April 2003 Executions

Seven killers were executed in April 2003. They had murdered at least 23 people.
killers were given a stay in April 2003. They have murdered at least 12 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 3, 2002 Oklahoma Michael William Houghton, 27
Laura Lee Sanders, 22
Scott Hain executed

During the early morning hours of October 6, 1987, Laura Lee Sanders and Michael William Houghton were seated in Sanders’ car outside a Tulsa bar when they were approached by two men, later determined to be Scott Allen Hain and Robert Wayne Lambert. Hain and Lambert were in the parking lot, waiting to rob a nearby house when they saw Laura and Michael talking in the car. Hain and Lambert forced their way into the car by threatening Michael with a knife. Hain drove the car away from the bar, then stopped and robbed Michael at gunpoint. When Michael resisted the robbery, Hain forced him into the trunk of the car. A short while later, Hain and Lambert stopped and put Laura Lee in the trunk as well. After robbing Michael and getting the keys to his truck, the two men decided to go back to the bar where the incident began and take Michael’s truck as well as Laura Lee’s car. Lambert drove the truck away from Tulsa toward Sand Springs. He stopped after driving down a rural Creek County roadway. Hain followed in Laura’s car with Laura and Mike in the trunk. The two men took Laura’s things, including some clothes, out of her car and put them in the truck. One of them cut the gas line to the car and set it on fire by putting lighted newspaper and a blanket under the dripping fuel line. Mike and Laura Lee were banging on the trunk and yelling. Hain and Lambert left the area, however they returned a short time later to see if the fire was burning well. The two men stopped at a friend’s house in Jennings and left a bag of things belonging to the victims in the garage. They traveled to Wichita, Kansas in Mike’s truck. After spending the $565 dollars which they got from Mike and Laura Lee, the two returned to Tulsa, where they were apprehended on the evening of October 9, 1987. Scott Hain was sentenced to death in May 1988. In 1993, he was granted a new sentencing because of an error in the jury instructions at the original trial. He was eventually re-sentenced to death in 1994. At Hain’s re-sentencing hearing, the prosecution presented evidence indicating that Hain and his co-defendant Lambert had engaged in three violent crimes in the months leading up to the murders (the assault and rape of a woman in her rural Kansas home, the kidnapping and rape of a Wichita woman, and the robbery and attempted murder of a Tulsa couple, which included the kidnapping and rape of the woman). In addition, the prosecution presented expert psychiatric testimony indicating that Hain’s personality and psychological make-up made him prone to violence. Lastly, the prosecution presented evidence indicating that Hain had escaped from his jail cell while awaiting resentencing. Michael Houghton’s mother, Delma Houghton is troubled by the national attention given to death row inmates. "I don’t think we are hearing from my side, the victims’ side, the people who support the death penalty," she said. "There is much more media going for the perpetrators." Laura’s family presented victim impact statements at the trial. William Sanders, the brother of victim Laura Lee Sanders, testified in part: "The extremely violent nature of this crime and the total lack of respect for human life have shocked ­ shocked me. Absolutely everyone is brought up knowing the difference between right and wrong, and murder is wrong. Once a crime of this magnitude has been committed, a person must expect to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Life, life without parole, and death; these are the choices? All I can say for sure is that I know my sister was not given a choice between life or death. It has been seven years since my sister was murdered, and I’m still looking forward to the time when I can remember who she was and not the horrific images portrayed of her during the various court proceedings. The guilt has been established, and I feel strongly that the punishment should reflect the severity of the crime." Carol Lee Sanders, Laura Lee Sanders’ mother, said "It is very difficult for me to find words to express the horror, anger and disbelief that we felt and still feel, knowing that Laura Lee was put in the trunk of a car and burned alive while the ones who lit the fire listened to their screams for help, and yet only made sure that the car was burning good before they left. Add to that the fact that Laura Lee and Mike had done nothing to deserve this and had no idea who the people were that took it upon themselves to murder them. It is hard for us to imagine that anyone could have that much hate and meanness in them. These things make it even more difficult for us to accept her death. In the past seven years, we have been trying to deal with not only the loss of Laura Lee, but also with the heinous manner in which she was murdered. We know how very scared she must have been from the time she was kidnapped and put in the trunk of her car. It hurts every time I think of the horror that she must have felt during her last minutes on this earth with the smell of gasoline, followed by the smoke, and then the heat of the flames, and having no way to escape. Every time I see a picture of a burning car on television or in a movie, it feels like someone has just kicked me in the stomach. Several months ago, I had to have both of our dogs put to sleep. As I held them while the doctor gave them a shot, I saw them die very peacefully in my arms. I couldn’t help but think of Laura Lee and Mike again and wish that they had been able to die that peacefully. In order for true justice to be done in this case, I feel that Scott Hain should also be sentenced to death. Somebody with his mind-set should not be allowed to get off with anything less than the death penalty. There is absolutely no reason why anyone else should ever be subjected to his heinous acts of violence and to go through the pain and suffering that our families have had to endure for the past seven years." Tena Houghton, Michael Houghton’s wife, said, "I cannot watch a TV show or a movie with a fire scene in it, without closing my eyes or turning away, because these scenes bring back the pictures in my mind of Michael’s body kicking and struggling and searching for a way out of that trunk. The heat, the fear, the pain that Michael suffered, I can’t even begin to comprehend. The mental pictures of this man that I loved so deeply being burnt alive to the point of being unrecognizable are almost unbearable. Scott Hain was fully aware that he was taking the life of two young and beautiful people, so aware, in fact, that he went back to the burning car, not to stop this horrible thing but to make sure it was going to do the job and make sure that Michael and Laura Lee would die. He heard Michael and Laura Lee screaming with pain and terror, saw the car burning, but still did nothing to stop the horrible set of events which he had set into motion." Delma Houghton, Michael Houghton’s mother, testified: "I’ve tried holding a lighted match to my finger, but I jerked it away. I tried touching the electric element in my stove, but I couldn’t. I wanted to hurt myself and take away some of Mike’s pain." She further testified, "I never had a chance to say goodbye to Mike. His body was so charred, he had to be buried in a plastic bag. His beautiful hair was burned off, his nimble fingers were burned off. The medical examiner says his sparkly and gentle eyes were like hardboiled eggs, and he tried until he could try no more to beat the trunk open. I do want justice for all of us who loved him, but mostly for Michael and Laura Lee, who are not here to speak for themselves. I believe Scott Allen Hain should be sentenced to death. He did not know Mike or Laura Lee, nor did he care who they were. He wanted to kill someone. We had to have our 10-year-old Golden Retriever put to sleep. I held her while the lethal injection was administered. She quivered a little and went gently to sleep. All I could think of was that I wished Mike and Laura Lee could have met death so gently. Until the death penalty is carried out, there is always the chance he could be released. I believe if you take a life, your life should be taken unless it is self-defense or to save the life of another. The only true justice would be to have Mike and Laura Lee returned to us. We know that cannot be. I feel our families have been serving a death sentence for almost seven years. Mike and Laura Lee received the death penalty without a trial, with no appeals, with no mercy and for no reason; they had committed no crime." Ashley Houghton, Michael Houghton’s father, testified in part: "All that I, Michael and his family want is justice. I believe that the death sentence is deserved. The brutal way Michael was murdered, the brutal way the murder was carried out and the suffering that Michael and Laura Lee went through in the trunk of the car shows the total disregard for ­ for life that Scott Hain has. He deserves the death penalty." UPDATE: The victims’ family members all stated after the execution that the road to justice had been long and stressful but that they had finally arrived. The families said the execution was not a happy or joyful event but one that will help to let them go on with the rest of their lives with a little peace. "Tomorrow morning we won’t have to deal with Scott Allen Hain in our lives," said Mike’s mother, Delma Houghton. Laura’s mother, Carol Sanders, said Hain’s death only brings closure to the court proceedings. "He died peacefully, unlike Michael and Laura Lee," she said. Phyllis Comstock, who was sexually assaulted by Hain and Lambert in Kansas, said the execution does bring closure for her and for other Kansas victims. Authorities said the murders of Houghton and Sanders ended a four-month crime spree by Hain and Lambert. The two were accused of sexually assaulting several Kansas women and of later attacking a Tulsa couple, permanently injuring the man with a blow from a claw hammer and sexually assaulting and beating the woman. Hain denied involvement in those attacks and was not tried for them. Lambert is seeking to have his death sentence for the murders vacated based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mentally retarded people cannot be executed. Lambert has tested mildly retarded. Before the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed Thursday evening, the federal appeals court in Denver earlier Thursday had for the second time in two days blocked Hain’s execution. Thursday’s 7-2 decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came about six hours before Hain’s originally scheduled 6 p.m. execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. That decision was a denial of Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s emergency request to overturn the stay that a panel of the court had granted 2-1 Wednesday night. Instead of allowing the execution to proceed, nine judges of the Denver-based court were to hear arguments May 6 on Hain’s claim that his lawyers were entitled to be paid from federal funds to represent him at a second state clemency hearing. Edmondson then made an emergency request to the Supreme Court to overturn the stay. The attorney general argued in a motion that the 10th Circuit judges had abused their discretion by delaying the execution. The state Pardon and Parole Board on Monday had unanimously denied Hain’s request for clemency. But Presson told the appellate judges that he did not present a credible case for clemency because he could not prepare a case due to a lack of funds. Edmondson took the position that Hain should be executed before the court decides if he and other indigent death-row inmates are entitled to have their lawyers paid from federal funds for work on state clemency cases. In Hain’s case, the issue is moot because he had a clemency hearing, Edmondson argued. Presson argued that Hain’s appeal was not moot because there is precedent in Oklahoma for the Pardon and Parole Board to conduct new hearings or take another vote. The lawyer cited two instances during former Gov. Henry Bellmon’s term when board members reconsidered, at the governor’s request, their decision against clemency and voted to recommend clemency. The Supreme Court took two actions Thursday to put the execution back on schedule. It denied Hain’s request for a stay and vacated the stay granted by the lower court. The decision to allow the execution came from the court’s conservatives: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other four noted their objections. "If this case was not surreal before the stay was issued, the case started taking on that surreal feeling last night," Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Robert Whittaker said Thursday. The courts’ inability to decide the funding issue had an impact on the case when the issue didn’t affect Hain’s conviction or sentence, he said.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 3, 2003 Virginia Lisa Yvonne Crider, 23 Brandon Hedrick stayed

lisa criderAn April 3 execution date has been set for man who abducted, sexually assaulted and shot a young mother in Appomattox County. Brandon Wayne Hedrick, 22, has told the courts he will no longer appeal, the state attorney general’s office said. In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch last year, Hedrick said he has become religious in prison and wants to die for his crime. Lisa Yvonne Crider, 23, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, was abducted in Lynchburg on May 10, 1997, by Hedrick and another man who drove her to a remote bank of the James River where Hedrick shot her in the head after sexually assaulting her. Her body was left, bound and gagged, in a shallow spot in the river near Bent Creek. Hedrick is white, and Crider was black. Dale Alexander has struggled for nearly 4 years with the murder of her daughter, Lisa Crider. The questions never end. The "what ifs"; the "what really happened?" It doesn’t matter that Brandon Hedrick is on death row for killing Crider and that Trevor Jones is serving life in prison for his role in her robbery, rape and murder. The questions just keep coming. "I think about what I could have done," she said. The guilt, the self-inflicted blame, the endless questions. Recently, after seeing an article about Hedrick’s life on death row in The News & Advance, Alexander started asking herself another question: "What if something good could come from this?" Though Alexander declined to comment for the story on Hedrick, she said it made her see some common ground. "They’re suffering," Alexander said of Hedrick and Jones’ families. "We’re suffering. Our common enemy is drugs. I just hope in some way, we can focus on that." Drugs are destroying us, Alexander said. She knows that firsthand. Drugs plagued Crider during her short life. Drugs fueled the actions of her killers. "Young people are pretty much an endangered species," Alexander said. Jones and Hedrick, who were both 18 at the time, said they were drinking and doing crack cocaine the night of May 10, 1997, when they picked Crider up off a street in Lynchburg. "Lisa was in her own neighborhood, almost at her residence, when Hedrick and Trevor Jones abducted her," Alexander said. "The 2 were riding with a shotgun, with a motive and plot." Alexander, who is black, said there was plenty evidence of Hedrick’s racism introduced at his trial. Hedrick and Jones are white. Alexander doesn’t believe the murdering pair picked the 23-year-old Crider up to buy drugs. "Lisa would never deal drugs because that would hurt other people," she said. "She would hurt herself before she hurt someone else." Crider had planned to meet her son and mother the next day, Mother’s Day. Alexander knew there was something wrong when Crider didn’t show up. "We looked for her that morning," she said. "She was supposed to be there with us." Alexander said her daughter never missed birthdays or other holidays, even if she was incarcerated. "She honors family," Alexander said, still speaking of her daughter in present tense. "She honors old people and family." Crider was the mother of one son, Tracy, who was 5 at the time. "Lisa was always writing him, getting a little gift, talking to him on the phone," Alexander said. Even when she was locked up. Alexander finds it hard to talk about her daughter’s involvement with drugs. She says Crider’s late husband and a female pusher disguised as a "friend" proved to be Lisa’s downfall. Crider and her husband had been named as police informants in a major drug bust in Altavista in 1994. Alexander said Crider’s husband was put into a witness protection program and sent to Pennsylvania, where he was later found hanged. His death was ruled a suicide. Crider received no such protection. On Feb. 21, 1995, she pleaded guilty to forgery, an unrelated cocaine possession and 3rd offense petty larceny in Lynchburg. She served 2 years in prison on those charges. She had just been released March 31, 1997 – 40 days before her murder. "The day of her birthday she came home," Alexander said. Crider had been dividing her new-found freedom between her family and a friend. On May 10, she was spending the night in Lynchburg. The hours after Hedrick and Jones picked her up became the stuff of nightmares. "That’s what gets me," Alexander said. "The 4 to 5 hours or more the brutalness of it." During Hedrick’s trial in May 1998, Jones testified about the events of the night. He and Hedrick bought cocaine and picked up 2 sets of prostitutes. They went looking for more crack and Jones saw Crider. He said he knew her and picked her up, knowing her boyfriend sold crack. Jones said they took her back to his apartment, where he had sex with her, and then they decided to rob her. They gagged her and taped her hands and drove around for nearly 5 hours, stopping once when Hedrick threatened and sodomized her. They then decided they had gone too far and started planning to kill her. They drove to a popular fishing spot, located off U.S. 60 on Virginia 605, and Jones bound Crider’s eyes, mouth and hands in duct tape. The 3 headed down the bank to a shallow spot in the James River. Hedrick shot her in the face from a distance of 3 to 7 feet. The next morning a couple going fishing found her body slumped over in an inch of water. Crider’s death – and the way she died – were almost unbearable. During the trials, Alexander said she would wake up in the middle of the night and just want to scream. "Her death has really affected her 2 brothers, too," Alexander said. Crider’s son, now 9, has recently been placed in special education, though lack of intelligence is not his problem, Alexander said. He has trouble coping. They tried Kid’s Haven, a resource for grieving children. "Young people don’t know how to cope," Alexander said, noting that it hasn’t been easy for her either. "It’s been a process." Now though, Alexander, wants to shift her focus away from the murder, and onto drugs. In a letter she wrote to The News & Advance, Alexander said: "With Baby Girl’s beautiful, caring spirit in mind, I’ll speak on drugs like crack cocaine, which devastating effects reach beyond age, race, sex, income, religion or social status. The elderly are taking care of orphans, sons, daughters, of both black and white defenseless young women, profiting from their vulnerability. They bully those that try to resist. They shoot unarmed men and women. It’s a morality issue for the misinformed. There is even a smugness and arrogance among the holier than thou,’ that it’s ‘those’ people’s problem, or just isolated incidents of mayhem among the immoral. None can afford such ignorance. What doesn’t hit one generation may find it’s way to the next. No one is prepared for addiction. It isn’t the stereotype of a pusher seen in a movie that may come at your child…. but a friend, or friend of a friend, a date, or trusted mate, the sympathetic, helpful acquaintance…. At the risk of being politically incorrect, I will say drug dealing has put the KKK out of business. The Ku Klux Klan must be feeling pretty smug these days, with good reason. They can hang up their sheets, cones, robes or gown, or whatever it is the fashionable Klansman wears these days. The drug dealers have that territory all sewed up. It’s open season, year-round." UPDATE: A man who has been on death row for 6 years for the rape and murder of a young mother was granted a stay of execution Wednesday by a federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Samuel G. Wilson approved Brandon Wayne Hedrick’s request for a stay a day before Hedrick was to be executed. The state Attorney General’s office did not object to the motion. Hedrick now has 90 days to file a petition for a habeas corpus review in federal court. He has exhausted his state appeals. Hedrick’s attorney, Robert Lee, said his client could appeal on grounds he received inadequate representation at trial. He said Hedrick’s trial attorneys did not spend enough time preparing for his case, believing Hedrick would accept a plea agreement. He declined to say Wednesday when an appeal would be filed. Hedrick was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted of abducting, raping and shooting 23-year-old Lisa Alexander Crider in the head with a shotgun. Crider’s body was found in the James River in Appomattox County a year earlier, her head wrapped with duct tape. A co-defendant, Trevor Jones, was sentenced to life in prison. Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, said that while Hedrick has the constitutional right to pursue his federal appeal, the "facts of the case remain consistent. Brandon Hedrick was convicted by a jury of the robbery, rape, abduction and murder of Lisa Crider," he said. In March 2001, the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a habeas corpus review of Hedrick’s case in Appomattox County, the 1st time the court had ordered such a hearing in a death row appeal in 6 years. However, Appomattox Circuit Court Judge Richard S. Blanton ruled in October 2001 that Hedrick had received adequate legal representation and did not deserve a new trial. Hedrick last year told the courts he no longer wanted to appeal his conviction. In a telephone interview from the Greensville Correctional Center Tuesday, though, he said he was a changed man and he believed he could be a source of inspiration for other prisoners. "I might be able to help young people coming in to change their mentality so when they do get released they can be productive in their lives," he said. "If I can do that, it’s worth all the suffering." He added: "I know what I was involved in was totally wrong and I should have had no involvement in doing any of it. I do believe that I need to be punished but I don’t know what my punishment should be. I’ve judged myself harder than most people would."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 3, 2003 Pennsylvania Linda Rowden Robert Fisher stayed

A federal judge has stayed the execution of a suburban Philadelphia man who was scheduled to be put to death next week. U.S. District Judge Franklin S. Van Antwerpen’s stay, issued Feb. 10, allows Robert Fisher, 56, to pursue further appeals. No new execution date was set, but Van Antwerpen said Fisher’s petition must be filed by Dec. 3. Fisher’s execution warrant, dated Feb. 5, was the first signed by Gov. Ed Rendell, a former prosecutor who helped to write Pennsylvania’s death penalty law. Fisher killed Linda Rowden in 1980 because she gave information to police that may have implicated him in the murder of a drug witness. He was first convicted of killing her in 1988 and sentenced to death, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the conviction in 1991 and ordered a new trial. Fisher was convicted again of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. In 1996, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Fisher’s conviction but vacated his death sentence. After a resentencing hearing, Fisher was sentenced to death a 3rd time in 1997. That judgment was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 8, 2003 Oklahoma Linda Thompson Don Hawkins, Jr. executed

Don Hawkins, Jr. was sentenced to death for the 1985 murder of Linda Thompson. Hawkins kidnapped Linda Thompson and her daughters, 18-month-old Katie and 4-year-old Lorie, in 1985 outside an Oklahoma City mall. Thompson was separated from her daughters and later driven to Sportsman’s Lake near Seminole. According to Hawkins’ police statement, he hog-tied her and held her underwater until she drowned. Hawkins and Shelton then took Thompson’s body to a ravine and covered it with brush. Thompson’s two daughters, ages four years and 18 months, were released in their babysitter’s neighborhood. Hawkins and Shelton were arrested in Sacramento, Calif., two months later. Both confessed to Thompson’s murder and Shelton directed the Seminole County Sheriff’s office to the location of Thompson’s body. Prosecutors said the motive was to seek ransom, but calls were never made. Hawkins was convicted in 1986. Shelton, received 5 life sentences to be served consecutively. He was found guilty on 2 additional felony counts related to a sexual attack on Thompson in a barn, where she was held in chains overnight. UPDATE: Almost 18 years after he kidnapped and murdered an Oklahoma City woman, Don Wilson Hawkins will die for his crimes. Hawkins, 43, is scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for murdering Linda Thompson in 1985. "I’m ready," Hawkins said Monday. "It’s time to move on." While Hawkins has expressed remorse for his actions, Thompson’s family has waited a long time for his death. "Yes, I forgive Donald Hawkins," Lori Thompson, Linda Thompson’s oldest daughter, said in a letter to the state Pardon and Parole Board. "I have no wish to see him executed. However, the Bible that I follow as the guidebook for my life decrees that this is his due punishment." Lori Thompson and her sister Katie were with their mother when she was kidnapped on Aug. 19, 1985 by Hawkins at the Shepherd Mall parking lot in Oklahoma City. Wide-eyed and frightened by the man Lori referred to then as "the cowboy," the three were taken to a northeast Oklahoma City house where they were held 18 hours by Hawkins and two accomplices, Dale Shelton and Chris Lovell. Lori, then 4, and Katie, then 2, eventually were driven to their babysitter’s neighborhood in Oklahoma City and dropped off. But their mother was taken to Sportsman’s Lake near Seminole, hogtied and drowned by Hawkins and Shelton. Her body was found two months later after Hawkins was arrested in California. The kidnapping had been a clumsy attempt at ransom by Hawkins. During Linda Thompson’s captivity, she was chained inside a barn and raped repeatedly by Lovell and Shelton, who is now serving a life sentence. Hawkins feared Thompson would be a witness against him and the others, and decided she needed to die. Jennifer Miller, chief of criminal appeals at the attorney general’s office, said she expects the state of Oklahoma to prevail. "This was a crime that was extremely heinous and cruel," Miller said. "It is time for justice to be done." Repeated calls to Hawkins’ counsel weren’t returned. Lawrence Olson, Thompson’s uncle, said the family will be glad when the execution is over. "The gene pool will be in better shape with him gone," Olson said. "It’s been 18 years and we’re glad to see that the judicial process has come this far." But Olson said there’s no way to quantify the pain the family has been through and that the only thing that would truly make it better is if "Hawkins never was born." The impact of her death on her family has been tremendous. Her mother, Jennifer Schneider, suffered post-traumatic stress. Healthy and spirited before the killing, she said she became unable to cope at work and susceptible to stress-related maladies. She lost circulation in her left hand and had half her left index finger removed. She walks with a cane. No part of her life — social, physical or financial — has been spared from the impact of her daughter’s death. "I couldn’t work," Schneider said. "I was immobilized in my house. I was able-bodied, but as I went on, I could hardly walk around the block." Linda Thompson’s daughters were separated from her side of the family. After her death, the girls’ father decided to move them out of Oklahoma and away from the painful memories of their abduction. Schneider said she’s seen them only once since then. "I cannot describe how awful that was for all of us." Bad memories also persist for a Colorado family who lost a loved one at Hawkins’ hand in 1985. Less than a month before Thompson’s death, David Coupez was robbed, hogtied and hung in his home in Denver. Hawkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for that slaying, which still haunts Coupez’s twin brother, Don. "I am one of seven children, and what was once a close and loving family is now distant and uncommunicative," Don Coupez said in a letter to the parole board. "We never learned to deal with Dave’s murder." He said he’s become distrustful and has lost many of his friends and a fiancee. Hawkins became tearful when discussing all the hardships Linda Thompson’s family has endured since her death. While he blames outside influences on his spiral into crime, he said he accepts responsibility for his actions. "I’m the one at fault in this," he said. "Don’t blame anyone else involved in this." There have been some signs of encouragement for Linda Thompson’s family. Both daughters are in college and have served as summer missionaries in South America. Lori Thompson is thinking of becoming a career missionary. "Because God is my heavenly father, I am now healed from the traumatic events," Lori Thompson wrote. Hawkins also has turned to religion to help him escape his past. Much of his younger years were filled with crimes that grew more extreme. When he was arrested, he confessed to police, saying he’d found God and wanted to come clean. He’s written four books since he was imprisoned and has a long list of supporters who say his Christian conversion is genuine. Schneider doesn’t buy it. "I have read some of the things he has written. They seem vain. He’s caught religion before. I can’t see into Hawkins’ heart," she said, "Only God can. If he has truly repented… he could go into heaven. It sticks in my craw to say that." Hawkins said he understands those sentiments. He also hopes his death will end some of the pain that he caused. "Can’t we get some good out of it? No more victims."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 9, 2003 Virginia Teresa Hodges, 37
Blaine Hodges, 41
Winter Hodges, 11
Anah Hodges, 3
Earl Bramblett executed
Hodges FamilyA Spartanburg, S.C., man charged with murdering a couple he befriended and their two young daughters implicated himself by describing a detail only the killer would know, prosecutors said. The victims were found dead after a fire at their Vinton home on Aug. 29, 1994. Teresa Hodges, 37, had been strangled. Blaine Hodges, 41, and the two girls — Winter, 11, and Anah, 3 — were shot in the head. Bramblett, a friend of the family who sometimes used their home as his own, was arrested in Spartanburg two years later. The case was circumstantial. Authorities have no murder weapon, confession, eyewitness or clear motive. Diane Struzzi, a reporter for the Roanoke Times interviewed Bramblett after his arrest. In the interview, Bramblett said a relative of the Hodges family told him that gasoline had been sprinkled around Mrs. Hodges’ body. Burkart said lab results confirming that fact had not been given to investigators when Bramblett made the comment. ”That’s only a thing that the killer would know,” Burkart said. Defense attorneys Terry Grimes and Mac Doubles argued that much of the evidence was inadmissible, including material obtained in a search of a motel where Bramblett was renting a room and audio tapes Bramblett had sent in sealed boxes to his sister in Indiana but the judge ruled that the jury should see and hear the evidence. In a tape recording, Bramblett said he believed the Hodges family was trying to entrap him in a police sting. He also claimed in the audio tape that Blaine Hodges was ”keeping espionage on me” and using his older daughter to lure him into a sexual trap. He was not specific. Bramblett and Blaine Hodges had been close for 20 years. He was often seen at the Hodges home, painting or building rose trellises. A neighbor saw Bramblett at the home the day before the fire. W.F. Brown, Vinton’s assistant chief of police, testified that he went to see Bramblett at his hotel room a few days after the killings to see if he could help them find the culprit. During questioning, Bramblett was defensive and said, ”Why don’t you go ahead and arrest me for murder,” Brown said. Bramblett broke down in sobs and said he contemplated suicide because he felt so bad about the family’s deaths, Brown said. In the motel room, police found cartridge cases of the same caliber as bullets found at the murder scene. UPDATE: Convicted killer Earl Conrad Bramblett was put to death last night in Virginia’s electric chair. Bramblett, 61, who was sentenced to death for killing a family of four in southern Virginia in 1994, maintained his innocence and said he chose electrocution as a form of protest. "I hope the SOB’s who put me here will never forget what they see," Bramblett wrote in an April 3 letter to a private investigator who had supported him. "If that’s revenge, then I suppose it is…. But perhaps those who just went along (and any other decent people out there) will be so influenced or affected, they will look into my case." Bramblett was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt after the standard two sets of shocks were administered, according to Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor. He was the first inmate to be executed this year. In his final statement, Bramblett said that he "never murdered anybody" and that he would be "going to my death with a clear conscience," Traylor said. He also told his two sons that he loved them. Prosecutors have vigorously defended the conviction and said the evidence against Bramblett is substantial. In court documents, they point to evidence including a hair belonging to Bramblett that was discovered in the bed where the children’s bodies were found and audiotapes Bramblett had made describing his "obsession" with the 11-year-old. Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) denied Bramblett’s request for clemency less than an hour before the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a request for a stay, and both the Virginia Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court in Roanoke rejected last-minute arguments by Bramblett’s attorneys that use of the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Bramblett was convicted of capital murder in 1997 in Roanoke County for the killings of his longtime friend Blaine Hodges, Hodges’s wife, Teresa, and the couple’s two daughters. Blaine Hodges and the girls, Anah, 3, and Winter, 11, were fatally shot in their Vinton home, authorities said. Teresa Hodges was strangled. Prosecutors said Bramblett killed the family and then set fire to their home because he feared that Blaine Hodges was about to tell police that Bramblett had sexually molested the older daughter. Sarah Lugar, Teresa Hodges’s niece, said yesterday that she planned to attend the execution, along with her mother, Brenda Lugar. Sarah Lugar remembered the Hodgeses as an "all-American family." She recalled that her aunt often made bread and that the children loved the movie Beauty and the Beast. "A lot of pain and suffering will die with him tonight," Sarah Lugar said hours before the execution. "Nothing that we are going to see this evening will be any worse than what he did to them."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 15, 2003 Texas James Moody Adams, 63 Kenneth Morris stayed
Kenneth Morris was sentenced to die for the 1991 robbery and murder in a residential robbery where the founder of Northwest Academy, James Moody Adams, was shot to death. Morris shot Adams four times after he and two accomplices kicked in the door of his house and robbed him at gunpoint. Orlena Ayers was sentenced to life in prison for his role. Prosecutor Debbie Mantooth said Ayers and his co-defendants, Chris Montez and Kenneth Morris, burst into the Adams home at 5002 Happy Hollow on May 1, 1991, in search of guns. But they got only $400 in cash, Mantooth said, and Jim Adams, a retired paint company owner, was killed by four.32-caliber gunshots to the head, neck and back. Jims wife, Marcene, was hiding in a nearby closet during the episode. Police subsequently found Montez’s fingerprint on a trash bag in the home. Montez, Ayers’ cousin, testified for the state at the trial. Montez was charged with robbery. UPDATE: Condemned killer Kenneth Wayne Morris won a reprieve from a federal appeals court that spared him from a trip to the Texas death chamber about two hours before he could have been executed today for the fatal shooting of a Houston man during a burglary 12 years ago. The execution of Morris, 32, a 9th-grade dropout with a history of theft and burglary, was stopped with an order from 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. In its order, the appeals court gave Morris’ lawyers permission to file additional legal actions in a lower federal court based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that barred execution of mentally retarded people. Morris’ attorneys had argued in their last-ditch appeals that the inmate was mentally retarded and should not be put to death. Morris was identified as the gunman in a 3-man gang that broke into the home of a 63-year-old man because they thought he had a gun collection. James Moody Adams, however, had no weapons and was shot 4 times after he surrendered the money in his wallet. His terrified wife hid in a closet behind some clothes. Morris’s record included convictions for burglary, theft and marijuana possession while on parole. Morris was 20 and on probation at the time of the May 1, 1991, attack. He was arrested 12 days later and after he pulled another robbery at a gas station. Two companions received long prison terms for their participation in the slaying of Adams, who built a successful paint company and later founded a private Houston school. "We think (Morris) has made a sufficient showing of likelihood of success on the merits that the public interest would be served by granting the stay," a 3-judge panel of the court said in a 5-page ruling. In a concurring opinion, Judge Patrick Higinbotham noted there was no IQ test in evidence to determine whether Morris was mentally retarded. "It is difficult to make informed judgments without the development of the facts in some form of hearing," he said. Prosecutors had argued Morris’ defense experts at his trial did not think he was retarded but Morris never was tested. And he said although school records did use the term retarded, "that is not worth much, given the wide practice of social promotions and the reluctance of school officials’ use of the stigmatizing term ‘retarded.’" "I never thought I was retarded," Morris, whose tattoos on his arms included pictures of marijuana and the word "Gangsta" in large Gothic letters down the back of his right arm, said last week on death row. "People have said I was. When I went to court, they said I was mentally slow. I’m not a bad person," he added. "I accept responsibility. But I was on drugs. It’s unfortunate it had to happen this way." Roe Wilson, who handles capital appeals for the Harris County district attorney’s office, said she was surprised by the reprieve "based on lack of evidence presented that he was mentally retarded." "Basically, the court is just giving them more time to try to look for something," she said. Morris already been moved from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, where death row inmates are housed, to the Huntsville Unit, about 45 miles to the west, where executions are carried out. When word of the reprieve reached the prison, he immediately was returned to death row. Prosecutors said Morris and his cohorts had became disoriented in the middle of the night and selected Adams’ house in error. "Nobody was supposed to be there," said Morris, an unmarried father of two who used the cash from the Adams robbery to buy drugs and new clothes. At his trial, Marcene Adams testified how she could hear the conversation, how her husband moved to the closet to get his billfold and turn over the money. Then she heard the click of the hammer of a gun being pulled back, listened as her husband exclaimed "Oh, no!" and then heard the weapon discharge twice. Shot in the head and neck, Adams fell into the closet, then was shot twice more in the back. As the robbers fled, his wife had to step over his body to run outside and call for help. She and 2 sons were scheduled to watch Morris die Tuesday. Morris did not testify, but his version of what happened differed. As he held a gun on Adams standing half in the closet and half in the hallway, one of his partners came running down the hallway and bumped him, Morris said last week. "The gun went off," he said. "As (Adams) fell, I turned to run and fired two more times in the closet. I didn’t aim at him or anything. It all happened so quick. I had no intentions of killing nobody." The trio left behind garbage bags they intended to use to carry off loot. Police found a fingerprint on one of the bags and arrested Christopher Montez, then 18, who identified Morris as an accomplice. The third man, Montez’s cousin Orlena Ayers, then 20, turned himself in. Montez and Ayers each received long prison terms. Morris got a death sentence.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 16, 2003 Ohio Leoma Chmielewski, 76 Lewis Williams stayed
On 1/20/83, Lewis Williams murdered his cousin’s neighbor, 76-year-old Leoma Chmielewski, in her home. Williams ransacked the house, beat Ms. Chmielewski in the head and neck, shot her in the face at close range and stomped on her chest, leaving his shoe print on her nightgown. UPDATE: The state’ highest court has delayed the execution date of a man scheduled to die in 2 weeks. The Ohio Supreme Court pushed back Lewis Williams’ execution date from April 16th to June 24th. The delay allows time for Williams to be evaluated by a doctor to determine whether he is mentally retarded. In January 1983, Williams shot and killed his neighbor, 76-year-old Leoma Chmielewski, during a robbery in her home. Williams’ attorneys claim he is mentally retarded and have asked the trial court to order that he be evaluated. The U.S. Supreme Court last year prohibited the execution of mentally retarded inmates. The Ohio Attorney General’s office strongly disputes the assertion that Lewis is mentally retarded. Jim Canepa, who supervises Attorney General Jim Petro’s capital-crimes section, says Williams’ claims of mental retardation are a false use of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Earlier this year, Williams wrote a 62-page brief that has been filed with the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals. The document asserts his innocence, saying that he received "ineffective assistance and representation of trial counsel in violation of the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution." Canepa claims Williams’ ability to write the brief shows that Williams is not mentally retarded. Last week, the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for Williams, saying his claim of innocence is not credible.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 17, 2003 Oklahoma Wendy Cade, 29
Freda Laverne Washington
Larry Jackson executed
Larry Jackson fatally stabbed his former girlfriend Wendy Cade, 29 in 1994 after escaping from a prison work detail for Oklahoma State Industries at the Jim Thorpe Building in the state Capitol complex in Oklahoma City. He was convicted in 1996. Jackson thought he and Cade would be married after his prison release, but she became engaged to someone else. He had been serving a 30-year sentence for the 1985 shooting death of his then-girlfriend, Freda Laverne Washington. The original first-degree murder charge in Washington’s death was changed to second-degree murder through a plea agreement. Prosecutors said that Jackson cut Wendy’s throat using a box-cutting knife. Jackson was serving a prison term for second degree murder and assault and battery with a deadly weapon when he murdered Wendy in a motel room in Oklahoma City. On September 6, 1994, Jackson was on the prison crew installing furniture at the Jim Thorpe Building in Oklahoma City. Prosecutors said Wendy came to the building and the two drove off in her Jeep. After purchasing cigarettes, beer and alcohol, they went to a motel, where they had sex. There was also testimony that Jackson had purchased cocaine. However, then the two began arguing. Court documents indicated that although they continued their relationship while he was imprisoned, Wendy wanted to break it off. Jackson, according to Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals documents, never specifically admitted to the murder. However, Wendy was found with her throat cut in the bloodied motel room. At the time of his arrest, Jackson also had her watch, jewelry and the keys to her Jeep. Jackson admitted to police that if Wendy was dead, he did it. At his trial, Jackson testified that the two hit one another in several bouts in the room and Wendy fell to the floor. When he went to the bathroom and came back to sit on the bed, he saw Wendy lying on the floor with blood on her. She had over thirty stab and slash wounds. One wound slashed her jugular veins. Lawyers for Jackson tried to show that Jackson was intoxicated at the time of the murder and should have been guilty of manslaughter. UPDATE: The family of Wendy Cade say they’re ready for her killer to die. Wendy’s sister Anita Taylor says justice will be served when Jackson is put to death. Jackson was serving a 30-year prison term for the 1985 shooting death of his common-law wife when he met Cade. Jackson was working in a prison work program in Oklahoma City when Cade picked him up and they went to a metro-area motel. Prosecutors say Jackson stabbed and slashed Cade more than 30 times with a box cutter that prison officials had given him to cut open boxes of furniture. Jackson says he blacked out when the attack occurred. Jackson’s attorneys at this time have not filed any last-minute appeals and Jackson refused to attend his April 7 clemency hearing. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted not to recommend clemency. The state Pardon and Parole Board voted Monday not to recommend clemency for convicted murderer Larry Kenneth Jackson at a meeting at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Jackson was sentenced to die for the Sept. 6, 1994, stabbing death of Wendy Cade at a north Oklahoma City motel. Jackson had been serving a 30-year sentence for second- degree murder at the time of the slaying. He was working at the Jim Thorpe Building, installing furniture as part of a prison work program there when Cade picked him up and took him to a motel. It is thought Cade was there to break off their relationship. She was slashed and stabbed repeatedly with a box cutter knife Jackson had with him that day. Steve Presson, Jackson’s attorney, argued that the trial judge made a major mistake when he didn’t instruct the jury to consider Jackson’s state of intoxication at the time of the killing. Jackson claimed that he’d consumed a beer and a large quantity of liquor that day and had "blacked out" when the attack occurred. "It’s up to the jury to believe it," Presson said. "But the jury wasn’t even allowed to consider it." Juries are allowed to weigh intoxication as a defense in violent crimes. Seth Branham, assistant attorney general, said that while the judge did not give the jury instructions on that defense, jurors were presented testimony about Jackson’s drunkenness that day. "This intoxication issue was alive in the guilt phase and it certainly was alive in the penalty phase," Branham said. He said jurors were instead convinced that Jackson had made up his mind to kill Cade. Anita Taylor, Cade’s sister, said Cade’s death has been difficult for her family. "Larry took a star out of our family," she said. "I have to forgive him, but I’ll never forget." Relatives of Jackson’s other slaying victim, Freda Washington, also spoke to board members. Jackson was convicted of shooting Washington to death in 1985. "Larry did wrong… and he should have to pay for it," said Sharyl Washington, Freda Washington’s sister. Jackson had been scheduled to speak at his hearing, but refused to leave his cell Monday morning, Presson said. He is scheduled to be executed April 17. UPDATE: The state of Oklahoma on Thursday executed a man who killed his girlfriend while he was out on a prison work detail. Larry Kenneth Jackson was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Jackson, 40, was put to death for the Sept. 6, 1994, slaying of Wendy Cade. Cade was found dead in a north Oklahoma City motel room with more than 30 stab and slash wounds, authorities said. Jackson, 40, was serving a 30-year prison term for 2nd-degree murder when he walked away from a prison work program at the state Capitol complex and left with Cade, authorities said. Cade drove Jackson around the metro area, including a stop at her mother’s home to drop off her young daughter, before going to the motel, according to prosecutors. Cade, 29, was killed because she was ending her relationship with Jackson and was not going to help his effort to win parole, authorities said. Cade was stabbed and slashed with a box cutter knife that prison officials had given Jackson to open boxes of furniture he was helping install in the Jim Thorpe Building, authorities said. Cade’s sister, Anita Taylor, said before the execution that she and her family had waited nearly 10 years for justice to be served. "If we can get this (the execution) out of the way, then we can get on with our lives." Still, Taylor said she can forgive Jackson. "He took something very precious from us, but if my mother can forgive him, I have to." Jackson’s escape and the escape a week earlier of convicted killer Randolph Franklin Dial caused then-Gov. David Walters to order the state corrections department to transfer all murderers from minimum security.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 22, 2003 Texas unnamed victim
Jose Castillo
Juan Hernandez

Susan Ferguson
Alfonso Contreras
Maria Guadalupe Delgadillo

Jose Vasquez Morales, 40
Jesus Briseno

Antonio Banda, 53
Antonio Rios, 27
Manuel Duran, 31
Juan Carlos Macias
Juan Chavez executed
Juan Rodriguez Chavez was convicted of the 1995 robbery and murder of 40-year-old Jose Morales during a murder spree in Dallas. On July 2, 1995, Jose was at a phone booth when Chavez approached him and exchanged words with him. Chavez then pulled a gun and shot Jose in the chest. Before fleeing, Chavez stole Jose’s wallet from his pants pocket. Chavez had previously been convicted of murder with a deadly weapon for which he received a 15-year sentence. He was released on mandatory parole after serving just over 7 years of that sentence. During the months of March through July of 1995, Chavez killed 11 people for their money or just the "thrill of killing," authorities said. "Robbery was the motive in at least some of these," said Greg Davis, a Dallas County assistant district attorney. "But in others, it was just the thrill of killing." All 11 people were killed between March and July, including five on a single day: July 2. Three of them were shot and ran over by his car, Jose Morales was shot while talking on a pay phone and the last victim of the day was shot in a robbery. Two days later Chavez shot two men in the parking lot of a tire shop and, moments later, another man was killed outside a nearby apartment building. "As far as killings, we believe this is the most prolific suspect in recent times," said police spokesman Ed Spencer. Police believe the killing spree began with the March shooting death of robbery victim Jose Castillo followed by the fatal shooting of Juan Hernandez on May 20. Then on July 2, police found the bodies of security guard Susan Ferguson in north Dallas and Alfonso Contreras and Maria Guadalupe Delgadillo in south Dallas – all with gunshot wounds and injuries from being run over by a car. On the same day, Jose Vasquez Morales was fatally shot as he talked on a pay telephone, and Jesus Briseno was killed with a shotgun during an apparent robbery. Two days later, Antonio Rios and Manuel Duran were both shot in the head in a tire shop parking lot. Antonio Banda was fatally wounded moments later outside a nearby apartment. A July 23 carjacking left Juan Carlos Macias dead. Police say the same.38-caliber revolver has been linked to six of the slayings. At the time of Chavez’s arrest, a 15-year-old boy in the custody of juvenile authorities was reported to know Chavez and could provide information on at least one of the slayings. But the prosecutor declined to discuss details. "I’m concerned about his safety and security right now," he said, "and don’t want to go into it." A spokeswoman for the youth’s attorney also declined to elaborate, saying she feared retaliation by unnamed people aiding Chavez from outside jail. One victim was a devoted son, shot in the chest when he went out to lock his car while visiting his invalid mother over a holiday weekend. Another victim was described as a simple man who had come to Texas from Mexico to find work after a family dispute over the sale of a cow. A third was said to be a quiet family man whose father was so grief-stricken by the loss that he died last week of a broken heart. Those are just three of the 11 killings charged to Juan Rodriguez Chavez, a man authorities here are calling a "thrill killer." The slayings were scattered over Dallas, but most were in Hispanic neighborhoods on the west side near the area where Chavez lived. The picture that emerges from interviews and reports of police investigators is one of honest people who suffered the great misfortune of crossing paths with a ruthless robber or robbers. John Lozano, 62, stepfather of one victim, showed the place on the sidewalk where his 53-year-old stepson was shot when he went out to lock his car for the night: "I heard all kind of shooting, and I ran out and said, `Tony, are you all right?’ and he said, `I been shot.’" Lozano ran into his small frame house in the West Oak Cliff neighborhood to call 911, and when he returned his stepson, Antonio Banda, had died of a bullet to the heart. "They just went on down the street shooting," he said of his stepson’s attackers. Sean Olgin, 29, whose younger brother was a victim, said his brother was a quiet family man who worked at extra jobs to support his wife and 2-year-old daughter. His brother, Antonio Rios, 27, was one of two men shot at point-blank range while preparing to get into a pickup at the tire store where they worked. Olgin said his father, who was 67, died Saturday of a heart attack which Olgin believes was brought on by the stress of his brother’s slaying last July. "He was very close to my brother. My brother still depended on him, and my dad wouldn’t ever deny anything for him." The other man slain with Rios, Manuel Duran, 31, may have died because he balked at giving up his truck, said his friend and co-worker, Zack Cazares, 29. Cazares said he had given his Isuzu pickup to Duran in exchange for Duran’s promise to make the remaining installment payments on it. He thinks Duran may not have wanted to give up the truck because it wasn’t really his. "But no one knows if there was any words," Cazares said. "He was very good-hearted," Cazares said. "He didn’t speak that much English. He came here because his brother sold a cow that belonged to the family. They blamed it on him, so he left the ranch and came here to Dallas to work. He worked very hard here, and he would go out of his way to satisfy people." Duran and Rios were found dead on either side of the pickup, which was standing with its doors open and motor running, Cazares said. "Maybe they were going to steal the truck, and then it got too busy out on the street, and after the shooting and all, they decided to take off." Cazares said he was perplexed by the release last week of two men originally arrested and charged in the crimes along with Chavez. "The police brought one of them, not Chavez but one of the others, here (to the scene of the killings) later, and he was showing them how it all happened," Cazares said. Dallas police have said only that the other two men originally arrested were released because they were cleared by a subsequent investigation, even though one of the two had confessed. A spokesman told The Associated Press that a 15-year-old witness in protective custody may provide key evidence against Chavez. All 11 slayings in which Chavez is charged occurred in a five month period. One victim was shot while washing his car at a coin-operated carwash. Another was shot in the head in a grocery store parking lot. Another when he stumbled on Chavez and an accomplice robbing two people. Another was shot in the head while driving, after two men in a car had tried to force him at gunpoint to pull over. Others were simply found dead by the road. Chavez is accused of stealing almost $2,000 from his victims but may have taken only small amounts from some. In several cases he and accomplices were trying to steal vehicles, and in two cases they succeeded, police said. Some victims were not robbed. Police said that Chavez was charged with nine capital murders, two simple murders and a robbery. UPDATE: He became known in Dallas as "The Thrill Killer" for random attacks believed to have left at least a dozen people dead, including five on a single bloody night in the summer of 1995. Many victims over the five-month period were robbed or carjacked. Some were shot with a handgun, others with a shotgun. Some were mowed down by a stolen car or truck — their heads deliberately run over after they already had been shot. Today, five days shy of his 35th birthday, Juan Rodriguez Chavez, labeled an "equal opportunity assassin" by authorities, is set to die for one of those slayings — the robbery and fatal shooting of a 39-year-old man gunned down while he was talking on a pay phone in northwest Dallas. "We called him the thrill killer," said Jason January, one of the Dallas County district attorneys who prosecuted Chavez. "It definitely fit. He was truly a living breathing killing machine, and the world’s going to be safer once he’s gone. He was one of the few people I dealt with in 15 years with the DA’s office that clearly demonstrated he enjoyed killing." Chavez was arrested a month after Jose Morales was shot at a pay phone near Dallas’ Love Field about 1 a.m. on July 2, 1995. According to a witness, the gunman approached Morales, asked in Spanish if he was "on the line" and opened fire, shooting the victim in the chest. Then he grabbed Morales’ wallet from his pants and shot him again before fleeing. The wallet contained $2. By the time the sun came up that morning, seven other people had been shot, four of them fatally, including a female security guard at a construction site. "He pulled up, she leans in the window," January said, recalling testimony from a 15-year-old who accompanied Chavez on the spree. "He starts acting like he wants directions, then pulls a gun and asks her if she has children. She’s crying by then and says yes and he shoots her anyway. Then he takes his car and runs over her head. This guy was unreal." Considered a threat even while in custody, he wore to court an electronic stun belt that inadvertently activated during the first day of testimony. Jolted by the voltage, he stood up, saying: "It’s shocking me," then slumped to the defense table. He was uninjured but his attorneys asked for a mistrial, contending his constitutional presumption of innocence was violated. The request was denied, then became an issue in unsuccessful appeals. Chavez was a middle child in a family of 19 born to a migrant farm worker couple who moved to Dallas three months after he was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., April 27, 1968. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and at age 17 was convicted of murder for killing a neighbor and wounding another man during a burglary. While serving a 15-year prison term, he racked up more than 40 disciplinary violations, including punching a corrections officer and scaling a pair of fences topped with razor wire so he could attack another inmate in a recreation area. But by March 1994, he had accrued enough "good time" in prison to be paroled. He had served less than half of his sentence. "He should have never been let out of jail," January said. "He’s a poster child for parole reform." The killing spree began a year later with a fatal shooting during a robbery at a car wash. He was arrested in August 1995 when he reported to his parole officer. Chavez in recent weeks declined requests from reporters to speak from death row. At his trial, he was described as jovial, grinning at spectators, many of them relatives of slaying victims, when State District Judge Harold Entz asked if there was any reason he shouldn’t be sentenced. "I still say I’m not guilty," he said. Earlier that day, he warned court bailiffs he would antagonize relatives of his victims, many of them Hispanic, by smirking. "You ever seen a courtroom full of mad Mexicans?" he said. "You oughta see them when I walk in the courtroom smiling. "I’m not going to let them see me sweat." UPDATE: Juan Chavez, a "killing machine" who prosecutors said murdered more than 12 persons during a four month robbery and carjacking spree in 1995, was executed by lethal injection at the state prison Tuesday night. Before he died, Chavez told media witnesses that wanted to apologize to the families of the victims – none of whom witnessed his execution. "I would like for you to tell all the victims and their loved ones that I am truly, truly sorry for taking their loved ones lives," Chavez said. "I’m a different person now, but that does not change the fact of the bad things I have committed."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 23, 2003 Texas Vickie Ann Gardner, 38 Charles Ladd stayed
Robert Charles Ladd was a parolee who has been sentenced to die for the 1996 rape-slaying of a 38-year-old mentally handicapped Tyler woman. The victim was beaten to death with a hammer inside her home and her body set on fire. Prior to her death, the victim’s legs and wrist had been bound by a cord. Several items were stolen from her residence following the murder, including electronic items, kitchen appliances, jewelry and food. On 25 September 1996, firemen responding to a fire in Tyler, Texas, found the body of 38-year-old Vickie Ann Gardner. She was on the floor in her apartment, her wrists bound together in front of her. The fire had been started on or around Vickie’s body, most likely on bedding that had been placed between her legs. An autopsy revealed Vickie died as a result of strangulation and had sustained blunt force trauma to the head. A vaginal smear revealed the presence of spermatozoa. Vickie’s apartment had been ransacked and several items were missing, including: a microwave oven; a combination television and video recorder; and two telephones. The day firemen responded to the fire, Edwin Wright pawned the missing combination television/video recorder and one of the telephones. Wright testified he received the items from J.T. Robertson. Also that day, other items identified as Vickie’s were recovered from Robertson’s apartment. Robertson testified: at some point between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. on 24 September, he received the items from Ladd in exchange for five $20 “rocks” of crack cocaine; early the next morning, Ladd returned with additional items, for which Robertson gave Ladd two more $20 “rocks”. Ladd was arrested the same day the items were recovered from the pawn shop and Robertson’s apartment (25 September); various pieces of jewelry on his person when he was arrested were identified as Vickie’s. A fingerprint lifted from the microwave oven that had been missing from Vickie’s apartment matched Ladd’s, as did a palm print lifted from a kitchen cabinet in Vickie’s apartment. Ladd had previously worked at, and been a client of, a rehabilitation center where Vickie was employed. DNA tests indicated Ladd was in the group that could have produced the spermatozoa found in the vaginal smear. On 23 August 1997, Ladd was convicted of capital murder under four separate theories — the murder having taken place during the commission of burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and arson. At the sentencing phase, the State presented 11 witnesses, including testimony that Ladd had previously committed a triple murder and testimony by two psychiatrists that, in their opinion, Ladd constituted a continuing danger to society. The defense did not present evidence at that phase. The jury answered the special issues as follows: the killing of Vickie Gardner was deliberate; there was a probability Ladd would commit acts of criminal violence that would constitute a continuing danger to society; and there was not sufficient mitigating evidence to justify imposing a sentence of life imprisonment. On 27 August 1997, the trial judge sentenced Ladd to death. UPDATE: Gene and Lawanta Garner plan to travel to Texas’ death chamber on Wednesday to watch the execution of the man who tortured, raped, robbed and murdered their daughter in her Tyler apartment before setting her body on fire. But the Garners’ desire to watch their daughter’s killer die is not for the reasons one might think. Since Nov. 22, when a judge set Robert Charles Ladd’s execution date, the killer has written to the Garners, expressing remorse and gratitude for Garner’s heartfelt courtroom speech. The tearful father, in front of a packed Tyler courtroom, pleaded with Ladd to embrace spirituality and seek God’s forgiveness. If he took that advice, the Garners believed they could forgive Ladd, who killed 3 others before murdering the mentally disabled Vicki Ann Garner. After receiving letters from Ladd, describing the courtroom speech as the most significant thing that’s happened in his life, Garner wrote back, telling Ladd: "We both decided we forgive you. We plan to be there, not to gloat, but in some small way to let you know we care." A part-time preacher, Garner said he and his wife have taken a leap they admit was difficult, but one God expected of them. "If we can’t forgive others, He can’t forgive us," said Mrs. Garner. "At first, I couldn’t. Vicki was my baby. But I thought how good it would be to get rid of this hatred." Ironically, the Garners are probably the 1st to know any compassion from Ladd, a career criminal who preyed on their 38-year-old daughter while he was on parole from prison, having served part of a sentence for the murders in Dallas of a young woman and her 2 children. Ladd, now 45, knew Ms. Garner from Tyler’s Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare System, where she was a client and mailroom employee. Described as mildly retarded, Ms. Garner was capable of living independently, as were her friends and neighbors in her small Fannin Avenue apartment complex, contracted by the Andrews Center to house clients. Formerly an Andrews Center client and employee himself, Ladd terrorized tenants of the complex, robbing them and burglarizing their homes during the months leading up to the Sept. 25, 1996, slaying of Ms. Garner. Police said Ladd was a drug addict who preyed on the most vulnerable and traded their wares for crack cocaine. They said he sexually assaulted Ms. Garner, strangled her, beat her with a hammer, bound her hands and legs with a cord and stole appliances and jewelry before setting the fire to destroy evidence. A Smith County jury in 1997 deliberated just 18 minutes before deciding Ladd should die for the murder. Last November, Garner took the witness stand in state District Judge Cynthia Kent’s court after the judge set Ladd’s execution date for April 23. "I’d like for you to be as ready when you depart this life as my daughter was when you murdered her," Garner told Ladd, coming face-to-face with him for the 1st time since the 1997 trial in the same courtroom. "Get to know Jesus Christ. All you have to do is request it. I’ll send a preacher to visit you. God can forgive you, but I’m not sure I can. If you were my brother in Christ, I’d feel obligated to." Garner assured Ladd that if he sought the Lord’s forgiveness, "Vicki Ann would be the first to give you a hug and welcome you into heaven." On Feb. 10, Garner said, a prison chaplain sent him a message from Ladd, proclaiming he’d found the Lord and wanted to make a change in his life before it was too late. Garner wrote to Ladd and provided him with a preacher’s name, with a note indicating he could try and get the preacher to visit Ladd on Livingston’s death row. Ladd’s next correspondence was an apology the Garners consider a sincere one. "We took him at face value and decided it was up to the Lord," Garner said. In his letter, Ladd wrote: "I’m sorry for the pain I caused you, more sorry than I could put into words. I wish I could take away your pain… I felt the presence of God when you stated, Vicki would welcome me into Heaven. That made me feel like nothing I’d ever felt in my life. I’m so, so sorry for the pain I caused." Ladd shared Garner’s speech with fellow inmates and guards. The Garners of Mount Pleasant said they hope the words will save other condemned killers. Barring a last-minute stay that could result from a federal appeal, Ladd will be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the death chamber in Huntsville. Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen Jr. plans to witness Ladd’s death. "I was one of the prosecutors in the case where Ladd received the death penalty and he deserves to be executed," Skeen said. "The murder of Vicki Garner was the 4th murder he committed, so the execution needs to be carried out as scheduled so we can finally receive justice in this case for Vicki Garner." In 1978, Ladd stabbed an 18-year-old Dallas woman, then set her house on fire, killing her and 2 children, ages 3 and 18 months. He served 12 years of a 40-year sentence before he was paroled under a now-defunct mandatory supervised release law. On Thursday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal from Ladd’s attorney, Sydney Snelling Young of Paris. It was based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring the execution of mentally retarded defendants unconstitutional. Legal experts who opposed the June 2002 ruling predicted it could spare the lives of dozens of condemned killers making new claims of mental retardation. Ms. Young’s argument her client is mentally disabled is now headed to federal court, which could issue a stay, preventing the Wednesday execution. The decision will be up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans which last week granted a stay based on the same argument in behalf of death row inmate Kenneth Wayne Morris. He was scheduled to die last Tuesday for the 1991 fatal shooting of a Houston man. The Supreme Court’s measure for retardation is an IQ of 70 or below but Morris was never tested. That was among the reasons for the stay. Like Ladd’s case, the state Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Morris’s appeal, landing it in the laps of the federal circuit court judges. Assistant District Attorney Ed Marty, who handles appeals for Smith County, said Ladd was tested when he was in prison for the 1978 Dallas murders and the result was an IQ of 86. Marty noted Ladd’s case couldn’t be tainted like many others because there is no risk of the inmate deliberately failing an IQ test in hopes of a reprieve. UPDATE – A federal appeals court today halted the execution of a twice-convicted killer scheduled to die later in the day for the slaying of a Tyler woman 6 1/2 years ago. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put off the scheduled evening punishment of Robert Charles Ladd, 46, after attorneys found juvenile records indicating he once was described as mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled mentally retarded people may not be executed and lawyers for Ladd had asked the appeals court to allow them to file an appeal in a lower federal court raising such a claim for him. The reprieve came about nine hours before Ladd could have been taken to the death chamber for lethal injection. Ladd was convicted of the 1996 beating death of Vickie Ann Garner, whose body was set on fire in her Tyler apartment. Her legs and wrists had been bound and she had been bludgeoned with a hammer. A microwave oven, combination television-video recorder and 2 telephones were linked to Ladd after they showed up a Tyler pawn shop Sept. 25, 1996, the same day firefighters discovered her body. Ladd was an acquaintance of Garner and on parole for a triple slaying 16 years earlier where one of the victims — a Dallas woman — was fatally stabbed and a fire was set between her legs. Her 2 young children died of asphyxiation in the blaze. Ladd, in a recent interview on death row, acknowledged being at Garner’s apartment and being involved in the theft of the household items but denied killing the woman. "It shouldn’t have happened," he said. "I can’t come up with a reason as to why it did, but I just know it didn’t have to happen." Ladd’s lawyers in their appeal cited a document from his childhood that put his IQ at 67, below the threshold of 70 set by the Supreme Court for retardation and making him ineligible for execution. In prison, however, Ladd, a 10th-grade dropout, received a high school equivalency degree and took several college classes. "That’s really a dead issue now," he said of the mental retardation claims. "I’m not looking for a crutch." Testimony at his trial showed he exchanged the VCR and phone for $100 worth of crack cocaine, then returned with other items from Garner’s apartment to swap for more drugs. "Me and a guy, I must admit, were messing with drugs and we wanted to make some money," he said. "One thing led to another. We went to Vickie’s house and he came back with the TV. I went in to load the stuff into the car." Ladd’s fingerprint was found on the microwave oven and his palm print was on a kitchen cabinet. DNA tests showed Ladd could have been responsible for having sex with Garner, 38, who was strangled and bludgeoned with a hammer. Garner was described as mildly retarded but capable of living on her own. Similarly, Ladd denied participating in the triple murder in Dallas. He said blood evidence tying him to the slayings was a result of a fight he had with the 18-year-old victim, who also was raped and stabbed. He agreed to a 40-year sentence in a plea bargain, although he said he was "admitting something I didn’t do." He was paroled for the Dallas slayings after serving about 13 years. 4 years after that, he was charged with capital murder in Tyler. At his trial, evidence showed as a juvenile Ladd had set fire to a girlfriend’s bedroom.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 24, 2003 Alabama Jack McGraw Gary Brown executed
On May 26, 1986, Gary Leon Brown, Archie Bankhead, James Bynum, and Jimmy Davenport went fishing near Locust Fork, Alabama, about thirty miles north of Birmingham. The men drank alcohol while they fished and then went to Chuck and Willie’s Lounge in Birmingham, where they continued to drink and played pool. While at the lounge, Brown, Bankhead, and Bynum discussed the possibility of going to Jack McGraw’s home in Pinson, Alabama, to obtain money. Brown and Bynum were both familiar with McGraw. The four men then left the lounge and headed to McGraw’s home. Davenport drove, and Bynum gave directions. When they arrived at McGraw’s home that night, Davenport remained in the car, while Brown, Bankhead, and Bynum went to McGraw’s door and knocked. McGraw let them in and said that he could not "party" with them that evening because he had to go to work the next morning. When the three men began to leave, McGraw walked outside with them. Bankhead then grabbed McGraw in a headlock, and Brown and Bynum began hitting McGraw. Davenport also saw Brown make a "slashing" movement at McGraw’s neck. McGraw and Bankhead fell to the ground and struggled. Bankhead, Brown, and Bynum then picked up McGraw and carried him inside his home. Brown recalled Bankhead saying that they would have to kill McGraw, because McGraw had seen Bankhead. Brown admitted that he repeatedly stabbed McGraw in the back with a small pocket knife. He claimed that either Bankhead or Bynum caused the fatal wounds to McGraw’s neck area. After killing McGraw, Bankhead, Brown, and Bynum gathered McGraw’s possessions, loaded them in Davenport’s car, and drove to Bankhead’s house, where they divided the stolen property and the money from McGraw’s wallet and burned their clothes which were covered in blood. According to Bankhead’s wife, the men joked about the murder. She overhead Brown telling Bankhead how he "kept stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing" McGraw. She also heard Bankhead and Bynum stating that they had cut McGraw’s neck. The next afternoon McGraw’s body was discovered by a neighborhood child. A few days later Jefferson County deputy sheriffs found Brown at Bankhead’s house. Brown accompanied them to the Center Point substation and gave them a statement that he and the other three men had gone fishing, to the bar, and then home. After giving this statement, Brown rode with the officers to Bynum’s house, where the officers questioned Bynum while Brown remained in the squad car with one of the officers. Bynum told the officers that Brown had inflicted all the stab wounds on McGraw and struck his head with a skillet. Brown claims that the officers returned to the squad car, arrested him, and told him that Bynum’s statement reflected that Bankhead stabbed McGraw and was the ringleader. Brown then gave a second statement to the officers to the effect that Bankhead had inflicted all of the wounds on McGraw. Later, after Brown learned that Bankhead had been arrested, Brown gave a third statement in which he admitted that he stabbed McGraw in the back repeatedly with a pocket knife and participated in the robbery along with Bynum and Bankhead.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 29, 2003 Ohio Sherry Byrne David Brewer pending
SherryByrne smallJoe Byrne, whose wife, Sherry, was abducted, raped and killed on March 21, 1985, said he believes the state should execute people faster. "It’s a joke,” Byrne said. "There should be due process, but at some point, the line needs to be drawn. We’ve gone way past that.” His wife’s killer, David Brewer, has been on Death Row since admitting to and being convicted of her murder. Now remarried and an executive with a New Jersey manufacturing company, Byrne monitors the court battle to execute Brewer. If Brewer is put to death — and Byrne doubts it will happen — he said he wants to watch. "People say I should get away from the case, but I just can’t do it,” he said. "For two years, I did not want to live.” The Byrnes had been married just eight months and were living in the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale when Brewer, a family friend, lured Sherry Byrne to a hotel. There he raped her, threw her into the trunk of his car and drove around southwest Ohio most of the day. In an isolated area near Beavercreek, Brewer stabbed Sherry Byrne, slit her throat and hanged her using his necktie. He was arrested five days later. Police found her body in a rented storage unit in Franklin. "She had no chance,” Byrne said. "She tried so hard to save her life.” Now Byrne wants Brewer to die — as much to defeat his public defender attorneys as to avenge his wife’s death. "The lawyers have to be stopped,” he said. "That’s my revenge.” UPDATE: The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday set an April 29 execution date for David Brewer, the former Washington Twp. man who almost exactly 18 years ago raped and killed his college fraternity brother’s bride, Vandalia Butler High School graduate Sherry Byrne. The 21-year-old victim, kidnapped and trapped in the trunk of Brewer’s car, wrote “Help me please” in lipstick on a piece of paper and shoved it outside the trunk, where it was read by other motorists as Brewer drove through Beavercreek. No help came, and Brewer killed her on a secluded lane off Factory Road on March 21, 1985. Brewer, who will turn 44 a week before his execution date, has exhausted all appeals. His attorney, assistant Ohio public defender Joseph Wilhelm, said no last-minute appeals will be filed, but Brewer will ask Gov. Bob Taft to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment. A clemency hearing before the Ohio Parole Board has not yet been scheduled. Even though Taft has yet to grant clemency to a condemned prisoner, Wilhelm said, “we would hope he would give it serious consideration. I think there’s a human being there worth saving. David’s pretty unique among people who are facing the death penalty, in that he led a pretty clean life before he committed one terrible act,” adding Brewer has been an exemplary inmate since his 1985 conviction by a three-judge panel. “Mercy weighs in his favor.” Joe Byrne, Sherry’s widower, disagrees. Asked for his reaction to the Supreme Court’s action, he said, “Well, it’s about time. This should’ve happened, in my opinion, eight or 10 years ago,” Byrne said. “But thanks to our wonderful system, lawyers can delay it for years and years with bogus arguments and whatever their imagination can come up with.” Byrne, who lives in central New Jersey, said he plans to be a witness at his one-time friend’s lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville. Brewer is on Death Row at Mansfield Correctional Institution. “I’m going to go because I feel like I have to, to represent Sherry,” Byrne said, “because through the whole process she’s been cast aside as sort of a faceless victim.” Joe Byrne and Brewer were fraternity brothers who socialized, along with their wives, occasionally after college. The Byrnes then lived in the Cincinnati area. Brewer lured Sherry Byrne to a Sharonville motel on the pretense that she would meet Brewer and his wife there to buy stereo speakers. Brewer came to the motel without his wife, kidnapped Sherry Byrne and raped her at the motel, then forced her into his trunk. After he stabbed and strangled her, Brewer put her body in a storage locker in Franklin. Brewer would be the seventh convicted murderer to be put to death in Ohio since 1999, when executions resumed after a 36-year hiatus. Most recently, Richard Fox was executed Feb. 12 for the murder of a Bowling Green woman. There are 205 men on Ohio’s Death Row. Friday, the state Supreme Court also set a May 14 execution date for Jerome Campbell, who stabbed a 78-year-old Cincinnati man to death during a burglary on Christmas Eve 1988. Joe Byrne said he doesn’t know how he’ll feel as he watches his former friend Brewer die. “I don’t know how I’m going to react when I get there,” he said. “The word ‘closure’ is way overrated. But he inflicted a lot of pain on a lot of people beyond myself. I don’t view it as a sad event.” UPDATE: In March 1985, Sherry and Joe Byrne were planning their future. Sherry, 21, and Joe, 25, had married a few months earlier. She was working as a part-time cosmetics saleswoman, and Joe had a job with a prominent financial company. They bought a house in Springdale. They were trying to have a baby. Then in a brutal and gruesome act, Joe’s friend and fraternity brother, David Brewer, lured Sherry from her home on a ruse, then abducted, raped and killed her. "As time goes on, it’s less about how much I miss her," says Joe Byrne, now 43 and living in Bridgewater, N.J. Now, "I’m sad that she was robbed of her life, and can’t enjoy the fruits of my work." Brewer was convicted of Sherry Byrne’s kidnapping and murder. The state of Ohio will execute him on Tuesday; Gov. Bob Taft on Friday declined to grant clemency. There’s never been any question that Brewer killed Sherry on March 21, 1985. But his attorneys say death is not the right punishment for a 43-year-old man who led an upstanding life before and after the crime. "Our argument is that his whole life should be taken into account," says Ohio Assistant Public Defender Joseph Wilhelm. "That should outweigh the worst thing he ever did." Sherry’s family says death is exactly the right punishment. David Brewer didn’t just take Sherry’s life when he strangled her with a necktie, stabbed her 15 times and slit her throat. He ruined the lives of everyone close to her. Her mother, Myrtle Kaylor, had to be hospitalized. Grief overwhelming all other emotions, she and Sherry’s stepfather, Lylburn Kaylor, soon divorced. Joe, too, said he was in and out of psychiatric care after his wife’s death. Now, "An unexplainable ease has come over me," Joe Byrne says. "I think he needs to die, mostly because I don’t think he and his attorneys should be rewarded for all the lies they have perpetuated over the years. "Dave has never accepted responsibility for what he did," he says. That March day, Brewer, an appliance store manager who lived in suburban Dayton, Ohio, called Sherry Byrne and invited her to come meet him and his wife at a Sharonville hotel. But when she arrived with her puppy, Beau, she found Brewer alone there. After assaulting her, he forced her into the trunk of his car, then drove her around for hours before killing her that evening on a secluded road in Greene County. The puppy was let loose. Four days later, Brewer confessed and led officers to her body. He was convicted that fall and sentenced to death. Joe Byrne describes his wife as a beautiful person who was always smiling. He theorizes that Brewer misinterpreted her friendly nature. Then, when he found out she didn’t have the same feelings, he got mad and attacked her. On the day he was sentenced for Sherry’s murder, Greene County Prosecutor William Schenck told Sherry’s family the appeals would take more than 15 years. Countless appeals in state and federal court have led to Tuesday. Schenck has presided over four death penalty cases – Brewer would be the first defendant to die. Byrne asked him to witness the execution with him, and Schenck agreed. He debunks the argument that Brewer should be spared because he is good person. "Some crimes are so horrid nothing else matters," Schenck says. "What he did more than justifies the death penalty. He had more than a dozen opportunities to let her go and he chose the dark side." Schenck says he’s tense about watching a man die, but stands by his decision. "I asked for the death penalty, and I have to have enough backbone to see it through," he says. It’s never been easy, but the first year was the hardest, Joe Byrne says. Twice that year he checked into the psychiatric unit of The Christ Hospital. "I wanted to die," Byrne says. He never went back to the home he shared with Sherry. Instead, he moved into his parents’ Middletown home. He couldn’t even go back to his job. When his boss pleaded with him to return, Byrne tried, but burst into tears on his way downtown. He turned around and went home. Beau the puppy was found and returned to Byrne. For months after the murder, if a woman screamed on television, Beau would go crazy. Slowly, Byrne found his drive again. He sold the Springdale home, keeping only a few mementos. In particular, he clung to a basketball jersey his wife often slept in. He filed civil lawsuits, winning a half million dollars in a wrongful death suit against Brewer – not that Brewer has any money. It was more about making sure Brewer never sold the rights to his story for a book or movie, Byrne says. Byrne remarried in late 1987. When a job offer came from New Jersey in 1988, he took it. Too many sad memories in Cincinnati, he thought. He and his second wife, Cristine, have three children. Now the most difficult times are anniversary dates. The day Joe and Sherry got married, her birthday. The day she died. In 1990 during a trip home to visit his parents, Byrne went to the deserted farm lane where his wife drew her last breath. "I just sat there are cried," he says. Byrne has stayed close with the Kaylors over the years. That’s helped, Myrtle Kaylor says. "There’s a void in my life as if it’s never really complete," says Kaylor, who lives in Dayton. She’s never been able to forge close relationships like she had with her daughter. "I never remarried, never gave of myself like that," she says. "I’m so afraid that I’ll be hurt again." She’s hoping Brewer’s death will bring a sense a relief. "It’s not going to be a celebration," Kaylor says. "I don’t celebrate somebody else’s downfall, but at the same time it means I don’t have to deal with more hearings and more appeals and read about it in the paper." Kaylor says by attending the execution she’ll "walk the last mile with her daughter." UPDATE: Details of Sherry Byrne’s killing – At first authorities didn’t divulge the most gruesome details of 21-year-old Sherry Byrne’s death. But over the years the horror she experienced during those last hours with her killer, David Brewer, unraveled during hearings and death sentence appeals. MARCH 21, 1985: David Brewer called Sherry Byrne at her Springdale home and asked her to meet him and his wife, Kathy, at the Red Carpet Inn in Sharonville, where they were celebrating his wife’s pregnancy. Also, he said, he had stereo speakers for her that they had previously talked about. Sherry called her husband, Joe Byrne, at work with the news, and then rushed out of the house with their 4-month-old puppy, Beau, a Christmas present from Byrne to his wife. Nobody knows for sure exactly what happened at the hotel, but prosecutors say Brewer, who was more than twice Sherry’s size, raped and beat her, tied her up and tossed her in the trunk of his Mercury Topaz. He drove around for Hamilton, Warren and Greene counties for several hours, stopping several times to beat her up. She was bound and gagged. She managed to write a sign in lipstick saying, "Help me please," which she shoved out the trunk’s crack. Passing motorists saw the sign, jotted the license plate number and reported it to the Beavercreek Police Department outside Dayton, Ohio. They traced the plate to Brewer and called him at work at an appliance store, only he wasn’t there. He had taken Sherry to a small, secluded farm lane in Greene County. Passing cars scared him off and he left. When Brewer stopped in at work at about 7 p.m., Sherry alive in his trunk, co-workers mentioned police were looking for him. He returned the police officers’ call, but played it off as a prank he pulled with a hitchhiker. Still officers insisted on checking out his car in person. Brewer conceded, and said he’d be at the station in about an hour. Brewer took that time to drive back to the farm lane, where he killed Sherry and dumped her body in a ditch, prosecutors said. Before talking to the officer, Brewer slipped into the police station’s bathroom and wiped any trace of blood on his hands and feet. Beavercreek police believed Brewer’s hitchhiker story, cited him with inducing panic, and sent him home. Brewer left, collected Sherry’s body and then went to his Dayton area home to bed, leaving her in his trunk. Byrne spent those same evening hours in a panic. He knew when Sherry didn’t come home that something had happened. The story began to unravel when he called the Brewers and Cathy Brewer said she wasn’t pregnant and hadn’t seen Sherry that day. Her husband had not yet come home. Because Sherry had not been missing 24 hours, Byrne could only make an unofficial missing persons complaint with the Springdale Police Department. FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 1985: Byrne made an official missing person’s report and a group organized to pass out fliers with Sherry and Beau’s picture. Brewer called and expressed concern. He admitted he talked to Sherry that morning, but said she didn’t seem like herself. Byrne never considered that Brewer might have done something – even when Brewer asked if he was a suspect. SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 1985: Brewer hid Sherry in a storage locker then visited her husband. He hugged his friend and Sherry Byrne’s mother. It would be the last time the two men saw each other until the trial. Later that day, Joe Byrne found a card Sherry had left for him tucked inside their Bible. "I miss you more today than yesterday," it said. SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 1985: Byrne went to church. "I talked to God like I have never done before, begging Him for a miracle, to help Sherry to be alive," he said. By this time police began to theorize that maybe Sherry had been cheating on him, something Joe insisted wasn’t true. MONDAY, MARCH 25, 1985: Springdale police interviewed Joe, then turned their attention to David Brewer. In 30 minutes they caught Brewer in three lies, each version more absurd than the last. When they left Brewer alone with his wife, he confessed. He led police to the Franklin storage unit where Sherry’s body was and took police to the place where he killed her. The knife was still there. TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 1985: Two officers, accompanied by a priest, went to the Byrne’s house. They didn’t have to say anything. "I fell to me knees crying as I knew that Sherry was dead," he said. "My world was crushed." A Greene County grand jury indicted Brewer on charges of kidnapping and aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. Later that year Brewer’s case went trial. Brewer testified that he never meant to harm Sherry and planned to let her go eventually. But when he released her from the trunk she screamed and ran away. "I just lost control," he said during the trial. "It’s even hard for me to remember what happened. I was just trying to her quiet. I just lost control." UPDATE: Brewer walked briskly into the death chamber and lay on the table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. He wore a white V-neck T-shirt, blue pants with orange stripes and tan boots. Asked by Warden James Haviland if he had a last statement, Brewer said the state should do something about prisoners on death row who don’t belong there. "I’d like to say to the system in Ohio as far as the death row inmates are concerned, there are some that are innocent. I’m not one of them, but there are plenty that are innocent. I hope the state recognizes that. That’s all I have to say," Brewer said. Joe Byrne, the victim’s husband, witnessed Brewer’s execution. He said softly: "Where’s your remorse?" Byrne, who has remarried and now lives in Bridgewater, N.J., said he was listening for an apology but never heard one. "David Brewer went to sleep," he said. "I was thinking of Sherry. Her suffering was immeasurable." Brewer stared at the ceiling while the chemicals were released. After closing his eyes, he yawned, his chest rose sharply once, then his breaths became shorter until he lay motionless. Byrne’s mother, Myrtle Kaylor, said she will never stop grieving for her daughter. "I hope that David Brewer today saw my daughter’s face and her plea for mercy as he left this world," she said. "The punishment he received today is much more humane than what he did to her."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 29, 2003 Tennessee Steve Hampton, 25
Sarah Jackson, 16
Angela Holmes, 21
Michelle Mace, 16
Ronald Santiago, 27
Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23
Andrea Brown, 17
Paul Reid stayed
Serial killer Paul Dennis Reid was convicted of committing these murders, and is suspected of additional murders. Reid was convicted of murdering two Donelson, Tennessee Captain D’s employees, Steve Hampton, 25, and Sarah Jackson, 16, in February 1997. Reid was able to enter the restaurant before it opened by pretending he wanted to apply for a job. He robbed the restaurant, ordered the two employees into a cooler, then shot them in the head execution-style as they lay face down on the floor. Reid’s fingerprint was found on a movie rental card in Hampton’s wallet, which Reid had discarded along the roadway. Two days after the killings, Reid used some of the cash from the robbery to prepay the lease on a car. Reid received two death sentences on April 20, 1999. Reid was convicted of kidnapping and murdering two Clarksville Baskin-Robbins workers, Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16, in April 1997. Reid waited until closing time, about 10 p.m., and convinced the two young women to open the door. He then drove them to nearby Dunbar Cave State Natural Area where he slashed their throats. Reid received two death sentences for the murders on Sept. 22, 1999. Reid was convicted of the March 23, 1997, murder of three Hermitage McDonald’s employees, Ronald Santiago, 27, Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23, and Andrea Brown, 17, and attempted murder of Jose Alfredo Ramirez Gonzalez. Reid waited until closing time to pull a gun on Gonzalez and another worker as they took garbage to the trash bin. He ordered them back into the building, robbed the store and ordered them and two other employees into a storeroom. Then he shot all but Gonzalez execution-style in the head as they lay face down. Apparently running out of bullets, Reid stabbed Gonzalez 17 times before leaving him for dead. Gonzalez survived and identified Reid as the killer. Reid received three death sentences for the murders on May 27, 2000. UDPATE: Attorneys for death row inmate Paul Dennis Reid have filed an appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his scheduled April 29 execution despite Reid’s plea that all appeals be halted. Reid’s Nashville attorney, Jeffrey DeVasher, said yesterday that he filed the appeal for Reid last week, even though Reid refused to sign a necessary court document. The appeal asks the high court to overturn a decision last November by the Tennessee Supreme Court that affirmed Reid’s convictions and death sentence for 2 murders and set an execution date. DeVasher would not comment yesterday on why Reid refused to sign the document an affidavit certifying he is an indigent, required whenever poor inmates appeal. In a motion explaining the lack of Reid’s signature, DeVasher said Reid’s reasons "raise questions of whether he has the capacity to appreciate his position and make a rational choice with respect to continuing or abandoning further litigation." "We have a responsibility, and ultimately the court has a responsibility, to ensure that whatever decision Mr. Reed makes in regards to pursuing his appeals, they are decisions that are the product of a rational choice," DeVasher said when contacted yesterday. The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court comes several weeks after Reid filed a handwritten motion with the Tennessee Supreme Court asking that it halt appeals of his convictions for killing two people at a Captain D’s Seafood Restaurant. Reid noted in his motion he was discontinuing appeals after 4 years of weighing his alternatives. "I have no confidence, nor belief in the state, or federal, judiciary system, after my 1st trial, 4-19-99," Reid wrote. "I’m convicted of seven egregious homicides." Reid went on a killing spree at fast-food restaurants in March and April 1997. He was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 2 people at the Captain D’s in Donelson. He also received 5 death sentences for killing 3 people at a McDonald’s in Hermitage and 2 employees of a Baskin-Robbins in Clarksville. Automatic appeals in the last 5 cases are ongoing, but that process has been completed in the Captain D’s slayings. UDPATE: Hours from execution, Reid resumes appeals after receiving ‘sign from God’ – After dropping his appeals last month, seven-time convicted murderer Paul Dennis Reid vowed not to change his mind at the last minute. "I adamantly will not pick up my appeals," Reid, 45, told The Associated Press last week. "I’m not playing games with the state of Tennessee. I’m not playing games with Jesus Christ. I’ll lay down on that gurney, get strapped on the gurney, be rolled into the execution chamber and have the lethal injection syringes inserted into my arm." But less than three hours from his scheduled execution Tuesday morning, the Texas drifter signed paperwork to resume his appeals – a legal process that could add years to his life. The Rev. Joe Ingle, a death penalty opponent who counsels condemned inmates, said Reid believed God intervened in his life. Reid was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 1 a.m. But late Monday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay of execution. The state attorney general’s office immediately sought a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that stay so Tennessee could proceed with its second execution in 43 years. But Reid thwarted that effort by signing a petition for post-conviction relief, restarting his appeals. Ingle said he was with Reid at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution when they heard that the 6th Circuit had issued a stay. A television was on near the cell where Reid was on death watch, and the station carried the news. "He took that as a sign from God," Ingle said. In visits with relatives and Ingle, Reid had maintained that he wanted to give up his appeals and die, the minister said. "Our whole message was, ‘We understand that, Paul, but if God is saying something to you and works through some agency, be it the court or the governor or whatever to stop it, then you have to see that as God’s will,’" Ingle said. "And he understood that." Ingle said he and Reid had just finished communion when they received the news of the stay. "He was joyous," Ingle said. Seventeen immediate family members of Reid’s victims had planned to witness the execution and were gathered at an undisclosed location awaiting a bus ride to the prison when the execution was called off. Jerry Jackson, father of Sarah Jackson, 16, one of Reid’s first victims, declined to comment when contacted at home late Monday. Other victims could not be immediately reached. Reid received seven death sentences for a string of murders at fast-food restaurants in Nashville and Clarksville in 1997. He dropped his appeals on two of his death sentences last month, clearing the way for his execution. His sister, Janet Kirkpatrick of Hungerford, Texas, filed a motion last week seeking to resume the appeals on his behalf because he is mentally ill, and the 6th Circuit ruled in her favor. Earlier Monday, Reid testified at a federal hearing that the U.S. military uses technology to make his ears ring and control his behavior. He said he understood that by dropping his appeals he would be executed. U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell found that Reid was mentally ill but understood the consequences of his actions. Kirkpatrick appealed to the 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati, and a three-judge panel ruled that a mental competency hearing was needed. The justices halted the execution and sent the case back to Campbell’s court. The hearing is now moot since Reid has resumed his appeals. Correction Department spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Reid was taken off death watch late Monday and returned to his cell on death row. An inmate on death watch is placed in a special cell just outside the death chamber in the hours leading up to an execution. Reid did receive his "last meal" Monday night and apparently told Correction Commissioner Quenton White at that time that he wanted the execution carried out. "If I’m going to wake up tomorrow in prison, then I don’t want to live," Reid told White, Johnson said. During his testimony in Campbell’s court Monday, Reid repeatedly told the judge he was not mentally ill. Several times he mentioned the victims, and once called all seven by name. "Your honor, there are seven innocent people who have lost their lives, and I believe this court and all the courts should focus their attention on the surviving families," Reid said. "Three juries in the Bible Belt state of Tennessee have already decided I am guilty. I understand the ramifications and I accept the verdict." Campbell also heard testimony from a psychologist who recently examined Reid and believed he was incapable of making a decision about his appeals; and Reid’s brother-in-law, who said Reid has claimed since the mid-1980s that the government controls his mind. Reid, who moved to Nashville to attempt a country music career, was fired as a dishwasher from a Shoney’s restaurant on Feb. 15, 1997, for losing his temper and throwing a plate that hit another employee. The next day, Jackson and Steve Hampton, 25, were slain execution-style at a Captain D’s restaurant not far from the Shoney’s. In March 1997, Ronald Santiago, 27; Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23; and Andrea Brown, 17, were shot and killed in a midnight robbery at a McDonald’s a few miles from the Captain D’s. A month later, Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16, were kidnapped in a robbery at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store in Clarksville, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Their throats were slashed and their bodies were dumped at Dunbar Cave State Natural Area. Reid was arrested in June 1997 and linked to the murders after attempting to kidnap and kill the Shoney’s manager who fired him. He was convicted and condemned in three separate trials – one for each set of murders.

Page visited times since 2/19/03

Page last updated 01/11/09