October 2010 Executions
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Three killers were executed in October 2010. They had murdered at least 4 people.
Six killers were given a stay in October 2010. They have murdered at least 7 people.
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 6, 2010 Ohio Judith Gabbard  Michael Benge executed 
Judith Gabbard, murder victimIn the early morning hours of February 1, 1993, a car belonging to Judith Gabbard, Michael W. Benge's live-in girlfriend, was found abandoned on the west side of the Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio. The vehicle was found near the river with the front passenger-side tire stuck in a gully. After the vehicle was towed to the impound lot, the tow-truck operator observed blood on the front bumper and passenger side of the car and notified the police. The police returned to the area where the car was found and discovered the body of Judith Gabbard in the Miami River. Her body had been weighed down with a thirty-five pound piece of concrete which had been placed upon her head and chest. One of the pockets on the jacket Judith was wearing was empty and turned inside out. She still had in her possession her checkbook, cash and jewelry. The police retrieved a tire iron, or lug wrench, from the river approximately twelve to fifteen feet from where Judith's body was found. A jack and spare tire were found in Judith's trunk, but no lug wrench was discovered. Police removed lug nuts from the vehicle, which were sent to a laboratory and compared with the lug wrench. Although no positive match was made, the lug nuts did bear markings which were similar to the lug wrench. The police gathered other physical evidence from the scene which was also tested by a forensic laboratory. Strands of hair and type A blood (which both Judith and Benge had) were found on the driver's side front tire. Smears of blood were also discovered above the passenger-side headlight and on the fender. Police also found a pool of blood with a tire track through it and blood contained in the tire treads. According to one of the investigative detectives, this evidence indicated that the car had been driven through the blood and through the hair of the victim. An autopsy was performed, which revealed that the victim had suffered a number of blows to the head with a long blunt object which produced pattern abrasions and multiple skull fractures, one of which was circular in nature. According to the coroner, the victim died of brain injuries secondary to multiple skull fractures which were inflicted with a blunt object. The police apprehended Benge the next day, on February 2, 1993. When the detectives approached Benge on the street, they observed him drop Judith Gabbard's ATM card to the ground. They picked up the card, arrested Benge, and took him into the station for questioning. After being read his Miranda warnings, Benge agreed to talk to the detectives. Benge told police that two black men in a Bronco had chased him and Judith to the river and that their car had gotten stuck. Benge claimed that one of the men injured Judith and took her ATM card while the other held him at gunpoint, demanding the ATM code word. When Benge refused to tell him, the man returned the ATM card to him. Benge escaped by jumping into the river. As he swam away, he heard Judith screaming as the men beat her. The detectives told Benge they did not believe his story. Benge told them he thought he should talk to a lawyer. The questioning ceased at that point. A short time later, Benge told police he was willing to talk. Benge signed a Miranda warning card indicating that he waived his Miranda rights. Benge then gave the police a tape-recorded statement in which he recounted a different version of what happened the night before. Benge told police that he had driven to the riverbank with Judith so that they could talk. He said that they had argued over the fact that he was addicted to crack cocaine. Judith also accused him of being unfaithful to her. Benge then said he got out of the vehicle to urinate. At that point, he said Judith tried to run him down, but the car got stuck in the mud. Benge said that he became enraged, pulled Judith out of the car, and began beating her with a metal pipe he found lying on the ground. Benge said he threw her body into the river, face down, disposed of the weapon and swam across the river. He did not recall whether he put any rocks or cement on her body. Benge then went to the home of his friend, John Fuller, to get dry clothes, which Fuller's fiancee, Awantha Shields, provided. During this second interrogation, Benge was questioned about the ATM card, why he had dropped it when he saw the police, and whether he had used it after killing Judith. Benge said he threw down the card because he was scared and he knew he would not need it anymore. He also told police that he had not used the card since he killed Judith, although he did allow a man by the name of Baron Carr to use the card once to get money to purchase crack cocaine. Benge claimed that the only reason he had the card in his possession was because he and Judith had used it on January 31, 1993 before they went out that evening. However, the police discovered through retrieving ATM records that no transaction had taken place on January 31, 1993 and that two transactions were made following Judith's death; on February 1, 1993 at 2:45 a.m., a $200 withdrawal was made, and on February 2, 1993 at 12:01 a.m., another $200 was withdrawn. Benge was indicted on one count of aggravated murder committed for the purpose of escaping detection for another offense and committed during the commission of an aggravated robbery as well as for aggravated robbery and gross abuse of a corpse. Benge pleaded no contest to gross abuse of a corpse. The case proceeded to trial on the other charges. At trial, the state called Awantha Shields, who testified that in the early morning hours of February 1, 1993, Benge arrived at the house she shared with John Fuller, wearing wet clothes and asking for John. Benge also asked her if she had ever killed anyone. He then told her that he and his girlfriend had "got into it" earlier, that it blew over, and that they went to the river bank. He then told her that they had started fighting and that he hit her in the head no more than ten times with a crowbar, put rocks over her head and pushed her in the river. Benge told her that he had killed his girlfriend to get her "Jeanie" card. He also said that if the police questioned him he would lie and say that a couple of black guys jumped him and his girlfriend and beat his girlfriend up. He also told her that he had given her ATM card to a guy named Baron to get $200 to buy crack cocaine but that he never saw the money. Larry Carter testified that he and Baron Carr ran into Benge in the early morning of February 1, 1993. Benge, whose clothes were wet, asked Carter to excuse how he smelled but that he had just swum in the river. Carter thought Benge was kidding. Benge told him he had given John $20 to buy crack cocaine for him and said that he could get more money. Carter drove Benge and Carr to a Society Bank where Benge withdrew $200 from an ATM; Carter then bought crack cocaine for Benge. Carter later drove Benge to Fuller's house. Later that next night, Carter and Baron Carr withdrew another $200 from Judith's account using her ATM card so that they could buy drugs for Benge. However, to avoid giving the drugs or money to Benge, the two men conjured up a story and told Benge that his girlfriend had closed the account. Benge insisted that she had not. Benge took the stand on his own behalf and reiterated what he had told police during his second interrogation, including that Judith had tried to run him down and that he was in a rage when he killed her. Benge also claimed that he had permission to use Judith's ATM card and did not rob her. On cross-examination, he admitted losing his job in January 1993 due to his crack cocaine habit and that he had no income at the time he killed Judith. Benge was convicted of all counts and specifications. Thereafter, the jury recommended that he be sentenced to death, and that recommendation was accepted by the trial court. The court of appeals affirmed Benge's convictions and death sentence.  
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 14, 2010 Texas Brian Edward Williams  Gayland Bradford stayed 
Gayland Charles Bradford was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Brian Edward Williams, who was working as a security guard at Angelo's Food Store in Dallas. On December 29, 1988, the murder was captured on videotape by the store's security surveillance system. It shows Bradford walking into the store and calmly shooting Brian Williams in the back. Williams fell to the floor and the video shows Bradford bending over him and shooting him three more times. Brian later died of his injuries at a nearby hospital. Brian's revolver was stolen along with a cap and his wallet. Witnesses testified that Bradford bragged about the crime later. When he killed Brian Williams, Bradford was on parole after serving two years of a four year sentence for a robbery conviction. Bradford had only been out of prison for eight months when this murder occurred. He was arrested on January 3, 1989 and later gave a voluntary statement about the murder and robbery.
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 14, 2010 Oklahoma Pan Sayakhoummane  Donald Wackerly, II executed 
One evening in early September, 1996, Donald Ray Wackerly, II announced to his wife that they needed money and that he would do “whatever it took” to get it. He said this, almost as if to prove his point, while wearing latex gloves and loading his .22 caliber rifle, toweling off each bullet before packing it into the chamber. The following day, with rifle in hand, Wackerly and his wife left their house in search of someone to rob. They drove to a dam on the Arkansas River near Muldrow, Oklahoma, in rural Sequoyah County. There, they spotted a lone truck parked by a levy, and an older gentleman, who turned out to be Pan Sayakhoummane, fishing nearby. Wackerly parked his Jeep a few feet from the truck and instructed his wife to walk down to the levy to see if any other people, aside from Pan, were there. She did as she was told, talked to Pan for a few minutes, and returned to her husband to confirm that they were alone. Wackerly then instructed his wife to sit and wait. Forty-five minutes passed before Pan returned to his truck, fishing gear in tow. As he approached, Wackerly raised the hood of his Jeep and asked for help jump-starting the vehicle. Knowing what was going to happen next, Mrs. Wackerly knelt behind the Jeep. There, she heard seven or eight gun shots, followed by a thump. When she stood up, she saw Pan's body lying flat and her husband wrestling to free a fishing pole from underneath it. In order to dispose of Pan's body and truck, Wackerly drove the truck a short distance down a dirt road while Mrs. Wackerly followed in the couple's Jeep. Wackerly stopped the truck at a fork in the road, removed the reels from Pan's assorted fishing poles, and threw the poles into a wooded area. He also took a tackle box from the truck before asking his wife to wait while he drove Pan's truck, with Pan's body lying in its bed, into the river. As it happened, the truck's bumper caught on the river bed so the truck remained only partially submerged. Finished with these tasks, as least as best he could, Wackerly returned to Mrs. Wackerly and the couple proceeded to a Sonic Drive-In restaurant for dinner. Later that night, Wackerly sifted through the contents of Pan's wallet and cut up all the identity cards he found. He placed the shredded cards in a ziplock bag and threw them away, as he did Pan's wallet. The other property he had stolen-Pan's tackle box and fishing reels-he stashed in a spare room. Eventually, Wackerly sold the reels to a local pawn shop for sixty dollars. The day after the murder, a passerby found the partially submerged truck and Pan's body. An initial investigation produced no leads but at last Mrs. Wackerly, by this point estranged from her husband, came forward and told Oklahoma state investigators what happened. Based on her account, an agent retrieved Pan's fishing poles from the woods near the river and located his reels at the pawn shop, where the shop's owner confirmed that it was indeed Wackerly who had sold them. Agents also searched Wackerly's apartment and found Pan's tackle box, a pair of latex gloves, a .22 rifle, and a box of ammunition with some bullets missing. Both the weapon and ammunition were consistent with the bullet removed from Pan's body. In due course, Wackerly was charged with first-degree murder and robbery. At trial, the State relied on the testimony of Mrs. Wackerly; physical evidence corroborating her account; the testimony of the pawn shop owner; and the testimony of Mrs. Wackerly's brother, Curtis Jones, who recounted that Wackerly had confessed to him that he, Wackerly, had killed a man at the dam. In the end, the jury convicted Wackerly of both the murder and robbery charges. The case proceeded to a sentencing phase, at which the State argued that two statutory aggravating circumstances rendered Wackerly eligible for the death penalty: first, that the murder was committed in a manner aimed to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest or prosecution; and, second, that there was a probability that Wackerly would commit future criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. The State relied on the evidence presented during the guilt phase to support both arguments, and also introduced additional evidence to support the second. This additional evidence established that Wackerly committed armed robbery of a Webber Falls, Oklahoma convenience store nine days after Pan's murder. While Mrs. Wackerly stood guard at the store's entrance, Wackerly, wearing a hunting mask and carrying a pistol, ordered the store's cashier to give him money. When the cashier declined, Wackerly held his pistol within inches of the cashier's forehead and repeated his demand. This time, the cashier complied. As Wackerly walked with cash in hand toward the exit, he heard a banging from the back of the store. Thinking it was a second employee, he turned back to the register, pointed his gun at the cashier, shouted “I'll kill both of you,” and sprinted away. For its part, the defense presented three witnesses during the penalty phase. Sue Spinas testified that Wackerly performed farm labor for her, that he was a reliable employee, and that she would hire him again if she had the opportunity. Donna Lomax, Wackerly's half-sister, testified that Wackerly was spoiled by his parents and never disciplined, and, as a result, and through no fault of his own, he generally seemed unprepared for life. Ms. Lomax also testified that, when he was fourteen, Wackerly was the driver in a car accident in which his passenger died. He was never made to take responsibility for causing someone's death, Ms. Lomax related, again contributing, in her estimation, to his general unpreparedness for adulthood. Finally, Diana Branham, Wackerly's step-sister, testified that her seven-year old son had a great relationship with Wackerly.  The jury rejected the mitigation and sentenced Wackerly to death.
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 16, 2010 Oklahoma Earl Short  Jeffrey Matthews stayed 
In the early morning hours of January 27, 1994, Minnie Short was awakened by a noise in the living room of her home located in a rural area east of Rosedale, Oklahoma. She thought that it was around 6:00 a.m. and decided to get up for the day. She got out of bed and went into the living room where she was attacked from behind by someone with a knife. As she struggled with her attacker, he cut her throat. Her husband Earl came into the living room and was shot in the back of the head by another person. Earl fell to the floor beside Minnie. She was told to lie still and was asked several times where the money was hidden. After ransacking the house for almost two hours the two men left with approximately $500, a .32 caliber Smith & Wesson, and the Shorts' brown pickup truck. After the men were gone, Minnie Short dressed and went to the road to try to get help. A passing ambulance saw her and stopped. She told the paramedics that she had been cut and her husband had been shot. They bandaged the wound on her neck, which had stopped bleeding and was determined to be non life-threatening. The paramedics then went to the house where they determined that Earl Short was dead. When the police talked with Minnie Short she could not describe her attacker or the man who shot her husband. She recalled, however, that her attacker wore a dark jacket with a large circular design and the other man wore tan loose-fitting clothes. She also remembered that the man who attacked her had made a telephone call from her kitchen shortly before they left. When the police traced this phone call they found that it had been made at 8:16 a.m. to Bill Guinn in Oklahoma City. Mr. Guinn confirmed that the call had been made by his nephew, Tracy Dyer, who had called to say that he would be late coming to work that morning because he was having trouble with his truck. At around 10:00 p.m. on January 27 the police went to Dyer's trailer where they found Tracy Dyer and his uncle, Harry Wayne Clary, who was visiting from Madill. Both Dyer and Clary were taken to the sheriff's office for questioning. Although Dyer initially denied any involvement in the crime, he became more forthcoming when confronted with the telephone call which placed him in the Shorts' home. In his first statement Dyer said that he and Jeffrey David Matthews had gone to the Shorts' house to look for money that they believed to be hidden there. Dyer blamed Matthews for the murder of Earl Short and the attack on Minnie Short but he admitted to looking for money. Dyer was arrested. On January 28, 1994, a warrant was procured for Matthews's arrest. After his arrest on that same date, Matthews was interrogated by OSBI agents. A search warrant for Matthews's home was issued and executed soon after his arrest. Police seized a pair of brown coveralls, three $100 bills found in the freezer, some items of clothing and a prescription pill bottle for Xanax made out to Minnie Short found on a nightstand. The backyard was searched but nothing was found there. Later, in June of 1994, one of Matthews's neighbors found a .32 Smith & Wesson revolver buried in a field situated directly behind Matthews's house. This gun was identified as the gun taken from the Shorts' home by their attackers. The police went to the field with metal detectors and found another buried gun, a .45 Ruger pistol, which was later determined to have been the gun used to kill Earl Short.  UPDATE: Jeffrey Matthews received his fourth stay of execution, this time over a challenge regarding the lethal drugs that were to be used.
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 19, 2010 Pennsylvania Katherine Hairston
Sean Hairston 
Kenneth Hairston stayed 
On May 20, 2000, Kenneth Hairston's stepdaughter, Chetia, and her boyfriend, Jeffrey, returned to Chetia's apartment from a movie to discover several voicemail messages left by Hairston, questioning where Chetia was and when she would be home. Chetia, then 21, had known Hairston since he married her mother when Chetia was five years old, and had lived under the same roof as Hairston, her mother Katherine Hairston, Hairston's autistic son Sean, and her grandmother Goldie Hurtt, until Chetia moved out approximately one month earlier. During Chetia's adolescence, her relationship with Hairston deteriorated. Hairston prohibited Chetia from socializing with males and frequently threatened that he would kill her and the rest of her family. Bothered by the phone messages that May evening, Chetia asked Johnson to spend the night. The following morning, May 21, 2000, Hairston arrived at Chetia's apartment with a handgun, which he was not licensed to carry. After being let into the apartment, Hairston instructed Chetia to tell Jeffrey to leave. When Chetia did not comply, Hairston threatened to kill Chetia, Jeffrey, and himself, and stated that he would not go to jail. Despite Chetia's protests that Jeffrey should stay - for fear of what might happen should he leave - Jeffrey left the apartment. Hairston pointed the gun at Chetia's face and said, “If you're going to be f**king anybody, it's going to be me.” Chetia pleaded with Hairston not to hurt her, but he took her into the bedroom. Hairston removed his clothes and tried to remove Chetia's clothes, but she resisted. Meanwhile, Jeffrey stopped Sergeant William Gorman of the Pittsburgh Police Department and explained what was occurring. The police went to the apartment and announced their presence. Hairston pulled the ammunition clip out of the gun, threw it behind the door, and slid the gun underneath the bed. Chetia escaped through the front door of the apartment. The police found a half-naked Hairston in the apartment. He claimed that he lived in the apartment with his daughter and came home to find her with Jeffrey. A Bryco-Arms 0.380 semi-automatic pistol was recovered from the bedroom. Hairston, yelling, “I can't go to jail,” broke away from police as they were bringing him out of the apartment building. Hairston then jumped headfirst off a small roof to the ground fifteen-to-twenty feet below. Hairston got back on his feet and again began yelling, “I can't go to jail. I'm not going to jail.” As a result of these events, criminal charges were filed against Hairston. One year later, in the morning hours of June 11, 2001, Hairston called the dispatcher at the school bus company that transported Sean Hairston, who was autistic, to school and requested that the bus not pick up Sean. Hairston spoke separately with two neighbors outside of his home that morning, each of whom noticed that Hairston smelled of alcohol and was very agitated. Hairston told both neighbors that he was upset about his stepdaughter's accusations, telling one neighbor that he would not go back to jail and that if he had to go to jail he “would probably do myself in.” Shortly thereafter, thick black smoke was seen coming out of Hairston's home. Firefighters who reported to the scene found both the front and back doors locked and barricaded. Finally, the firefighters gained entry. They discovered that the house was covered in garbage bags and debris. They retrieved Sean, who was lying underneath bags and debris, on the living room couch. His face and head were covered with a blanket. He was brought outside alive to paramedics. However, he died while being treated at the hospital after suffering two cardiac arrests. The injuries leading to his death were two or three incidents of blunt force trauma to his head. Firefighters re-entered the house and found Hairston inside the kitchen, at the top of the basement stairwell. Hairston had several puncture wounds to his chest and a laceration on the right side of his neck. He was extremely combative with paramedics, and had to be restrained with handcuffs and stretcher straps, then ultimately paralytic drugs, before being transported to the hospital. Firefighters also found Katherine in the kitchen. She was found with a hole in the side of her head, and was dead weight upon being brought out of the house. Toxicology screening showed no evidence of carbon monoxide or cyanide in her blood stream. Goldie Hurtt, who had previously suffered three strokes and a heart attack, was found incapacitated in an upstairs bedroom and was removed safely from the house. In the kitchen, police found a large amount of blood in front of the refrigerator. Two knives were found in the kitchen. Sheets and bedding materials were found on the floors and counters. Four days after the fire, the Hairston family dog was found covered by debris in the basement and tied to a pole. Police interviewed Hairston at the hospital where, because he was wearing an oxygen mask, he could communicate only by indicating simple yes or no responses. Hairston indicated that he knew who started the fire, that he killed his wife, and that his motivation for the killing and the fire were the impending charges against him. Hairston also indicated that those charges against him were untrue. On June 19, 2001, police again interviewed Hairston. He gave both an oral and a taped statement. He explained that he wrapped a ten-pound sledgehammer in a pillowcase and intentionally struck his wife with it from behind as she sat on their bed. He struck her a second time, then dragged her from their first-floor sleeping area into the kitchen. Hairston also confessed that, minutes later, he struck his son Sean with the sledgehammer twice. After hearing moans in the kitchen, he struck Katherine again with the weapon. Hairston stated that he left the house with the weapon, drove to a local bar, where he consumed two double-shots and two beers, then discarded the sledgehammer in a wooded area. Hairston then drove home and poured gasoline over the basement floor. According to Hairston, flames from the water heater ignited the gasoline before he was ready to ignite them. He then got a knife, stabbed himself twice in the chest, and then lay down next to his wife's body. Hairston went on to explain that he intentionally piled items throughout the house to ensure that the fire indeed killed everyone: “I just wanted to make sure that we were gone.” Hairston then revealed to police the location of the sledgehammer, which tested positive for blood. Hairston was charged with two counts of criminal homicide. He was appointed counsel, and his jury trial began on April 15, 2002. On April 17, 2002, the jury convicted Hairston on both counts of first-degree murder. At the close of the penalty phase, Hairston was sentenced to death for each murder conviction.2 The trial court formally imposed sentence on July 11, 2002. *There are still appeals 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
October 20, 2010 Pennsylvania Scott Wertz  Cletus Rivera stayed 
On August 6, 2006, Scott Wertz and Malcolm Eddinger were working as plainclothes police officers in the auto theft task force of the Reading Police Department. At approximately 2:00 a.m., the officers observed a large crowd in the parking lot of a Getty Mart, located at Eighth and Walnut Streets in the City of Reading. Moments later, a radio broadcast from dispatch informed the officers of a fight at that location, and advised that one individual threatened to shoot another. Having failed to observe any actual fighting, the officers pulled over their unmarked vehicle so that they could continue to view the crowd. While in their car, the officers heard what they believed to be a firecracker or small caliber gunshot. As they did not want to approach the group of individuals in plainclothes, and Officer Wertz was wearing shorts, they remained in their vehicle and waited for uniformed officers to arrive. Officer Eddinger then heard three or four gunshots, which he believed were fired from a large caliber gun in the parking lot. Officer Wertz thereafter stated, “The guy in the blue shirt.” At that moment, Officer Eddinger observed a man wearing a blue polo shirt, who was later identified as Cletus Rivera, walk out of the parking lot and place an object into his waistband. Officer Wertz jumped out of his vehicle and Officer Eddinger followed. Officer Eddinger observed Rivera stop in front of a home at 142 North Eighth Street to speak with five or six people. Unbeknownst to Rivera, Officer Wertz ran up behind Rivera and stopped within a foot of him. Rivera then turned around and stood face-to-face with Officer Wertz for a few seconds before Rivera ran south on Eighth Street. While Officer Eddinger did not see their lips moving during the brief face-to-face encounter, it looked as though Rivera and Officer Wertz had spoken by the way they were standing. Without drawing his weapon, Officer Wertz ran down the sidewalk and chased Rivera. Officer Eddinger followed, running parallel to them in the middle of the street. At no time during the chase did Officer Eddinger hear Officer Wertz identify himself as a police officer or direct Rivera to stop. As the pursuit continued, Officer Eddinger saw Rivera turn and look over his left shoulder. He then heard two gunshots, saw two muzzle flashes, and saw both Officer Wertz and Rivera fall to the ground. Officer Eddinger immediately ran over to Rivera, grabbed him by the collar, and put his knee on Rivera's back to apprehend him. A firearm was found under Rivera on the street. Once Rivera was handcuffed, Officer Eddinger called out to Officer Wertz, who did not respond. When Officer Eddinger approached him, Officer Wertz had blood coming from his mouth and was not moving. Moments after the incident, several officers noted that Officer Wertz's gun was strapped inside its holster, which was attached to Officer Wertz's belt. Further, an asp baton, which is a law enforcement instrument used for self-protection, was recovered on the street in close proximity to where Officer Wertz's body lay. At 2:30 a.m., Officer Wertz was pronounced dead. Dr. Neil Hoffman subsequently performed an autopsy, which revealed that Officer Wertz had been hit by two bullets, one penetrating the left side of his chest, and the other striking him in the perineum. According to forensic expert Kurt Tempinski, chemical testing demonstrated that the shot which struck Officer Wertz in the chest had been fired from a distance of four feet. The bullet which struck Officer Wertz in the perineum had been fired when the muzzle of the weapon was either touching or was within three inches of the fabric of the officer's shorts. This evidence led Dr. Hoffman to conclude that Rivera first shot Officer Wertz in the chest, causing him to fall forward, bringing him in close contact with Rivera, who then fired a second time. Prior to trial, Rivera filed a motion to preclude the Commonwealth from introducing evidence of his several prior juvenile convictions. On August 30, 2007, the trial court entered an order denying such motion. Rivera's trial commenced on August 4, 2008. The Commonwealth's primary witness was Officer Eddinger, who testified as to his observations of the surveillance of the Getty Mart parking lot, the subsequent chase of Rivera, the shots that ultimately killed Officer Wertz, and the apprehension of Rivera. Relevant to this appeal, on cross-examination, the trial court sustained the Commonwealth's objection when defense counsel asked Officer Eddinger whether he held any sense of guilt or responsibility based upon what took place on the night of the murder. The trial court again sustained the Commonwealth's objection when defense counsel asked Officer Eddinger whether he wanted to see Rivera put to death. The Commonwealth further presented the testimony of additional police officers who responded to the murder scene. Germane to an issue raised by Rivera, criminal investigator Judith Wise testified that on the night in question, she responded to a radio transmission reporting that an officer was in distress. When she learned that Officer Wertz had been shot, she described looking for witnesses as the large crowd was dispersing. Detective Wise stated that she realized that no witnesses would be willing to give statements to the police when someone in the crowd shouted, “F**k the cops, f**k you all.” Additionally, the Commonwealth presented the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Jason Ott, who stated that while in his jail cell, Rivera confessed that he shot an officer and would get away with it because there were fifty or sixty people at the scene. ivera testified on his own behalf, asserting that he fired his weapon in self-defense. He explained that he was in the Getty Mart parking lot when he saw an unidentified Hispanic man in a black shirt, standing approximately ten feet from Rivera's friends, pull out a gun and point it at them. Fearing that the man was going to harm his friends, Rivera stated that he fired his own weapon into the air four or five times to “break everything up.” Moments later, according to Rivera, a different man, whom he did not recognize, ran toward him. Rivera asserted that the man never identified himself as a police officer, never shouted for him to stop, and never stated that he was under arrest. He testified that he saw a dark object in the hand of the man chasing him, which looked like a gun. Believing that he was going to be shot, Rivera stated that he twice fired his gun at the man. Rivera testified that he did not know that the man chasing him was a police officer until after he fired his weapon and heard someone say, “police officer down.” On cross-examination, Rivera admitted that he had no license to carry a firearm; that he had stolen the gun he had fired on the night of the murder; and that he intended to cause serious bodily injury or death to the person chasing him. He further testified that there was nothing preventing him from continuing to run from his pursuer, but that he fired his weapon because he thought he was going to be shot. Additionally, while still on direct examination, Rivera, who was twenty-four years old at the time of the murder in 2006, and twenty-six years-old at the time of trial, described his prior juvenile criminal history. This criminal history included:  (1) a July 20, 1995 adjudication of delinquency for robbery, theft, and receiving stolen property for stealing a bike from another individual, which occurred when Rivera was 13; (2) a separate July 20, 1995 adjudication of delinquency for stealing a bike from a garage; (3) an October 1, 1996 adjudication of delinquency for conspiring to commit theft by stealing clothing from a clothesline; (4) an April 7, 1997 adjudication of delinquency for stealing a game system and other items from a residence; and (5) an August 21, 1997 adjudication for theft for stealing a bike. After the parties presented closing arguments, the trial court charged the jury on the elements of first degree murder, third degree murder, unreasonable belief voluntary manslaughter, as well as the law relating to the affirmative defense of self-defense. Having resolved conflicts in the testimony in favor of the Commonwealth, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of first degree murder, aggravated assault, firearms not to be carried without a license, and possessing instruments of crime. The penalty phase of the trial was thereafter conducted wherein the Commonwealth presented evidence in support of three aggravating circumstances, namely, that the victim was a police officer who was killed in the performance of his duties, that Rivera created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the offense, and that Rivera had a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to the person. Defense counsel presented evidence in support of the mitigating circumstance of the age of the defendant at the time of the crime (twenty-four), and “any other evidence of mitigation concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of his offense.” Relevant to an issue raised herein, during penalty phase closing argument, the prosecutor reiterated Investigator Wise's trial testimony that “associates of Rivera and the other people that were there” shouted at the crime scene, “F**k you all, f**k the cops.” Defense counsel did not object during the prosecutor's closing or immediately thereafter. Instead, after completing his own closing argument and following a fifteen-minute recess, defense counsel requested a cautionary instruction on the ground that the quoted reference did not reflect Rivera's state of mind or his attitude toward police. The trial court emphasized that the prosecutor's comment was based on testimony given during the guilt phase of trial, and that defense counsel could have objected thereto. Ultimately, the court indicated that it would see if it could “work something in” the penalty phase jury charge at the appropriate point. The final charge given to the jury did not include a reference to the challenged remark. On August 13, 2008, after the penalty phase of the trial had been concluded, the jury returned a verdict of death. It found two aggravating circumstances:  that the victim was a police officer who was killed in the performance of his duties;  and that Rivera created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the offense. The jury concluded that these two aggravating circumstances outweighed the one mitigating circumstance found, regarding other mitigation evidence concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of his offense pursuant to the catchall mitigator. On that same date, Rivera was formally sentenced to death for first degree murder, with consecutive sentences imposed for the remaining convictions. *There are still appeals 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
October 20, 2010 Missouri Ann Harrison, 15  Roderick Nunley stayed 
Roderick Nunley testified that he and Michael Taylor spent the night of March 21, 1989, using drugs and stealing a car. While driving the stolen car on the morning of March 22, the two men saw a fifteen-year-old girl, Ann Harrison, waiting for her school bus. Taylor stated that he wanted to steal the girl's purse. Nunley stopped the car. Taylor grabbed Ann Harrison and forced her into the car. Nunley drove the car to his mother's house. The two men took Ann Harrison out of the car. They forced her to crawl down to the basement. Taylor raped her. At some point, Nunley gave Taylor some lubricant to facilitate the rape. After the rape, the two men forced Ann Harrison into the car and tied her up. The two men decided to kill her to prevent her from identifying them. Nunley retrieved two knives from the kitchen. Both men stabbed her.   The men drove the car to a nearby neighborhood and parked the car, leaving the dying girl in the trunk.   She died of multiple stab wounds. After a hearing, the trial judge sentenced Nunley to death for the murder count and to consecutive terms of fifteen years for the kidnapping count, life for the forcible rape count and ten years for the armed criminal action.  UPDATE: A stay was issued by a federal judge to allow a challenge that the sentence should have been determined by a jury instead of a judge.
 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 21, 2010 Pennsylvania Porchia Bennett, 3  Jerry Chambers stayed 
Tiffany Bennett had five daughters: Alexus (born in 1993), Iyonnah (born in 1994), Aliyaha (born in 1996), Priscilla (born in 1999) and Porchia (born in 2000). In December 1994, Iyonnah suffered brain injuries from being shaken while in the care of a babysitter. A DHS investigation concluded that Tiffany Bennett and Oliver Bynum, Jr., the father of Iyonnah and Alexus, were “perpetrators by omission,” and therefore Iyonnah was permanently placed with an adoptive family. Tiffany Bennett and Oliver Bynum, Jr. subsequently separated. In 1997, DHS determined that Tiffany Bennett, a substance abuser who did not provide her children with necessary medical attention, posed a risk of serious harm to her children. Tiffany Bennett compounded this risk by actively avoiding contact with DHS. On May 30, 1997, DHS petitioned family court to rule Alexus and Aliyaha dependent children because Tiffany Bennett was not cooperating with DHS in implementing a plan for their care. On June 4, 1997, the family court deferred adjudication of dependency but ordered DHS supervision of Alexus and Aliyaha. In December 1997, the family court learned Alexus was living in North Carolina with her father and ordered DHS to assess her situation. The North Carolina Department of Social Services visited Alexus in her new home and provided DHS with a positive report. The family court then discharged Alexus’ dependency petition on February 19, 1998. In July 1998, Aliyaha was temporarily committed to DHS and placed in foster care for two days because Tiffany Bennett was expelled from the shelter where they had been living. The family court returned Aliyaha to her mother and ordered Tiffany Bennett to enter another shelter, undergo a mental health evaluation, and cooperate with DHS. Tiffany Bennett and Aliyaha lived at the Salvation Army Shelter from August 1998 until May 1999. During that stay, Priscilla was born in January 1999. On May 10, 1999, Tiffany Bennett left the Salvation Army Shelter with Priscilla and Aliyaha. Two days later, DHS social worker Yolanda Grant learned of Tiffany Bennett’s unauthorized departure from the shelter. On June 1, 1999, Grant checked the Department of Public Administration’s computer records and discovered that Tiffany Bennett’s DPA benefits were still being sent to the Salvation Army Shelter. In an effort to locate Tiffany Bennett, Grant spoke with a DPA representative who confirmed that Bennett’s benefits would be terminated on June 10, 1999, and that if Tiffany Bennett contacted DPA for benefit reinstatement she would be told she must first contact DHS. However, when Tiffany Bennett sought benefit reinstatement, DPA allowed her to reinstate her benefits without contacting DHS. Grant made several other efforts to locate Tiffany Bennett, including: (1) contacting Priscilla’s pediatrician; (2) visiting a former address; (3) speaking with a social worker who had worked with Tiffany Bennett at the Salvation Army Shelter and who had spoken with Tiffany Bennett’s mother, Dale Geiger; and (4) trying to contact Dale Geiger and Alexus’ father by telephone. On September 14, 1999, DHS petitioned family court to discharge DHS supervision and the dependency petition for Aliyaha. At the hearing, the child advocate objected based on concern for Aliyaha’s safety. Judge James Murray Lynn refused to terminate DHS’ involvement and stated, “I don’t want [this case] just sitting on a desk somewhere. I want to see work done. I want people to continue to look . . . . I want DHS to vigilantly look for the baby [Aliyaha]. When they get the baby, I want them to take the baby.” By early 1999, Alexus and her father had returned to Philadelphia, where Alexus attended public school. She lived with her paternal grandfather for a period of time, before returning to her mother’s control. In March 2003, Tiffany Bennett directed Alexus’ school not to permit contact between Alexus and her grandfather. In November 1999, the Bennett DHS case was reassigned to social worker Iris Dejesus. On the case assignment sheet, social work supervisor Patricia Wilson wrote, “If you cannot locate family by Nov. 14 [1999] request an early listing for discharge of this case, again, as floater SW [social worker] did. If you do locate family, J. Lynn made an order to take Aliyaha into DHS custody!!!” Dejesus did not try to locate the Bennetts until late March of 2000. On March 27, 2000, Dejesus sent search letters to the Department of Public Welfare and to the Office of Services to the Homeless and Adults. On April 17, 2000, Dejesus checked DPA’s computer records and learned that Tiffany Bennett was receiving DPA benefits at a Grandsback Street address in Philadelphia. That same day, Dejesus visited the Grandsback Street address, but the house appeared abandoned. On April 18, 2000, DHS again petitioned family court to discharge DHS supervision and Aliyaha’s dependency petition because the “family is unable to be located.” The child advocate did not object, and DHS supervision and the dependency petition were discharged by agreement. In late 1999, Tiffany Bennett and her daughters began living periodically with Dale Geiger. Porchia was born on July 7, 2000. The Bennett sisters were exposed to unsuitable, unstable living conditions and to unfit care givers. For example, Jayson Chambers, a convicted child sex offender, was a babysitter for the Bennett sisters. Beginning in the fall of 2002, Tiffany Bennett paid Jerry Chambers, who suffered from a schizoaffective bipolar type disorder and a history of drug and alcohol abuse, fifty to eighty dollars per week to look after her children. With rare visits from their mother, the four Bennett sisters lived with Jerry Chambers and his girlfriend, Candace Geiger, who was Tiffany Bennett’s younger sister. Through its telephone hotline, DHS received a report at 7:25 p.m. on August 14, 2003 that Jerry Chambers beat the Bennett sisters. The hotline report was classified as a General Protective Services report, which applies to allegations of neglect, and a DHS social worker was required to respond within twenty-four hours. During the morning of August 15, 2003, DHS social worker Joe Maiden was assigned to investigate the hotline report. Maiden reported that he visited the Bennett sisters’ home twice on August 16, 2003, leaving a note at the first visit, and once on August 17, 2003, but he never got a response at the door. The facts surrounding Maiden’s response to the hotline report are disputed, but the parties agree that Maiden did not respond as he reported in his case progress notes. On August 17, 2003 at approximately 1p.m., emergency personnel rushed a brutally beaten Porchia to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Alexus described the events leading to Porchia’s death as follows. SHE STATED THAT ON SATURDAY PORTIA GOT A BEATING FROM JERRY WITH AN EXTENSION CORD. SHE STATED THAT PORTIA’S WOUNDS WERE SO SEVERE THAT SHE COULD NOT LAY DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP. JERRY BEAT HER AGAIN FOR MAKING NOISE. HE PICKED HER UP AND SLAMMED HER TO THE FLOOR IN THE CORNER. HE TOLD HER TO STAND UP IN THE CORNER ALL NIGHT BUT THE SLAM TO THE FLOOR HAD INJURED HER LEG AND SHE COULD NOT STAND UP. HE THEN CHOKED AND KICKED HER. SHE STATED THAT THEY ALL WENT TO SLEEP AND IN THE MORNING THEY FOUND PORTIS WEDGED BETWEEN THE MATTRESS AND THE RADIATOR. “WE COULD NOT WAKE HER.” Porchia’s cause of death was listed as multiple blunt trauma, asphyxia and inanition. Porchia’s autopsy revealed malnourishment, laceration of the liver, “multiple blunt force injuries to the head, chest, abdomen, back and extremities,” and “multiple scars and healing injuries of varying ages from past episodes of blunt force injuries to head, trunk and extremities.” Alexus, Aliyaha and Priscilla were admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (“CHOP”), and they were given admission and discharge diagnoses of child abuse. Alexus had facial injuries, a fractured eye socket, bruised and swollen eyes, scabbed-over back lesions, and scars on her buttocks. Aliyaha and Priscilla also had scars, lesions, and bruises. In relation to Porchia’s death, Jerry Chambers was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death and seventy-three to one hundred forty-six years in prison. Candace Geiger was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to seventeen to thirty-four years in prison. Tiffany Bennett was convicted of conspiracy and endangering the welfare of her children, and she was sentenced to twenty to forty years in prison. A DHS Employee Violation Report was filed on Maiden for his activities related to the Bennett hotline report. The report stated that Maiden was being disciplined for failing to make reasonable efforts to access the Bennetts’ home, for failing to notify his supervisors that he did not make the required home visit within twenty-four hours, and for making false and misleading representations regarding his response to the hotline report. Maiden resigned before DHS could proceed with its disciplinary process. Since August 2003, Alexus, Aliyaha and Priscilla have required a variety of mental health services, and they remain severely traumatized. *There are still appeals 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
October 21, 2010 Texas Grady Alexander, 80
Bessie Alexander, 86  
Larry Wooten executed 
On September 3, 1996, Larry Wayne Wooten murdered 80-year-old Grady Alexander and his 86-year-old wife Bessie by stabbing each several times and cutting their throats. Trial testimony revealed that Grady had been hit over the head with an iron skillet and beaten with the butt of a gun. Bessie was beaten with a pistol with such force that the grips and portions of the trigger mechanism of the pistol broke off. Both were nearly decapitated. Motive for Wooten’s crime was to rob the couple of less than $600 in cash. The Alexanders lived a quiet life but depended on others for help at home and on errands. Wooten, who was one of the people who helped the couple manage their lives, knew they kept cash in their home testimony revealed. On the Sunday night after Wooten had savagely murdered the Alexanders, he went on a cocaine binge with a woman who testified that when she encountered Wooten, he was wearing blue-striped overalls and that  he took a ‘wad of money’ out of the front pocket of those overalls. She testified further that there was blood on the overalls, and Wooten had blood on his hands and fingernails. DNA evidence matched to Wooten, including blood found on the couple's kitchen floor. Police recovered Wooten's overalls that were stained with Grady Alexander's blood. Evidence in the penalty phase of the trial showed Wooten was violent towards women. In 1982, he pled guilty of trying to rape a 73-year-old woman in Paris, Texas. In 1984 he tried it again with the same woman. He was also a person of interest in the murder of another elderly woman in Paris who was killed a couple of weeks before the Alexanders. UPDATE: Larry Wooten was executed with no mention of his victims during his brief final statement.
  

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