August 2001 Executions

Six killers were executed in August 2001. They had murdered at least 11 people.
Two killers were given a stay in August 2001. They have murdered at least 2 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 8, 2001 Texas Donald Franklin Johnson, 43
Bob Murray
Mack Hill executed
Mack Hill was convicted of the March 3, 1987 murder of Donald Johnson during a robbery in Bowie, Texas. Donald knew then 35-year-old Mack HIll and had been partners with Hill in several failed businesses. Donald was shot in the head once with a.25-caliber pistol and his body was found in a 55-gallon drum, wrapped in plastic and then covered with concrete and dumped in a lake. The barrel was found by a game warden several months later. Hill was seen with Donald’s truck and camper trailer after Donald’s disappearance, and also had sold stolen items from Donald’s paint and body shop at a flea market. Hill had a previous conviction for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and had served less than four years of a twelve year sentence and was on parole when Donald was murdered. Hill’s accomplice received a 20 year sentence for robbery. Hill had previously killed Bob Murray, the father of his estranged wife. He was murdered on December 20, 1978. Bob was shot to death, wrapped in a blanket tied with belts and dropped in a well. His body was not found until August 11, 1981.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 15, 2001 Texas John Luttig, 63 Napolean Beazley stayed
Napolean Beazley and 2 friends spotted John Luttig’s Mercedes Benz on the night of April 19, 1994, and followed it to the Luttig home in an affluent neighborhood of this East Texas city of 75,000. The plan was to steal the car and sell it to a Dallas "chop shop." Luttig pulled into his garage and got out of the car. Beazley shot the 63-year-old man twice in the head with a.45-caliber handgun. Bobbie Luttig dropped face down on the garage floor to hide. She could see her husband bleeding on the pavement. She thought she was going to die. Speeding from the Luttigs’ home, Beazley damaged the car and abandoned it on a nearby street. The 3 men, Beazley and brothers Cedrick and Donald Coleman, fled back to their home town of Grapeland, about 70 miles southwest of Tyler. A year later, the Colemans were in prison and Beazley was on death row. The Luttigs’ son helped put them there. "Words seem trite in describing what follows when your… father is stripped away from your life: the despair, the chaos, the confusion, the sense — perhaps temporary, perhaps not — that one’s life has no further purpose," his son, J. Michael Luttig, said at the Colemans’ trial. He would give similar, lengthy testimony in Beazley’s capital murder trial. It might have just been another mid-’90s carjacking turned deadly if Michael Luttig was not one of the most influential judges on one of the most influential federal appeals courts in the country — and one of the toughest appeals court when it comes to death penalty cases. Sitting on the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1991, Luttig is apparently the only living federal judge whose father had been slain. At the federal hijacking trial of the Colemans, Luttig addressed the judge and described how difficult it was to receive word from a close friend that his father was dead… "realizing at that very moment, at that very moment that the man you have worshipped all your life is lying on his back in your driveway with two bullets through his head. It is thinking the unthinkable that perhaps the act was in retaliation for something you had done in your own job," said Luttig. "On behalf of my dad and on behalf of my mother and family I respectfully request that those who committed this brutal crime receive the full punishment that the law provides," Luttig said. Luttig made similar remarks in Beazley’s capital murder trial in state court, but did not ask for the death penalty. Shortly after the death penalty was imposed, he was quoted by the media as saying, "There’s no one in my family that’s happy about what occurred today." However, he also said: "Individuals must be held accountable at some point for actions such as this. I thought this was an appropriate case for the death penalty."… A quicker red light, a longer green, a wrong turn and John Luttig and Napolean Beazley might never have met. Luttig, born in Pittsburgh, was a Korean War veteran. He married, and raised a son and daughter. He was a petroleum engineer for Atlantic Richfield and then he went into business for himself, supervising wells across the country. In his private life, he was an elder at Tyler’s First Presbyterian Church and vice moderator of the Grace Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., said the Rev. Dick Ramsey, former pastor of the church. Luttig had also served on the Tyler Planning Zoning Commission. "John was a great guy, he really was," said Jim Rippy a friend and fellow oil man. "He was a gentlemen in everything he did — outgoing, he had kind of a nice wit about him and he had a good relationship with everybody here." As part of a Christmas present to his wife, Luttig enrolled Bobbie in a night class at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she was studying for a master of divinity degree, Ramsey said. On the night he died, Luttig had driven her to Dallas for the 6 p.m. class, waited for her, then they drove home. Napolean Beazley, 17, was the president of his senior class. The starting running back for the Grapeland High School Sandies his last season and a 440-relay track runner, Beazley was headed for the Marine Corps after high school. Then, about 47 days after Luttig was killed, a tip led police to Grapeland. 2 weeks after Beazley graduated 13th out of his class of 60, he was arrested and charged with murder. About 47 days elapsed between the slaying and Beazley’s arrest. "He was well-known… he had plenty of friends and he did a lot of good things in his life," his father, Ireland Beazley, said. The senior Beazley is a steel worker and city councilman in Grapeland which has a population of 1,468. His wife, Rena, was the secretary to the county judge. Beazley said that, in addition to football and track, his son played baseball and lifted weights competitively. The Beazleys were proud of Napolean. They did not know he was leading a secret life. On April 19, Beazley took his mother’s red Ford Probe and wound up in Tyler with the Colemans. Beazley, a crack dealer armed with a.45-caliber handgun, was looking for a car to hijack. "I went to school, I went to Sunday school every Sunday, I walked old ladies across the street — all that stuff," said Beazley, interviewed on Texas’ death row. He said he wasn’t using crack at the time of the murder and he wasn’t drunk, either. So, what happened? "A lot of people ask that question. I ask myself that question, too," said Beazley. "I can’t really explain it to you, because it would always seem like a justification. When you lay it all out… it can come out as a justification and, for me, there is no justification for what happened." With an appeal pending, there is much about the crime that he cannot discuss. "I don’t admit anything…. I don’t say anything about it. Let the evidence speak for itself. The testimony mostly came from those 2 guys who were also involved in the crime." The Coleman brothers, who received life sentences, testified against Beazley. Beazley does not deny he was there. "They had a bloody footprint from my shoe, they had a palm print on the body of the car that came from me." And, he says, "I don’t blame my family, I don’t blame my friends, I don’t blame society, I can’t blame a federal judge. I don’t blame anybody else for being here but me." During his trial, Beazley remembers Judge Luttig testifying. He said he felt sorry for him for losing his father. He has not tried to contact the family and apologize for fear of hurting them further, he said. "They’re going through their own pain right now and I don’t want to add to that. If I could alleviate it, if I could take it away from them, then I would." Beazley paused when asked if given the chance to talk to Michael Luttig what would he say? "What can you say to somebody in that situation? No words could comfort him, not coming from me, anyway. I don’t think I would say anything. I think I would, for once, just listen. What would I do if somebody murdered my daddy? How would I feel?" He said he is not sure.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 16, 2001 Texas Jerry Dean, 80
Sylvia Dean, 75
Maria Lozano, 75
Jeffery Doughtie executed
Convicted killer Jeffrey Carlton Doughtie in 1999 dropped his options for appeals and requested that he be executed. Doughtie, who said he wanted to be an example to kids of the results of drug use, told state District Judge Joaquin Villarreal III he was ready to die. "I’m not crazy," Doughtie said. "I want it done with." Susan Nix, great-niece of 2 of Doughtie’s victims, said she was relieved and upset by his request. "His doing this grandstanding only causes more pain for our family," Nix said. "He’s seeking glory. I am personally angry about his wanting to be a role model. I don’t really think anyone who brutally kills three elderly people can ever be a role model," she said. Doughtie waived his appeal options in federal court and then told Villarreal in state court that he appreciated the way the court has treated him. The judge then ordered a March 25, 1999 execution date. Doughtie promised when the Texas Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1997 he would volunteer to be executed. The drug-addicted transient went on a crime spree in 1993 in Corpus Christi, first killing an elderly couple who sold antiques, then strangling and bludgeoning to death a 75-year-old woman. He was convicted of capital murder in both cases and was sentenced to die for the deaths of Jerry and Sylvia Dean, who owned Golden Antiques and Collectibles. A customer came into the store on Aug. 2, 1993, and found the couple unconscious and lying in pools of blood. Jerry Dean, 80, died hours after the attack. His wife, Sylvia, 75, lingered in a coma for 25 days before she died. In a written confession, Doughtie said he beat the couple, whom he had known for several years, when they refused to loan him $30. He stole money and jewelry from the store, including Sylvia’s wedding ring. He was also convicted for the Aug. 22, 1993, slaying of 75-year-old Maria Lozano, who was bludgeoned with a perfume bottle and strangled in her Corpus Christi home. Last fall, Doughtie wrote a letter requesting an April execution, but said Wednesday he wanted to move up the date. "I have a friend in Germany. She’s coming over and I’d just as soon get it over with," Doughtie said. Then, less than a week away from his scheduled execution, Doughtie asked for and received a delay in his execution. Susan Nix, great-niece of the Deans, said she had planned to attend Doughtie’s execution in Huntsville and was disappointed with his decision. He is further hurting his victims’ families, she said. "I am by no means surprised," she said. "I had a feeling this wouldn’t take place this soon. He does seem to be on some self-satisfied glory trip." Nix said that when she was called to Spohn Memorial Hospital in 1993, she believed her aunt and uncle had been in a car accident. Sylvia Dean had poor eyesight and had been in minor accidents before, she said. At the hospital, she watched Jerry Dean die. Nix said her grief has since mellowed, but she is ready to see Doughtie pay the ultimate price for his crimes. "I’ve already made peace," she said. "But I saw the results of what he did to 2 very good people." UPDATE: Convicted killer Jeffery Doughtie was executed Thursday for using a metal pipe to fatally beat an elderly couple at their Corpus Christi antiques shop after they refused to give him money to support his $400-a-day drug habit. "For about nine years, I’ve thought about the death penalty, if it’s right or wrong. I don’t have the answer. But I don’t think this world is a safer place without me in it," Doughtie said while strapped to the gurney in the death chamber. He said the punishment should have been carried out much sooner. "Killing me now ain’t hurting me. It gave me time to say goodbye to my family," he said. He looked toward some friends watching through a nearby window, expressed love and thanked them.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 24, 2001 North Carolina Kimberly Ewing, 28 Clifton White executed
Clifton White was sentenced to death on February 4, 1994 for the 1989 stabbing death of Kimberly Ewing. Prosecutors said he slipped into Kimberly’s house on Plainview Road off Freedom Drive and waited for her in the dark. Then he ambushed her, striking her with a fireplace shovel. he ambushed Kimberly Ewing of Charlotte, the young mother of a 7-year-old, in Ewing’s house. The 28-year-old Charlotte woman was tied up, sexually assaulted and her throat was slashed six times with a paring knife. His attorneys said White was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the murder and that he should be given life without parole because he was abused as a child and battled a drug addiction as an adult. "Those things had an effect on him." He was also sentenced to 120 years in prison for robbery with a dangerous weapon, burglary and kidnapping and ten years for auto larceny. UPDATE:
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 28, 2001 Oklahoma Shelley Deann Ellison, 17
Donald Gary Epperson
Jack Dale Walker executed
Jack Dale Walker, 35, is scheduled to be executed Aug. 28 for the 1988 murders of his girlfriend, Shelley Deann Ellison, and her uncle, Donald Gary Epperson. He fatally stabbed 17-year-old Shelly and her uncle Donald Epperson at their home near Bixby in Tulsa County. He was convicted in 1989. Ellison had an infant son who was fathered by Walker, and the stabbings occurred after an argument about custody. Ellison was cut and stabbed at least 32 times, and Epperson had 11 wounds. Walker received 2 death sentences plus prison sentences totaling 40 years for felony assaults involving other family members of Ellison’s. UPDATE – Jack Dale Walker was executed by lethal injection almost 13 years after he stabbed his estranged girlfriend and her uncle to death. Several members of the victims’ families watched the execution, including some who witnessed the vicious attack by Walker at a mobile home in Bixby, a Tulsa suburb. Shelly Ellison and Donald Epperson suffered deep wounds from a hunting knife wielded by Walker, 35, on Dec. 30, 1988. Ellison, 17-year-old mother of Walker’s 3-month-old son, suffered 32 stab wounds. Epperson was stabbed 11 times. During 20 minutes of terror that began about 8 a.m., Ellison broke free to dial 911. "I need help. He’s stabbing me. I’m dead. Please," she told the dispatcher. Children were yelling and a baby could be heard crying in the background. Juanita Epperson, mother of Donald Epperson, also was severely stabbed, but survived. At a clemency hearing, Walker apologized to the victims’ family "for all the pain I’ve caused them and for this whole ordeal that has been tragic for a lot of people." His plea for a life sentence was rejected after several family members gave eyewitness accounts of the vicious attack and said Walker had been violent in the past and would be a continuing threat. Walker, the product of a broken home, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Unlike many convicted murderers, Walker had no felony convictions, but was prone toward violence, according to Ellison’s relatives. He was only 22 when he went to the Bixby home to try to persuade his girlfriend to leave with him by threatening suicide. But on a police tape immediately after his arrest, Walker said he went to the home with "the full intention of either taking the baby or murdering her or whoever got in the way." Walker’s son, now 13, wrote a letter to the clemency board in support of his father’s execution. "Sometimes I think about what life would be like if my mom were alive, but then I come to my senses and realize that was destroyed by one man, Jack Walker," wrote Joshua Ellison, who has been adopted by his maternal grandparents. "I think Jack Walker should pay for what he did to my mother. I think he should die for taking my mom away from me." Walker said he hopes his son will forgive him when he is older.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 28, 2001 Washington Bertha Lush
Eloise Jane Fitzner, 47
James Elledge executed
As a young man, James Homer Elledge went to prison in Santa Fe, N.M., for robbing a Western Union office, where he also kidnapped a female attendant. After his parole, he wound up in Seattle in 1974, where he killed Seattle motel manager Bertha Lush by beating her to death with a ball-peen hammer, in an argument over his bill. In the years that followed, he won parole 3 times, most recently in August 1995. The 55-year-old Everett man surrendered to police in Tacoma three days after stabbing and strangling Eloise Jane Fitzner, 47, in a church basement on April 18, 1998. Elledge promised gifts and dinner to lure his victims to the basement of The Lighthouse church in Lynnwood, where he worked as a custodian. Once there, Elledge pulled a large knife and ordered the women not to scream or he would slit their throats. Both women were bound with rope, blindfolded and their mouths taped shut. The 39-year-old woman said she could hear Eloise struggling and Elledge dragging something from the room. The woman said Elledge told her he had "taken care of" Eloise, because she interfered with his attempts to get close to her. Elledge then took the 39-year-old woman to his mobile home in Everett, where she was sexually assaulted. He released her the next morning, and she reported the abduction and attack to Seattle police. Eloise’s body later was found in the church basement. An autopsy showed she could have survived the stab wound to her neck had she not been strangled. Elledge called the Tacoma Police Department’s homicide division at 9:30 a.m. three days after the murder to say he wanted to surrender and was staying at a motel. When the detectives pulled into the parking lot, Elledge walked out with his hands up. Earlier the same day, Tacoma police found Eloise’s car, which Elledge had stolen after he killed her. People who know Elledge said they were stunned by these events. Former Lynnwood City Council member Bill Hubbard roomed with Elledge between January and March 1997, when he lived at the same Lynnwood apartments as Eloise. "Eloise lived two floors above us," Hubbard said. "She was a very sweet person…active in her church at University Presbyterian Church." Elledge often did repair work at Eloise’s apartment but never accepted payment, Hubbard said. Hubbard said he knew of Elledge’s murder conviction and talked with a church elder at The Lighthouse before allowing Elledge to move in. Elledge proved to be a responsible roommate and confided in Hubbard about his past, Hubbard said. Hubbard said Elledge told him his sister had died when he was young. He also told Hubbard that his wife died in the 1960s while trying to help someone in a car crash and that their 2 girls were raised by relatives. "Jim just never quite recovered from that whole thing," Hubbard said. In March 1997, Elledge’s daughter died, but he wasn’t able to attend the funeral services because he didn’t have the money to travel to the South, Hubbard said Elledge told him. "Considering everything he’d been through, he was showing signs of progress and mainstreaming back into society," said Hubbard, adding that he hadn’t seen Elledge for several months. Elledge later confessed that he walked into the basement of the church with precut sections of nylon rope and plans to kill a woman he simply didn’t like. Elledge admitted he was carrying a large, folding knife and a long-simmering grudge against Eloise. In a tape-recorded statement to police, Elledge admitted purchasing rope, and precutting it into sections for binding the wrists and ankles of Eloise, and another woman, 39, from Seattle. The longtime convict, who is on parole for the 1975 beating murder of another woman, also described in detail how he used his knife to threaten Eloise and the Seattle woman into silence, and then tying them up. "The defendant told police that Fitzner did not attack him or resist him in any way," according to court papers. "He said that ‘She… she was trying…she was trying to cooperate. But she didn’t know what she was cooperating for." The Seattle woman has told police she was abducted to Elledge’s Everett mobile home, sexually assaulted and later set free. Prosecuting Attorney Jim Krider said before the trial, "So far, the criminal justice system has failed the public in protecting the from Mr. Elledge." The task for prosecutors now is to make sure "that the system does not fail again," he added. Elledge has prior convictions for robbery and 1st-degree murder for beating a Seattle motel owner to death in 1975. The woman he killed roughly 2 decades ago was struck 28 times with a ball-peen hammer, according to court papers. Eloise’s killing and the other woman’s abduction touched of a brief, but intense, manhunt for Elledge. He surrendered to Tacoma police after trying at least twice to commit suicide in his hotel room, according to court papers. Elledge told the police that he killed Eloise because he was angry with her for meddling in his relationship with his wife about a year ago. On the taped statement he gave police Elledge can be heard admitting that because of something he describes as ‘evil’ in his nature, he is sometimes filled with rage he can’t control. UPDATE: James Elledge was executed early this morning at the Washington State Penitentiary. His course toward death was a speedy one, and Elledge, 58, hastened it at every opportunity. James Homer Elledge went quietly to his execution early this morning, getting the sentence he pleaded for after murdering a woman in the basement of a Lynnwood church. Elledge told a friend earlier that he had no intention of making a final statement, however in a prison interview last year, Elledge said said one reason he wanted to die was because he was a Christian, and was remorseful for his sins. He has steadfastly maintained that he deserved to die. He instructed his lawyer to present no evidence in the penalty phase of his trial that might encourage jurors to spare his life. Those close to him said he viewed his impending execution as a sort of redemption. The victim’s brother planned to spend the evening with his mother and to wait up until he heard it was over. He had hoped Elledge’s final words would be to say he was sorry for Fitzner’s murder. At the trial, Elledge told jurors those words wouldn’t bring Fitzner back. "He had an opportunity to choose his words very carefully then, so I just don’t think that was an oversight on his part," Mr. Helland said. Prosecutors and some jurors said the brutality and pre-meditated nature of the crime, as well as a long criminal history, which included a 1974 murder, clearly justified both the decision to seek the death penalty and the verdict. Jury forewoman M.L. DeMorett said in a recent letter that Elledge deserved to die for a cold, calculated murder. "We looked for areas where the system may have failed him," she said of jury deliberations. "Comment was made that he had several chances in life to get beyond the past. He still lost control and killed another person, took another life." The 2 detectives who investigated Fitzner’s disappearance and found her body chose to attend the execution, as did the Snohomish County prosecutors who persuaded jurors to impose the death sentence. Lynnwood police Detective Jim Nelson said he feels little sympathy for Elledge. "I feel a lot worse about her than I do about him. He knows what’s coming, he’s had a chance to make his peace with whatever he feels he needs to do. And he did this to himself. He committed his second murder, he’s been given chance after chance."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 30, 2001 Oklahoma Juan Johnny Barron, 23 Gerardo Valdez stayed
Gerardo Valdez is a Mexican immigrant who had lived in Oklahoma for some time. On May 1,1989, Valdez met the victim, Juan Barron, at a bar in rural Oklahoma. Johnny was a homosexual who apparently showed a sexual interest in Valdez but Valdez, a married heterosexual, rejected Barron’s advances. The testimony at trial revealed that throughout the course of the evening Valdez consumed approximately fourteen beers. When the bar closed, Johnny went with Valdez and his friend, Martin Orduna, to Valdez’s house. Valdez began preaching to Johnny out of the Bible, attempting to convince him of the sinfulness of his homosexuality. When Johnny rejected this proselytizing, Valdez brought out his gun. He began slapping Johnny, telling him he was going to kill him and that according to the Bible homosexuals do not deserve to live. Ordering Johnny to remove his clothes, Valdez gave him the option of death or castration, and continued to hit and slap him. When Johnny started to fight back, Valdez shot him twice in the forehead and then hit him in the head with the gun. While Johnny lay on the couch, Valdez retrieved a knife and cut his throat, finally killing him. Valdez threatened to kill Orduna if he told anyone about the murder, and demanded Orduna’s assistance in disposing of the body. The two men carried Johnny, the couch, and the surrounding rug to the backyard, where they set them on fire. Three months later, the police began investigating Johnny’s disappearance. On July 25, officers executed a search warrant for Valdez’s home. Valdez conversed in English with the officers. Because the officers had already questioned Orduna, they knew to look for Johnny’s remains in the backyard barbecue pit. There they found what appeared to be a bone fragment. Valdez later confessed to the murder.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
August 31, 2001 North Carolina Ralph Childress Ronald Frye executed
Ronald Frye was convicted on November 15, 1993 of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the slaying of his landlord, Ralph Childress. Frye was convicted in 1993 of stabbing his landlord to death with scissors. On the day of the murder, Frye returned to his home and found a note from Ralph telling him the trailer had been leased and he needed to move out. The next morning, Ralph was found dead – stabbed multiple times – with a pair of scissors in his chest. Ralph was found with scissors jammed into his heart and his throat cut. DNA testing linked Frye to blood found on the man’s mattress and linked Ralph to blood on Frye’s jacket, said Assistant District Attorney Jason Parker. "He deserves it," Parker said, recounting events that led to Frye taking $5,000 from Childress and spending it on drugs in 3 days. "They’re trying to say one of his lawyers was drunk," Parker said. "I sat in court with him for three weeks and never smelled a drop." Frye said he never noticed the smell or effects of alcohol on his attorney, Thomas Portwood, but said the two didn’t talk much. Parker said defense lawyers did introduce evidence through a psychologist that Frye was abused as a child and abused drugs and alcohol. "You should see what he did to the old man," Parker said. "He tortured him trying to find out where his money was." Christy Hollowell, Childress’ niece, said of her uncle, "He was the most wonderful person. He was an invaluable part of my family, who was taken away tragically by the cold-heartedness of Ronald Frye. I have been told Mr. Frye was abused as a child, but my Uncle Ralph did not abuse him," she said. "It is always disheartening to hear about child abuse, but being abused as a child does not give the right to kill as an adult. As sad as it is to say, many children are abused. However, most do not grow up and choose to murder another person," Hollowell said. "Our family has been changed forever by the act of Mr. Frye… Nothing will ever be the same again because of Mr. Frye’s decision to murder Uncle Ralph. It was his decision. He decided that night to murder Uncle Ralph, knowing the consequences that may follow. Giving up his rights and facing the death penalty was a risk he was apparently willing to take," she said.

Page last updated 03/22/04