love y'all and I'm going to miss y'all," Gilberto Reyes said with a big grin on his face in his brief final statement. Reyes had no witnesses on his side of the death chamber. He never looked at the parents or other relatives of his victim, who watched through a window. He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 22, 2007    South Carolina James B. Brooks Calvin Shuler executed 

On December 3, 1997, three Anderson Armored Car guards, Alton Amick, Sherman Crozier and James B. Brooks, were collecting and delivering money to various banks in the Low County area. Amick was the driver, Crozier sat in the front passenger seat, and Brooks sat in the back of the car. The Anderson Armored Car is a bullet resistant van with a number of security features. A metal wall topped by a steel mesh screen separated Brooks in the back from Amick and Crozier in the cab. The driver and passenger side doors had “double locks” that take two hands to open. The car’s side double doors on the passenger side and double doors in the rear were kept locked. Both Amick and Brooks had keys to access the back of the car, but Brooks did not need the key to get out. Brooks also had access to “kill switches” in the rear – one switch would totally disable the car’s engine and the other switch would sound a visual and audible alarm. At 10:45 a.m., the three guards arrived at First National Bank of Harleyville. Amick looked around twice to see if the area was clear. He opened the door and turned his head to grab his clipboard. When he turned around a man wearing army fatigues, a camouflage face mask, and gloves was pointing a semi-automatic pistol in his face. The attacker also had an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. The attacker shouted three times, “Get out of the God d*mn truck.” Amick got out of the car. The attacker then climbed in the driver’s seat, pointed the gun at Crozier’s head, and ordered him out of the car. Crozier exited the car, but left his door open. Inside the van, the attacker and Brooks engaged in a gun battle through the screen mesh separating the cab and the rear area. Amick stood near the doorway on the driver’s side, Crozier ran around the back of the car. After the gunfire stopped, the attacker threw his semi-automatic handgun out of the car’s window. The attacker hesitated for a moment as he tried to get the car into gear, and then drove off at a high rate of speed. As the van sped away, Amick fired four shots at the car’s tires with his .38 revolver. Several eye witnesses saw the attacker drive the car down Shortcut Road at a high rate of speed. Deputy Thomas Limehouse initially responded to the call from First National Bank, but was told to go to the dirt road in his four wheel drive police vehicle. Once there, he met other policemen, and they proceeded on the dirt road. After about a half mile, they saw the armored car on the road. They approached and saw Brooks laying in the back of the van. EMS responded to the scene, but Brooks was dead due to his numerous gunshot wounds. The rear compartment of the car contained $1,555,400 in currency, although much of it was shredded by gunfire and soaked in Brooks’ blood. Members of the Charleston County Sheriff’s canine team responded to the dirt road location to track the attacker. One of the officers found a SKS assault rife, which fires 7.62 mm ammunition, submerged under water in a canal. The SKS’s 30 round clip was found on the bank of the canal. The canine team followed the scent from the canal into the surrounding woods. The officers found a bloody ski mask hanging on a tree branch. After another 75 yards, the officers found a box of 7.62 mm ammunition on the ground. The dogs also found a folded green duffel bag before they lost the attacker’s scent. The armored car guards recovered the pink-handled, Lorcin .25 semiautomatic handgun the attacker threw out of the window at the bank. The police traced the gun and found it was registered to Shuler’s mother, who is deceased. The police contacted Shuler, and he agreed to meet police at his residence that afternoon. Shuler claimed he gave the gun to his mother for protection. According to Shuler, he had not seen the gun since he gave it to his mother prior to her death. The SKS rifle was traced to Demond Jones (“Jones”), Shuler’s cousin’s fiancé. Since Jones was a convicted felon, it was illegal for him to purchase a SKS, and he was arrested on federal firearm charges. Jones testified he agreed to buy the SKS from Woody’s Pawn Shop for Shuler in order to satisfy a debt he owed Shuler for a Cadillac. A week after the purchase, Shuler asked Jones to stand guard while he robbed an armored car in Harleyville. Shuler offered Jones a .44 pistol and $5,000 to help in the robbery. Jones refused. After further information implicating Shuler was discovered, FBI agents interviewed Shuler concerning the crime. The agent noticed Shuler nervously pulled on his knit hat during the interview. When Shuler’s hat was removed, the agent noticed lacerations to the back of his head. A FBI agent then conducted a polygraph examination. The polygraph test was not mentioned to the jury. Shuler confessed to the murder. Shuler was a former employee of Anderson Armored Car and had briefly worked with Amick and Brooks. According to Shuler, he knew the guards would be armed, and his .25 pistol would be insufficient firepower, so he gave Jones money to buy the SKS. Shuler’s confession revealed he concocted a plan to rob the armored car two weeks prior to the crime. His plan involved hiding underneath a house adjacent to the First National Bank until the armored car made its routine stop. Prior to the murder, Shuler waited patiently underneath the house all night until the armored car arrived the following morning. Following Shuler’s confession, police procured a search warrant for his home. Inside Shuler’s home, police found ammunition, Shuler’s Anderson Armored Car badge, a pistol pouch, and a .44 magnum pistol in the attic. Inside Shuler’s pickup truck they found a pair of camouflage hunting gloves, as well as three other camouflage knit hunting gloves. The physical evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated Shuler was the attacker. The DNA experts testified at trial Shuler matched the blood taken from the top of the driver’s seat and the passenger’s sun visor. Shuler also matched blood taken from the outside passenger door handle, the double door on the passenger side of the armored car, the top of the cooler between the seats, the SKS clip found on the bank of a ditch, and the ski mask. According to the pathologist who conducted Brooks’ autopsy, there were three major pre-mortem injuries that could have been fatal. There were also a number of wounds the pathologist theorized were post-mortem. The pathologist opined many of the wounds were consistent with injury from a high-powered rifle, and stated all of the shooting happened quickly. The ballistics expert matched a bullet fragment removed from the right front of Brooks’ neck with the SKS rifle. The SKS also matched three fragments from Brooks’ right thigh and buttock, and one fragment from his right lateral torso. Furthermore, a X-ray of Shuler’s head wounds indicated the wounds were consistent with gunshot wounds. The ER doctor who performed the X-rays testified the X-rays reflected gunshot fragments in Shuler’s head, and Shuler had shoulder bruising consistent with the recoil from a high-powered rifle. During the January 1998 term, Shuler was indicted for murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping. On January 28, 1998, the State served a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. The jury found Shuler guilty on each count. The penalty stage commenced on November 11, 1998. The jury recommended a death sentence, and the trial judge sentenced Shuler to death. UPDATE: Thelma Brooks, the 88-year-old widow of James Brooks, said on Thursday she was not really looking forward to the execution. "I feel bad in a way," she said. "I hate it, but he (Shuler) deserves something. I feel so bad, but he deserves it." Mrs. Brooks said her husband was a good man with good values and a good heart. She said her last morning with him had been "like any other morning." "It was the same as always. He got up at about 4 a.m., went through his normal routine, eating breakfast and all and headed down to work. He woke up early so he could be there by 6 a.m." Mrs. Brooks, who was married to her husband for almost 40 years, said he was an active member of his church, and that she could not speak of how he would feel about the execution. "He was an excellent man," Mrs. Brooks said. "I never heard him say a bad word in my life. He never spoke bad about anyone either." She did not attend the execution.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 26, 2007    Georgia Dorothy Hightower
Evelyn Reaves
Sandra Reaves 
John Hightower executed

John Hightower was married to Dorothy Hightower. Her brother stopped by their home early in the morning of July 12, 1987, to pick up his daughter. Dorothy Hightower’s car was gone. The brother entered the home and found that Dorothy Hightower and her two daughters, Evelyn and Sandra Reaves, had been shot. Evelyn Reaves was still alive, but died two days later. Sandra Reaves and Dorothy Hightower were dead. The brother’s daughter was unharmed. Two and one-half hours later, Hightower was arrested driving his wife’s car. Inside the car was a bloody handgun. He confessed later that morning. He told police that he and his wife had been having marital problems, and he had purchased the murder weapon the day before. He hid it under his pillow until 3:00 a.m., when he shot his wife. He then went to the bedroom occupied by his stepdaughter Sandra Reaves. She got out of bed, but then
lay back down. He shot her in the head. Evelyn Reaves tried to leave the house, but Hightower caught her and shot her three times. UPDATE: Before being executed by lethal injection, John Hightower made a brief final statement in which he said he apologized to the victims' family and asked for their forgiveness. "I want to say that I'm sorry for the grief I brought to the Reaves family," he said. He also thanked his family and friends for their support over the years. "Last but not least, I thank my mother for being by me for so long," Hightower said. He declined a final prayer. His pastor, a friend and a paralegal were the only witnesses for him who attended the execution. There were no witnesses from his wife's family. Earlier Tuesday, he recorded a statement for prison officials in which he apologized for his crime and said he loved his wife then and still does.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 26, 2007    Texas Walter Werner
Mary Ann Werner 
Patrick Knight executed 

Patrick Knight and a companion, Robert Bradfield, broke into the home of Knight’s neighbors, Walter and Mary Ann Werner, on Monday morning, August 26, 1991, after the Werners had left for work. When the Werners came back home that evening, Knight and Bradfield locked them in the basement of their home. The Werners were held captive in their basement that night and the next day, during which Knight and Bradfield drove around in the Werners’ vehicles. Around midnight on Tuesday, Knight bound, gagged, and blindfolded the couple, forced them into their own van, and drove them to a location in the country about four miles away from their home. He made them get out of the van and kneel, and then he shot each of them in the back of the head, execution-style. He dragged their bodies into a ditch on the side of the road and returned to his trailer house and went to sleep. During their investigation into the Werners’ disappearance, law enforcement officers questioned Knight, who lived in a trailer house next door to the Werners’ home. Although Knight initially denied involvement, he eventually confessed and led the officers to the location of the victims’ bodies. At the punishment phase of the trial, the State presented the following evidence: Knight was on probation for the burglary of a grocery store at the time of the murders. He had stolen money from a convenience store cash register while the clerk was away from the register. On the day of the murders, Knight went to Ted Ramirez’s home and threatened to kill him. He also went to Deborah Martin’s home that day and told her he would “get” her and her boyfriend for accusing him of stealing. Knight told other inmates that he planned to avoid prison by pretending that he was insane when he killed the Werners, and he asked them for advice on what kind of statements and behavior could result in a diagnosis of insanity. He had problems getting along with other inmates in the jail and threatened to kill his cellmates with a shank made from a coat-hanger. He hid razor blades, scissors, sharpened paper clips, and rope in his cell, and kept contraband cleaning powder in a baby powder container in his cell. A jury list was found in his cell. He threatened to kill himself and others rather than be sent to prison. He staged a suicide attempt while in jail. Because of these incidents, he was kept isolated in a single cell for almost the entire two years he was in jail prior to trial. Knight’s counsel did not call any witnesses at the punishment phase. However, they elicited the following mitigating evidence through cross-examination of the State’s witnesses: Although the State’s witnesses were aware of verbal threats by Knight, none of them had observed Knight commit any violent acts against anyone else; Knight did not threaten to injure his cellmates at the county jail with the shank, but instead intended to harm himself with it; Knight did not injure any of his cellmates; prior to his arrest, no one had observed Knight in possession of a weapon; Knight’s prior crimes did not involve physical harm to anyone; Knight had cooperated with the police; Knight had a history of alcohol abuse; and the district clerk had given Knight a copy of the jury list pursuant to state law. In closing argument, defense counsel also noted Knight’s young age (23) at the time of the murders. Knight was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. UPDATE: Prior to being executed by lethal injection, Patrick Knight thanked God for his friends and asked for help for innocent men on death row. He named several he said were innocent. His voice shaking and nearly in tears, he said, "Not all of us are innocent, but those are."  After expressing love to some friends, he said, "I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That's the biggest joke. I deserve this. And the other joke is that I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y'all can't stop this execution now. Go ahead, I'm finished." At the time of the slayings, Knight said, he was immature and drunk and high on drugs. He said he does not remember much about killing the Werners, who had complained about his loud music and loud cars. "I regret so much because they were such good people," said Knight, who grew up in Slidell, La., and was known in prison as the "Insane Cajun." Bradfield, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 26, 2007    Oklahoma Doyle Windle Rains, 62
Raymond Prentice 
Jimmy Bland executed 

Jimmy Dale Bland was convicted of the pre-meditated murder of Doyle Windle Rains. The victim was a longtime resident of Manitou, Oklahoma. He was retired and worked handyman jobs in the area. In November 1996, Doyle worked at the Horton family ranch in Tillman County building dog pens and erecting a chain link fence. Doyle had hired Bland, who had only been on parole for about 1 year after serving 20 years of a 6-year sentence for kidnapping and manslaughter, to assist him in the job. In 1975, Bland was found guilty of killing a soldier, Raymond Prentice and kidnapping the soldier's wife and son, causing a police chase. Brenda Prentice was in an adjoining room in her home when she heard the gunshots that took her husband's life. At one point, her brother approached the home and Bland shot at him. She was then ordered by Bland to drive him away from the scene. Accompanied by her young son Ronnie, she drove Bland through town, but was eventually pursued by police and rescued as Bland was apprehended. Originally filed as a charge of first-degree murder, Bland was able to plea-bargain to a reduced charge of manslaughter, to which he pled guilty. He served 20 years of a 60-year sentence. On November 12, 1996, Bland and Doyle were paid $882 for their work. Based upon a prior agreement, the check was made out to Bland. Between 2:30 p.m. on November 12 and 2:30 p.m. on November 13, 1996, Bland and Doyle cashed the check at the First Southwest Bank in Frederick, Oklahoma. On November 14, 1996, Bland drove Doyle's Cadillac to Oklahoma City to see Connie, his girlfriend. While in Oklahoma City Bland spent almost all of the cash in his possession, approximately $380. Most of this money was spent on drugs, some of which Bland and his girlfriend ingested at the time. Bland left Oklahoma City later that afternoon. Connie gave him $10 so he could return home. Bland drove to Doyle's home where he shot and killed him. Bland retrieved the keys to Doyle's pickup from Doyle's front pants pocket. He loaded Doyle's body into the pickup and drove to a rural area where he deposited the body and covered it with logs and leaves. Bland returned to Doyle's home where he spent the night. On November 15, 1996, Bland returned to the home he shared with his mother, Ruby, in Davidson, Oklahoma. Bland was driving Doyle's Cadillac. Bland said he was going to work with Doyle. Instead, Bland switched vehicles and drove Doyle's pickup to Oklahoma City. Meeting Connie, he told her he had killed Doyle. Later that evening, Connie phoned her sister, Frances, and asked her to call Ruby to check on Doyle's welfare. Ruby and Doyle were dating and had discussed marriage. As a result of her conversation with Frances, Ruby phoned the Tillman County Sheriff. On November 17, 1996, Sheriff Billy Hanes went to Doyle's residence. No one answered his knock at the front door. He noticed Doyle's Cadillac in the driveway, but did not see the pickup. Sheriff Hanes then went out to the property where Doyle ran cattle, but again found no sign of Doyle. Returning to Doyle's home, Hanes, with the assistance of agents from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (O.S.B.I) entered the house and observed several spots of blood on the garage floor. Sheriff Hanes subsequently listed Doyle and his pickup on the NCIC register of missing persons. With that entry, anyone who had any contact with Doyle or his pickup were to contact Sheriff Hanes. On November 16, 1996, Bland, driving Doyle's pickup, was involved in a one-car accident near Stroud, Oklahoma. Bland had driven the pickup off the side of the road. Bland was arrested for driving under the influence. Bland was subsequently released on bond, but not before the arresting trooper noticed Bland had over $300 in cash on his person. Bland was taken to the Econo-Lodge in Chandler, Oklahoma, where he paid for his room with a $100 bill. On November 17, 1996, a friend picked up Bland from the Econo-Lodge and drove him to the home of another friend in Oklahoma City. Bland was subsequently located by the authorities at that home and arrested on November 20, 1996. Initially arrested for the unauthorized use of Doyle's pickup, Bland was taken to the Tillman County Sheriff's office where he confessed to killing Doyle and hiding his body. Bland took officers to the rural area where he had left the body. The body was badly decomposed. However, an autopsy was subsequently performed and the cause of death was found to be a bullet wound to the back of the head. Bland admitted to shooting Doyle, but claimed he did not intend to kill him. Bland stated he had borrowed Doyle's Cadillac and while it was in his possession, the car had a flat tire. Bland changed the tire but in so doing, damaged the hubcap. When he returned the car to Doyle and explained the situation, Bland said Doyle became very angry. Bland said Doyle's anger escalated to the point where he took a swing at Bland. Bland said he was not sure if Doyle actually struck him. He said he thought he may have kicked Doyle. Both men fell to the floor. Bland said that a gun he had been carrying, wrapped up in a pair of coveralls, fell to the ground. Bland said he picked up the gun and fired one shot, hitting Doyle in the back of the head. Bland said he attempted to clean up the garage area where the altercation had taken place. He then took Doyle's body to a field and covered it with a pile of logs. The testimony at trial showed that Bland had told his girlfriend Connie, on several different occasions, that he was going to kill Doyle Rains. The evidence also showed Bland was unhappy with Doyle in that he felt he was left to do work that both he and Doyle were to do together and that he felt he was not adequately compensated for that work. UPDATE: Jimmy Dale Bland was executed by lethal injection, despite claims by anti-death penalty activists that the execution was "pointless" since Bland was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer that has spread to his brain and his hip. The Supreme Court was asked to block the execution on the grounds that executing a terminally ill inmate constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Members of the Rains family as well as family member of Bland's first victim, Raymond Prentice, who was shot to death in 1975, witnessed the execution. Prentice’s family members said afterward they felt sorry for Bland’s family but were happy that the death sentence was carried out. “It’s about 32 years past due,” said Ronnie Prentice, the first victim’s son. They also said they did not accept Bland’s expression of remorse. “He never had remorse,” said Jackie Barker, Raymond Prentice’s sister-in-law. “He didn’t have remorse the first time. He didn’t have remorse the second time. “If they’d have kept him in jail, the second man would not have been killed.” Members of Prentice’s family said they were not troubled by Bland’s medical condition. “We’ve had cancer in our family,” said Traci Cox, Prentice’s niece. “He had the easy way out. He didn’t have to suffer." Raymond Prentice's son, Ronnie Prentice, was 3 or 4 years old when he was kidnapped but says he remembers most of what happened the night his father was killed. "One of the things I remember is when he dragged my dad in the house -- when he drug him in by his boots -- and I remember all the blood," Ronnie Prentice said before the execution, which he attended. "I remember my mom hollering, my mom asking him, of course, to cover him up because I was right there." Bland was 17 at the time. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, records show. Since then, he has had radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Ronnie Prentice said he was angered to learn that Bland might not be executed because of his cancer. "He killed two men -- cold-blooded -- kidnapped me and my mom, shot at all the cops during that, threatened to shoot me, threatened to shoot my mom," he said, "and we want to keep him around?"

Page visited   Hit Counter times since 3/8/07

Page last updated 10/05/08


Copyright 2015  
Site created and maintained by Charlene Hall - info@prodeathpenalty.com