November 2004 Executions

Six killers were executed in November 2004. They had murdered at least 6 people.
killers were given a stay in November 2004. They have murdered at least 11 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 2, 2004 Texas Jesse Fields, 71 Lorenzo Morris executed

A judge set an execution date for a death row inmate whose victim spent eight months in a coma and died after contracting a foot infection in his nursing home bed. Lorenzo Morris, 51, stood silently before state District Judge Michael Wilkinson, who granted prosecutors’ request that Morris die by injection Nov. 2. Morris attacked 71-year-old Jesse Fields on Aug. 5, 1990, cutting his throat and bludgeoning him in the head with a hammer at his Houston home. Morris later confessed, saying he flew into a rage because Fields had no drugs to sell, court records show. Morris said he took money from Fields’ home and left him lying in a pool of blood. The attack left Fields in a coma. Eight months later, he was in a nursing home when he developed gangrene in his foot. Doctors amputated his foot to prevent the spread of infection. Fields, who had been comatose since the attack, died the day after the operation. After Fields’ death in May 1991, charges against Morris were upgraded from robbery to capital murder. Morris lost a series of appeals in recent years. He claimed that he was not guilty of capital murder because Fields’ death was in part the result of poor nursing home care rather than his attack. He also claimed his death sentence was unfair because outdated laws at his 1992 trial prevented jurors from hearing about the extenuating circumstances of his life, including childhood neglect, drug abuse and military service. Morris is a Vietnam veteran who became a drug addict while serving in Southeast Asia. He was forced to leave the Army because of misconduct related to his drug use, his attorney said. Texas law now requires jurors to consider whether any mitigating factors – such as a deeply troubling childhood – suggest a person should not receive the death penalty despite his guilt. In a separate trial, Morris received a life sentence for a May 19, 1990 wash-a-teria robbery in which he wounded But Van Nguyen. UPDATE: Condemned inmate Lorenzo Morris asked that no last-day appeals be filed for him to try to block his scheduled execution Tuesday evening. "He’s made peace with the situation," Morris’ lawyer, Rob Morrow said Monday. Morris, 52, would be the 19th Texas inmate put to death this year and the first of two this week. The former laborer and Nacogdoches native already had arrests for assault, robbery, weapons and drug possession and had served at least two prison terms when he was arrested for stabbing and beating with a hammer a 70-year-old Houston man. When Jesse Fields died nine months after the August 1990 attack, Morris wound up charged with capital murder, was convicted and condemned. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-0, refusing to either commute his sentence to life in prison or grant a temporary reprieve. The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review his case. Last week, in another Harris County case, condemned inmate Dominique Green won a temporary reprieve in an appeal that cited problems at the Houston Police Department crime lab as reason to halt his punishment. Green’s lawyers contended boxes of improperly stored and catalogued evidence kept by the crime lab and recently discovered could contain information relevant to his case and the injection should be delayed at least until the contents of those files could be inspected. State lawyers won an appeal that overturned the reprieve and Green was executed. Morris’ case falls into the same time frame for the contested lab files, although prosecutors said they had accounted for all the evidence presented in his case. "He doesn’t want to go through or put his family through what Dominique went through," Morrow said. "I don’t think anybody wants to live through what Green did – you’re gonna die, you’re not gonna die. He was just down a couple of cells from Green and I think it’s a horrible thing for anybody to go through." Court records indicated Morris, who contended he became a drug addict while serving in the military in Vietnam, blamed Fields’ death on poor health care after the beating. Fields died a day after doctors had to amputate a leg that had become infected. Previous unsuccessful appeals also said jurors in his case should have been allowed to hear he had been affected by the deaths of his two sisters in a house fire and that his mother was an alcoholic who often neglected her children. Fields never recovered from the attack during a robbery at his home and was in a coma when Morris was arrested in March 1991 for shooting the operator of a coin-operated laundry. In interviews with police, he told them about the attack on Fields, but contended the victim first had come at him with the hammer, according to prosecutors. His girlfriend at the time, however, testified she saw Morris sitting on the elderly man while holding a knife and demanding to know where he kept his money. She said she never called police because she feared for her own safety. On Thursday, inmate Robert Brice Morrow, 47, was set to die for the abduction and fatal beating and slashing of a 21-year-old University of Nevada-Las Vegas student, Lisa Allison, who was at home in Liberty County east of Houston on spring break in 1996.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 4, 2004 Texas Myra Elisabeth Allison, 21 Robert Morrow executed

November 4th has been set as the execution date for convicted murderer Robert Brice Morrow of Liberty. Morrow was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1996 abduction and murder of 21-year-old Lisa Allison. Lisa had been beaten and slashed with a knife when her body was found near the Trinity River bridge the day after her disappearance. The car was later found abandoned near a church several miles away in Ames. Morrow doesn’t deny that traces of his blood were recovered from Lisa’s car. He contends he was given a ride in the vehicle by the man who killed her and took the car, and claims he was bleeding after he and a drug-smoking acquaintance from Houston got into a "powerful conflict" and fought over drug paraphernalia. Morrow told police in at least one of his statements more than two months after the murder that he was drinking beer all day and was out of town when the woman was killed. However, he gave the alibi before asking what day the murder took place. A longtime friend of Morrow’s testified that Morrow had mused about how easy it would be to rob women at a local car wash for dope money. The conversations, he said, took place as the pair gazed at the car wash from a gas station across the street, where they bought beer and cigarettes after smoking $50 to $100 worth of crack cocaine following a day in the oil fields. Smith said that when he learned of the slaying of Myra Elisabeth Allison, a 21-year-old Liberty college student who was abducted from the car wash, he was incarcerated at a state prison drug rehabilitation unit in Huntsville. He told his counselor about his conversations with Morrow. "It seemed too coincidental to what me and Robert Morrow talked about," Smith told jurors. Their friendship carried no weight in his decision to tip police, he said. As he put it, "I feel there’s a big difference between smoking dope and capital murder." Under cross-examination, Smith insisted he was not seeking any of the $30,000 reward money that has been offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of Allison’s killer. He also said he has not been promised leniency from the judicial system and expects to soon be returned to a state drug rehab unit. Smith has previous convictions for delivery of marijuana and possession of cocaine. He is on probation for a driving-while-intoxicated conviction. Despite his past, Smith said Morrow’s suggestions that women at the car wash could easily be overpowered with a knife surprised him. "It kinda startled me," he testified. Morrow also suggested the pair could have sex with any of the women they robbed and that the victims could easily be "taken care of," Smith said. "He said if I said anything, he could take care of me, too," he testified. Police used information from Smith to obtain a search warrant against Morrow, a 38-year-old ex-convict, who was forced to surrender hair and blood samples to investigators. When police questioned Morrow on June 19, 1996, about 2½ months after Allison’s slaying, he told them he had been drinking all day at the Lazy H Bar in Liberty, where he took up with a Chambers County man who was celebrating his birthday with friends, according to police testimony on Wednesday. Morrow said the birthday party then moved to a bar called Smitty’s in Crosby, where he remained until midnight. Police couldn’t confirm any parts of Morrow’s story, leading them to intensify their investigation. When Morrow agreed to give a written statement, he changed parts of his story, saying he had gone to Channelview instead of Crosby and omitting the name of the Chambers County man he said was celebrating his birthday. Police still could not confirm any parts of the story. Allison, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas student who was home on spring break, was reported missing April 3, 1996, after taking her family’s 1988 Oldsmobile to a car wash at U.S. 90 and FM 563. Her bludgeoned and slashed body was found the next day in the Trinity River by a fisherman checking his trot lines. Morrow was arrested on the most unremarkable of charges: illegally walking in the street. After Morrow was picked up July 29, 1996, near a crack house in Houston’s Fourth Ward and taken to the City Jail, computer records showed police he was wanted for Lisa’s slaying. But Morrow was willing to fill in the blanks left by the computer. "He said, `Ya’ll got a big one. This is a high-profile case where I come from,’ " Houston Officer Charles Vazquez testified at Morrow’s trial. "He said, `I’m on America’s Most Wanted (TV show). He seemed kind of boastful about it." A friend of Morrow’s testified that Morrow asked him to lie about his whereabouts on April 3, 1996, the night Lisa was murdered. More importantly, the witness told jurors he had let Morrow out of his car near a car wash where the University of Nevada-Las Vegas student was abducted. A 21-year-old Cleveland man who was brought from the Jefferson County Jail to testify said he had overheard Morrow talk about the murder to another inmate at the Liberty County Jail in October 1996. The man quoted Morrow as saying a friend of his had struck the woman with a tire tool and that the pair left her near the Trinity River. The men then smoked some crack but returned later to find the woman still alive, he quoted Morrow as saying. They then beat her to death and threw her body in the river, he said. "Whose idea was it to go back and make sure Lisa Allison was dead?" Assistant District Attorney Steve Greene asked. "Robert Morrow," the witness said. Another jail inmate testified that he had seen Morrow about 1 a.m. on April 4, 1996, with blood on his arms and legs. "I asked him what happened and he told me he got in a car wreck," the witness said. Lisa’s mother said that she never wanted to go to the car wash alone. But when the young Nevada college student — home in Liberty for spring break — beseeched her mother, father and sister to accompany her, each begged off. Then the curly-haired, freckled-faced Allison, known to her friends and family as Lisa, equipped herself with a couple of old towels, cranked up the family’s midnight blue Oldsmobile Cutlass and headed off to handle the chore herself. Her family expected her to return in less than an hour. But they never saw her alive again. Allison’s slashed and battered body was found the next morning, bobbing in the muddy Trinity River a short distance from town. "She was going to the car wash in `little Liberty Texas’. What’s the big deal?" District Attorney Mike Little asked jurors as testimony began Thursday in the capital murder trial of Robert Morrow, the student’s accused killer. "But when she closed that door and left, it closed her to her family forever." Lisa was the elder daughter of former Liberty City Councilman Mike Allison and his schoolteacher wife, Susan. As the first prosecution witness to testify, Mrs. Allison detailed for jurors the growing panic her family felt as Lisa failed to return on the evening of April 3, 1996. Mrs. Allison said her daughter had asked her to go to the car wash with her, but she felt obligated to stay home and wash clothes. The student’s father, now a certified public accountant, also declined, opting to relax in front of the television. Her younger sister was deep in homework. Mrs. Allison testified that Lisa changed into blue jean shorts, T-shirt and denim shirt, then grabbed a couple of old towels and left. "We expected her back within an hour," the mother said. "She and her sister were going to work on homework. Lisa was helping her study for a vocabulary test. She was very much the big sister." Lisa Allison left the family home about 8:30 p.m. Shortly afterward, her mother fell asleep while folding laundry and watching television. Waking about 90 minutes later, she was surprised to see lights in the front part of the house still burning. "I asked if Lisa was back," Mrs. Allison recalled. "She wasn’t." She said the family became concerned about 10:30 p.m. "We tried calling her on the car phone, but there never was an answer. We called and we called. We thought maybe there was something wrong with the connection." At one point, Mike Allison searched the town for his missing daughter. "He was gone about 45 minutes," Mrs. Allison said. "He looked everywhere, but he didn’t see her. After that we just sat there for a period." About 2 a.m., Mrs. Allison could stand the suspense no more. "I got into the car and started looking myself. It was midweek and most of Lisa’s friends weren’t in Liberty yet. "But I went up all the streets. I even took a country road and circled back through Hardin. I thought maybe she had lost control and ended up in a ditch. I looked everywhere and I thought everything." The search was futile. District Attorney Little told jurors that Lisa Allison was abducted from the car wash. "We can’t tell you what happened minute-by-minute," he said. "We can’t even tell you what happened blow-by-blow. But after the abduction, she entered a time period of pure terror, horror, torture and ultimately death. "They threw her in the river like someone throws a bag of trash in the water." Mrs. Allison said that at about 5 a.m. the family telephoned a friend who had been married to a police officer. That woman’s advice led them to Liberty police headquarters where they filed a missing-person report. At 10:30 a.m., they received word that Lisa’s body had been found in the river near the U.S. 90 bridge. Said Little: "The worst thing in their mind came true in brutal detail." Also testifying Thursday was Gustavo DeLeon, a forensic expert with the Bexar County Forensic Science Center in San Antonio. He testified that autopsy tests revealed Allison had blood — but not semen — in her mouth and rectum. DeLeon used the trial’s most dramatic prop, the passenger compartment and trunk of the Allison family auto, to show jurors where human blood had been identified in the passenger compartment. A jury took just 13 minutes to sentence Morrow to death following his capital murder conviction. UPDATE: With his execution imminent, Robert Morrow fidgeted in his chair and was testy as he spoke on a telephone through a Plexiglas window on death row. He then began to spin a new story that substantially changed his long-held account of his part in the kidnapping and slaying of a Liberty councilman’s daughter eight years ago. "I don’t care who… believes me," the 47-year-old man said in a thick Cajun accent laced with profanity at the Polunsky prison unit. He then confessed to being the one who beat and slashed the throat of 21-year-old Lisa Allison while she was home on spring break, contradicting his trial testimony and media statements in which he had named another man as the killer. But he also contended that the college student had willingly gone with him to smoke crack cocaine, denying that he had abducted her at knifepoint from a car wash. Without committing another crime along with the slaying on April 3, 1996, Morrow reasoned, his case should not qualify under state law for the death penalty. He is slated for execution at the Walls Unit in Huntsville on Thursday. If Morrow thought his admission might help redeem him, it has had the opposite effect on Allison’s parents and the Liberty County district attorney. They say Morrow’s latest statements are another attempt to manipulate the system and cruelly smear the family’s memory of their daughter by falsely implying she willingly accompanied him and used drugs. "There are monsters out there who are wearing people suits. I want to see this monster stand in front of God Almighty and try to lie his way out," said Allison’s father, Mike, a certified public accountant. The emotional stress of her death also caused Mike Allison to resign from the Liberty City Council seat that he had held six years in the usually tranquil community northeast of Houston. His daughter had already faced death once when she had won a battle with thyroid cancer three months before her murder, her family said. "We are battle-weary," said Lisa Allison’s mother, Susan, a teacher. "You don’t realize the physical pain you feel when something like this happens. It’s like having open-heart surgery without the anesthetic." The Allisons and their daughter, Ashley, who was seven years younger than Lisa, say they are constantly reminded of their loss. "We cannot enjoy simple things like going out to eat. They don’t make a table for three. There is always an empty chair," said Susan Allison. But Morrow said he had no choice but to kill Allison. After driving down an isolated road to the Trinity River to smoke crack, Morrow said, he and Allison got into a physical confrontation over a flat tire on the car that she had taken to the car wash. She was upset with him for not quickly changing it and bit him and stabbed him in the leg with a screwdriver, he said. "I’m high on cocaine, and it blew my fuse. So I knotted up and slapped her and beat the (expletive) out of her," he said. At one point, he said, he chased her down the road and dragged her back to the car, throwing her in the trunk so he could "change the tire." "When I opened the trunk again, she came at me like a raving… maniac. So I had to whop her upside the head with a jack handle," he said. He also cut her throat. "I knew who her family was. I was a convicted felon that had been to the pen three times. I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. I did what I had to do." The background of Morrow and Allison couldn’t be more different. In addition to serving on the council, Allison’s father founded the town’s only funeral home in 1947. Lisa Allison also had a cousin who was a constable and another who was a deputy sheriff and bailiff. Morrow had grown up one of five children in a home with an abusive, alcoholic father, said his 75-year-old mother, Mary Morrow. He ran away to join a carnival at age 9 and returned a few years later. He dropped out in the 10th grade. Although Morrow never admitted the killing to his mother, Mary Morrow remembers him coming home that night with blood on his clothing and saying that he’d been in a fight. "I’m sorry he (did) it. I guess he’s being punished now," said Mary Morrow, who is rail thin from arthritis and diabetes. "I can’t attend the execution because I can’t walk without holding onto something. I know he’s going to die and I don’t want to see it." District Attorney Mike Little said the only truth in Morrow’s latest admission is that "he brutally killed a young woman who fought for her virtue and her life." Little said any insinuations that she willingly accompanied Morrow on a drug binge are "totally preposterous" because tests at the time of her death found no trace of any drugs in her system. In addition, Little said a friend of Morrow’s testified at the trial that he once mused about how easy it would be to kidnap, rob, sexually assault and kill a woman from that very car wash before it happened. "Those who knew Lisa would never consider for a moment that she would have anything to do with this human piece of garbage unless he had a knife to her throat," Little said. Allison had been attending the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where she was a year away from a degree in hotel management, her family said. In high school, she had been an honor student and won a state competition in prose. She was always involved as a class officer, student council member and drill team dancer, her family said. "She was electric. When she walked in a room, you could feel the energy," said Susan Allison. Morrow, meanwhile, said he is ready to die. He has had plenty of time to think about his death while isolated in his dank cell with no air conditioning and only a radio for company. "I’d have to be retarded or stupid to want to live on death row," he said. Mike and Susan Allison and three other family members plan to make the trip to Livingston to witness Morrow receive the lethal injection. Morrow said none of his family members will attend. He said he has a 20-year-old son, Clyde, who cannot come because he is in prison for cocaine possession. However, Morrow said a Catholic priest from Boston and some friends from Switzerland will attend. "I want you to tell the Allison family that I have arranged for a friend to get my ashes and scatter them over their daughter’s grave," he said with a loud laugh. But then he said he was really sending his ashes to members of his father’s family in Ireland. He said he has made his atonement and has no fear of dying: "I’ll go in myself and help with it (the execution). They’re doing me a big favor. I’m getting set free." UPDATE: Apologetic killer Robert Brice Morrow was executed Thursday for the fatal beating and slashing of a 21-year-old Nevada college student who was abducted while home in Texas on spring break. In a last statement, Morrow addressed the parents of his victim by name and told them, "I would like to tell you that I am responsible and I am sorry for what I did and the pain I caused." He expressed love to his friends and said he had been blessed that they stood by him. Morrow urged them to stay strong. "Set me free warden," he said. "Father, accept me." As he waited for the lethal drugs to take effect, he turned again, looking through a window at his victim’s relatives and added, "I do hope my death brings you all some closure." Then he blurted out, "I feel it" and gasped slightly three times. He was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m. CST, eight minutes after the drugs began flowing. The execution was delayed briefly as prison officials had difficulty finding suitable veins in the former drug user’s arms. Instead they selected veins at the top of each hand for the needles. Morrow, 47, a former oilfield roughneck with a criminal record in at least three states, was condemned for the 1996 slaying of Lisa Allison, who was taken from a car wash near her home in Liberty, about 45 miles east of Houston. Her body was found the next day in the Trinity River. Authorities determined she had suffered 42 injuries. = No last-day appeals were filed to try to block the punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago refused to review his case. "It’s been an eight-year process and it’s been very trying," the woman’s father, Michael Allison, said earlier. "We’re just weary." Michael Allison had said he’d like to tell Morrow: "We’re glad you’re going to be off this earth. We think the world will be a better and safer place with you gone." His daughter had cheated death once, getting a clean bill of health months earlier after surviving thyroid cancer. She was looking forward to a hotel management career after graduation from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. A witness told authorities he saw a man fitting Morrow’s description lying on top of Allison in the passenger side of a car at the car wash. She didn’t appear to be struggling and he dismissed the activity as nothing more than boyfriend and girlfriend, then saw them drive away in the direction of the river. The car later was found abandoned. Morrow, who had previous convictions for burglary, weapons possession and larceny in South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas, was arrested nearly four months later walking near a crack house in Houston. A computer check revealed he was wanted for the slaying. At his trial and in interviews with reporters, the 10th-grade dropout gave multiple stories about his case, including acknowledging involvement in her death, claiming a relationship with her and blaming someone else. Prosecutors called Allison the victim of a random crime and disputed some of Morrow’s comments. "I caught him in several lies," said Mike Little, the Liberty County district attorney who prosecuted Morrow. "I think the jury saw through what he was saying very quickly." After a 10-week trial, the jury took 13 minutes to decide he should be put to death. "I wish it didn’t happen, but I can’t change it," Morrow said recently from death row. "When you do drugs, there’s no telling what can happen. I did that night and it got out of hand." Blood samples from the car matched Morrow’s blood and the victim’s. Witnesses testified he previously had talked of how easy it would be to abduct a woman from the car wash, rob her and use the money to buy drugs. Witnesses also said he had bloody clothing and scratches on his arms when they saw him the night of Allison’s disappearance.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 9, 2004 Texas Michael James Burzinski, 29 Demarco McCullum executed

Michael J. Burzinski, who was openly homosexual, was last seen leaving a Montrose-area club on the evening of July 29, 1994. Burzinski was found around 2:30 pm on Saturday afternoon July 30 by a 75-year-old man who was collecting aluminum cans on a north Harris County street. He had been shot once in the head. Burzinski ‘s car was found later on Dolly Wright in the Acres Homes area. The vehicle had been burned. "He didn’t have lots of money, didn’t flash a lot of money. He didn’t have any credit cards," police said, adding Burzinski was not a known drug user. "In the absence of any other known motive, we are not discounting the possibility that it was a hate crime." Four former Aldine High School football players, one of whom was still a student, were arrested and charged with capital murder for the abduction, robbery and killing of a man they followed from a Montrose-area nightclub. Demarco McCullum, 19, Terrance Perro, 19, Decedrick Gainous, 18, and Christopher Lewis, 17 were arrested. The four friends told Harris County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives that they decided to rob someone for money to buy new clothes for school. McCullum, the Aldine Mustangs’ quarterback for the prior year, and Gainous, a defensive back, both graduated the spring before the murder and were to have reported a couple of days later to Tyler Junior College, where each had earned a football scholarship. Lewis, projected to become one of the state’s top 20 running back prospects, began his junior year at the school the Monday after the murder, and was at football practice after classes. Perro, a wide receiver who caught 15 passes for 398 yards last season, withdrew from Aldine in January with plans to transfer to an alternative learning center, Norman said. Aldine officials, however, said that they never received a request to transfer Perro’s records to another school. Police said the four decided to go to Montrose and wait outside one of the gay clubs for a victim, because they had been told homosexuals "had money and were easy targets." The four spotted Michael Burzinski, 29, as he left Heaven, a nightclub in the gay section of Houston. Burzinski was hit in the head as he unlocked his car door, then forced into the back seat of his car. The four teens beat their victim as they drove him to the West Little York area in northwest Houston, where they used Burzinski ‘s bank card to steal $400. Then they drove Burzinski to the 15800 block of Northview Park, where he was shot in the head and dumped. His car was found later, burned, on Dolly Wright, near the suspects’ homes. Burzinski moved to Houston in 1990 to initiate Fox Photo’s new digital imaging process. Gainous was arrested the Monday after the murder at the Aldine High campus, where he had gone to see a friend. The other three suspects were arrested at their homes early Tuesday and brought in to talk with homicide detectives, who said that Lewis, Gainous and Perro seemed remorseful, but that McCullum, identified by his friends as the gunman, was not. They were talking after it happened, and one of them said it made him feel sick, the boys told detectives. "Another one said it made him feel bad, but they said when they asked McCullum how he felt, he said, "I feel like a judge.’ " Burzinski’s parents, who saw their youngest child buried in his hometown on Aug. 6, said the arrests were a tremendous relief. "We owe the detectives a giant debt of gratitude for solving this so quickly. We’re tremendously relieved they’re off the streets," said Ed Burzinski, Michael Burzinski’s father. Burzinski said he and his wife and their three older children plan to work for victims’ rights. "We feel compelled, in Michael’s memory, to do something. Our society’s going downhill," he said. "If we don’t all get together and try to do something about it, we’ll be next." The arrests shocked faculty and students at Aldine, where Norman described the four as responsible students who attended class regularly and earned average grades. Aldine ISD spokeswoman Judy Williams said Lewis was involved in a minor infraction last year, and that disciplinary action was taken. Williams did not provide details of the incident but said that it was not serious enough to affect student status or extracurricular activities. The boys’ families were stunned by the arrests. After school on the day they were arrested, students described the four as well-known and well-liked. UPDATE: Convicted killer Demarco McCullum, who traded a promising athletic future for a cell on Texas death row, was executed Tuesday evening for the abduction, robbery, beating and fatal shooting of a Houston man 10 years ago. In a brief final statement, McCullum expressed appreciation and love "to all those who supported me over the years. And I want to let my mom know I love her and will see her in heaven." Seven minutes later, McCullum was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. CST. His victim’s mother was among four witnesses to watch McCullum die, but he did not acknowledge their presence. McCullum, 30, was arrested the day in 1994 he was supposed to leave for Tyler Junior College, where he had an athletic scholarship after a standout football career as quarterback at Aldine High School in north Houston. That summer, however, authorities linked him and several football-player companions to a series of robberies and assaults around Houston, culminating in the slaying of 29-year-old Michael Burzinski. Legal appeals were exhausted. Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to commute his sentence to life or grant a reprieve. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year decided not to review his case. "He seemed to be two different people," said Tommy LeFon, the assistant Harris County district attorney who prosecuted McCullum. "When he was around people at church and at school, he was a good kid. When away from those kinds of influences, he wasn’t." "He engaged in some very bad behavior, according to the jury that convicted him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be dangerous the rest of his life," McCullum’s lawyer, David Schulman, said, noting that McCullum had been a model inmate with no disciplinary infractions. "None of us benefit by his execution. All of us benefit by him being sentenced to prison for the rest of his life." McCullum, who was 19 when he was arrested, blamed his actions on a lack of maturity. "I wasn’t one of those that had goals," he said recently from death row. "I was one of those that whatever the wind was blowing." Prosecutors said Burzinski, who had moved to Houston from Toledo, Ohio, was approached by McCullum and three of his buddies outside a Houston gay club the night of July 30, 1994. Authorities believed the four were looking for easy money and figured a homosexual made a good target, a contention McCullum disputed. "That wasn’t the case at all," he said. "This guy approached us. The dude was drunk and high." Burzinski was beaten and taken away in his own car, was forced to withdraw $400 from an automated bank machine, then was shot in the back of the head. His body was dumped in north Harris County, miles from where he was abducted, and the car was abandoned and torched three blocks from where one of his attackers lived. A reward posted for information in the case prompted a tip to a Crimestoppers phone line that led to McCullum’s arrest. Also arrested were Terrance Perro, Decedrick Gainous and Christopher Lewis. Gainous, who also was to have played football with McCullum at Tyler Junior College, and Perro received life prison terms. Lewis testified against McCullum and got a 15-year sentence. In a statement defense attorneys argued was coerced by police, McCullum said he shot Burzinski "because that is what everybody said I should do. Things just happened," McCullum said from death row. McCullum, who grew up in Seminary, Miss., a town of 400 north of Hattiesburg, and moved to Houston in 1990, said he wasn’t frightened by the prospect of death. "There’s life after here," he said.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 9, 2004 Pennsylvania John James Lamont Overby stayed

Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed a warrant for the execution by lethal injection of Lamont Overby of Philadelphia County. Governor Rendell set Overby’s execution for Tuesday, Nov. 9. In July 1998, Overby was convicted and sentenced to die for the random shooting death of John James, Jr., 19, who was shot five times in what prosecutors believed was a robbery. Overby was formally sentenced to death on July 22, 1998. There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date. UPDATE: A Philadephia man, scheduled to die by lethal injection in November, has been granted a stay of execution by Philadephia Common Pleas Court. In a decision issued September 24th but announced yesterday, the stay was granted to 30-year-old Lamont Overby of Philadephia. Overby was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death for the murder of John James. The execution was scheduled for November ninth. Overby remains on death row at the state Correctional Institution at Greene in Greene County.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 10, 2004 Texas Alphonso Rodriguez Jr Frederick McWilliams executed

On the night of September 27, 1996, McWilliams went driving with his cousin, Richard Hawkins and Kenneth Adams in Adams’ red compact car in Houston. Hawkins fell asleep in the back seat and awoke as they turned into the parking lot of an apartment complex. McWilliams and Adams were discussing stealing a car. After their first unsuccessful attempt, McWilliams and Adams found a brown car in the lot and opened the door to find a man asleep inside the vehicle. They returned to Adams’ vehicle, and Adams told McWilliams that he should have gotten the man, and McWilliams decided to return. The two men returned to the car carrying guns. Adams pulled the victim, Alfonso Rodriguez, from the driver’s side at gun point while McWilliams rummaged through the glove box. Adams beat Rodriguez with the butt of the gun. Rodriguez laid on the ground covering his head to avoid the blows. Adams and McWilliams then attempted to force Rodriguez into the trunk of the car. Not wanting to be a part of the robbery, Hawkins jumped into the front of Adams’ car and drove away. As he left, he heard a gun shot. Shortly thereafter, McWilliams and Adams caught up to Hawkins in Rodriguez’s car and waved Hawkins to the side of the road. Adams, who was covered in blood, got into the driver’s seat and told Hawkins “Your cousin wild. He wild. He shot a man.” The three met up at a gas station where McWilliams pulled a bag of jewelry from Rodriguez’s car and put it in Adams’ car. The next day, McWilliams admitted to Hawkins that he had shot Rodriguez. The next week, Adams was stopped for speeding. A search of the car yielded several firearms one of which was the weapon used to kill Rodriguez. During questioning by investigators, Adams confessed and implicated McWilliams. After being arrested, McWilliams gave two statements. In his first statement, McWilliams claimed that Adams shot Rodriguez. In his second statement, McWilliams admitted shooting Rodriguez. A jury convicted McWilliams of capital murder on September 4, 1997 in state court in Harris County, Texas. McWilliams was sentenced to death on September 9, 1997. October 1996 – The recent arrest of four suspects from Houston – one a ""real smart kid" from Waltrip High School – could solve several robberies of west-side suburban grocery stores, police say. Cases expected to be cleared include two store robberies here last summer and possibly two others in Rosenberg and Waller, Brookshire Police Chief Joe Garcia said this week. Two members of the gang also are accused in the Sept. 28 killing of a man during a carjacking in an apartment parking lot in northwest Houston. Garcia said the car later was used in one of the robberies. Investigation by Garcia, Houston police investigators John Swaim and Phil Waters, and Texas Ranger Bryant Wells resulted in the suspects’ arrests over the past three weeks in Katy and Houston. Jailed in lieu of bail are: Kenneth Edward Adams, 18, of the 8400 block of Hearth, a Waltrip High senior, believed to have led the gang and is charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery. Frederick Patrick McWilliams, 22, of the 3100 block of Jewell, charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery. Keith Price, 20, of the 10900 block of Fondren, charged with aggravated robbery. Richard Hawkins, 19, of the 1400 block of Burma, charged with aggravated robbery. Still being sought is James Patrick Tanner, 30, of the 8600 block of Rockford in Houston, wanted on aggravated robbery charges. Adams is in the Galveston County Jail, Hawkins is in the Waller County Jail, and Price and McWilliams are in the Harris County Jail, Garcia said. He said the gang was the idea of Adams, whom he described as a good student with a spotless record. Adams, who once worked at a Houston supermarket, organized the forays, he said. Garcia said Adams and McWilliams are suspects in the Sept. 6 evening robbery of Dan’s Food Market here and, with Hawkins, also are suspects in the Oct. 3 early morning robbery of B&B Food Store here. Adams and Price are suspects in the Oct. 3 robbery of a grocery in San Leon in Galveston County, Garcia said. Police are looking into possible ties of members of the gang to grocery holdups last spring in Rosenberg and last summer in Waller. UPDATE: Texas executed a Houston man by lethal injection on Wednesday night for a 1996 murder during a car theft. Frederick McWilliams, 30, was condemned for the murder of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 39, as he tried to steal the car Rodriguez was sleeping in outside a Houston apartment complex on Sept. 27, 1996. McWilliams claimed he and Rodriguez struggled over a gun which fired and killed Rodriguez. Kenneth Adams, an accomplice who identified McWilliams as the killer, received a life sentence. Another accomplice received an eight-year prison sentence. Strapped to the gurney in the execution chamber on Wednesday night, McWilliams thanked family members and friends for their support and told them he loved them. "I leave my love here," McWilliams said. "I am never going to stop loving you. My love is going to stay here."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 10, 2004 Pennsylvania Patrick Huber Salvador Santiago stayed

Gov. Ed Rendell signed a death warrant Wednesday for a man twice convicted of killing a store clerk in an Allegheny County robbery. Salvador Carlos Santiago, 41, was first convicted in 1986 of killing Patrick Huber, then won a new trial and was convicted again in 1993. Santiago’s execution was scheduled for Nov. 10. He is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County. There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 12, 2004 North Carolina Doris Poore, 90 Frank Chandler executed

Frank Chandler was sentenced to die for the murder of Doris Poore, a ninety-year-old widow who was killed during a burglary of her home on 11 December 1992. Chandler was indicted for first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, attempted larceny, attempted first-degree rape, and attempted first-degree sexual offense. Chandler took the stand as the only defense witness and testified that he left his aunt’s house between midnight and 12:30 am on December 11, 1992 and walked to Doris’s house. After knocking on the window, back door, and garage door, and not getting an answer, he entered the house through the unlocked basement door. He proceeded up the stairs, cut the screen door with a pocketknife, and opened the back door leading to the kitchen. Chandler testified that as he started to walk through the house, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. When he started to leave, somebody behind him screamed. He said he then turned and swung, making Doris fall against him. He testified that as Mrs. Poore was falling, he caught her; he then carried her to her bed, put her in the bed, and went to the bathroom to wash the blood off his hand. He saw Mrs. Poore’s clothes at the front of the toilet, picked them up, put them next to her in her bed, and covered her up. Chandler testified that he had not known who lived in the house, but thought that a man lived there because he had seen a blue pickup truck parked in front of the house before and had seen a man smoking "reefer" or marijuana there. Chandler testified that after he left the house, he washed his clothes and that he still had them. On cross-examination, he testified that after he killed Mrs. Poore, he did not look for the marijuana as he had originally planned. UPDATE: Frank Chandler, 32, was put to death at Central Prison for killing 90-year-old Doris Poore, who surprised him when he broke into her house on a misguided search for drugs. He lay on a gurney, raising his head several times to look at the gathered witnesses, then reclined and closed his eyes. When the injection was administered, he gave two sharp breaths, then stopped breathing. Chandler was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m., a Corrections Department spokeswoman said. He had been visited in his final hours by his parents, brother and sisters. None stayed to witness the execution. Poore’s great-granddaughters stayed as witnesses but had no comment. Poore, who lived alone in Mount Airy, was killed on Dec. 11, 1992. Her body was found the following day by a housekeeper. Chandler was arrested less than a month later. He testified at his trial that he was looking for marijuana and thought he had broken into the house of drug users. Poore died of head injuries she suffered when Chandler, startled in the dark by her scream, swung his hand and hit her. The jury agreed with prosecutors that he killed Poore with the aggravating factor of seeking financial gain, which made him eligible for the death penalty. But State Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, a death penalty supporter, argued that Chandler shouldn’t be executed since he didn’t kill Poore for money. Orr, who stepped down from the court in July, had urged Gov. Mike Easley to stop the execution, but Easley rejected a request for clemency about six hours before the execution.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 16, 2004 Tennessee Connie Johnson, 30 Donnie Johnson staying

cynthia4The Tennessee Supreme Court has scheduled a November 16th execution date for a Shelby County man convicted of murdering his wife. The justices today set the execution date for 53-year-old Donnie E. Johnson, who was convicted and sentenced to death by a Memphis jury in 1985 for the murder of his wife, Connie Johnson. Authorities said she suffocated after a large trash bag was forced into her throat in an office where her husband worked. A work-release inmate, Ronnie McCoy, testified that he left Johnson and his wife alone for about 15 minutes before coming back and finding her dead. McCoy said he helped Johnson dispose of the body by leaving it in her van at the Mall of Memphis, where it was found the next day on Dec. 9, 1984. Johnson maintained his innocence, accusing McCoy of robbing and killing his wife. UPDATE: A federal judge in Memphis halted the scheduled execution of a Shelby County man. Donnie Johnson was sentenced to death in the 1984 suffocation death of his wife, Connie. In August, the Tennessee Supreme Court set a November 16th execution date. Federal District Court Judge Bernice Donald granted Johnson a stay because of two other death row cases pending in the Cincinnati federal appellate court. The cases are those of Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman and Philip Workman. The two other death row cases both deal with claims of prosecutorial misconduct — an issue Johnson has also raised.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 17, 2004 Texas Robert Tate Anthony Fuentes executed

On Friday, February 18, 1994, Anthony Fuentes, Kelvin Templeton, Terrell Lincoln, and Steve Vela conspired to rob the Handi Food Mart and any employees or customers who happened to be in the store. The Handi Mart was busy with employees of the Swartz Electric Company who had just been paid, cashed their paychecks at the store and were enjoying a few beers and the company of coworkers outside the premises of the store. Among those gathered was Robert Tate, a regular customer and acquaintance of the proprietors of the Handi Mart and sometime employee of Swartz Electric. Fuentes and his cohorts arrived at the store, noted that it was busy and proceeded with their plan. Templeton went directly to the coolers, grabbed two cases of beer and walked out. Fuentes and Vela walked into the store behind Templeton and pulled out their guns. Vela went to the cashier and demanded money. Fuentes approached the proprietor and a customer who were standing near the counter. The customer was a high school classmate of Fuentes’. He followed Fuentes’ orders, hiding his identity in fear that Fuentes would recognize him. Another man was walking into the store when he noticed that it was being robbed. He ran to inform his co-workers of the robbery. Ignoring his friends’ warnings not to get involved, Robert Tate gave chase when Templeton left the store with the beer. Tate caught up to Templeton and grabbed him. Templeton dropped the beer. Just then, Fuentes came running out of the store. An eyewitness testified that Fuentes came out of the store, ran up to Tate and Templeton, and shot Tate twice in the chest. Testimony at trial indicated that Fuentes used a semi-automatic gun. Tate fell into a nearby ditch and died. The bullets recovered from Tate’s body were consistent with those used in a 9 millimeter weapon, which are most commonly semiautomatic. The eyewitness further testified that, despite standing five hundred meters from Fuentes, he got a good look at his face and positively identified Fuentes as Tate’s murderer. His description of Fuentes was consistent with the description given by the proprietor as the man who robbed him in the store. Both witnesses positively identified Fuentes in photo lineups. Templeton was the only co-conspirator to testify. He testified that he was not watching when he heard the shots fired; he thought Tate had shot at him, so he just began running. Templeton testified that although he did not see it, he was under the impression that Fuentes had shot Tate because when he looked back, Fuentes had a gun in his hand and was the one closest to him, and he had not seen Vela near the victim. UPDATE: Anthony Guy Fuentes offered no real explanation from the visiting block on death row last week as to why he was convicted and sentenced to death for the shooting death of 28-year-old Robert Tate in 1994. Barring any last-minute rulings, Fuentes will be put to death tonight at the Huntsville "Walls" Unit. By his accounts, his childhood was good. Although his mother was a part of his life, his grandparents raised him and sent him to a private high school. He has several siblings, and they all grew up in different households, but they are all close, and Fuentes said his ultimate fate will impact them more than he wants to think about. "I’m the oldest," Fuentes said from the visiting area inside the Polunsky Unit outside of Livingston. "I’m more concerned right now with what my family is going through. I’ve said I was not guilty since the beginning, and they all have stood behind me. I’m not too sure how everything will go (this week), but if they let everyone come visit me, they’d all be here." Fuentes, 30, was convicted in a Harris County court in 1996 for the capital murder of Tate during a Houston convenience store robbery. High school acquaintances and co-defendants, Steven Vela and Kevin Templeton, were convicted of aggravated robbery. A third co-conspirator, Terrell Lincoln, was also implicated in the robbery. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, Fuentes and the other three men robbed the Handi Food Mart in north Houston on Feb. 18, 1994. Fuentes and one of his companions brandished pistols. Tate, the victim, who had been drinking beer with friends in the parking lot of the store, chased one of the bandits when he left the store with two cases of beer. Tate grabbed the man, and the robber dropped the beer. Just then, Fuentes came running out of the store and shot Tate twice in the chest. Tate died in a ditch across the street from the store. A witness at the trial identified Fuentes as Tate’s murderer. Bullets recovered from Tate’s body were consistent with those used in a 9 mm weapon, which are most commonly semi-automatic. Testimony at the trial indicated that Fuentes used a semi-automatic gun during the robbery. When asked in an interview last week, Fuentes would not admit he was even at the scene, and all he would say about his guilt or innocence was, "I never killed anybody." Fuentes ended up on death row seven years ago, and since that time, has said he has been out of the loop with lawyers and proceedings to stop his execution. "I met with my original lawyer twice the whole time I’ve been in here," he said. "That was the hardest part, never knowing what was going on." Attorney Morris Moon with the Texas Defender Service took over the case in the last few months, but Fuentes said he has no idea what they will be able to do for him. Calls to Moon by the Item were not returned. Fuentes’ attorneys filed an appeal late Monday with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming prosecutors knowingly allowed false testimony against Fuentes and suppressed evidence. "The state’s case was riddled with inconsistencies," Fuentes’ attorneys wrote. "The evidence connecting him to the shooting was so tenuous." Harris County prosecutor Vic Wisner described Fuentes as extremely violent and said there were no inconsistencies or suppressed evidence. He said the men who robbed the store with Fuentes pointed to him as the gunman. "All the issues he is raising now were already raised before the jury and were rejected," Wisner said Tuesday. Appeals as high as the U.S. Supreme Court have already been denied. Fuentes said although things look dim, he hasn’t given up hope that a miracle will happen before his scheduled execution tonight. "My time has been pretty easy here," Fuentes said. "I don’t complain about the conditions. I write letters to my family and listen to the radio. I don’t read books. I’m just concentrating on my family and preparing them for every possibility. I’m hoping for a stay, and I haven’t given up." Although the capital murder trial was his first time in a courtroom, Fuentes had prior run-ins with the law. In Jan. 1992, Fuentes, armed with a shotgun, shot a man in the leg. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and served a year in the Harris County Jail for the shooting. In March 1994, Fuentes shot a man in the back while the victim was sitting in a car, and was placed on probation after pleading guilty to an attempted murder charge for the shooting.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 18, 2004 Texas Steven Horton, 29 Troy Kunkle stayed

Stephen HortonTroy Kunkle was sentenced to die for fatally shooting Steven Horton, 29, during a robbery in Corpus Christi in 1984. On the night of August 11, 1984, Kunkle and his girlfriend Lora Lee Zaiontz, Russell Stanley, Aaron Adkins, and Tom Sauls, left San Antonio and drove to Corpus Christi. All five were under the influence of alcohol and L.S.D. While en route, Stanley removed a.22 caliber pistol from the glove compartment of the vehicle, fired it into the air, and asked Adkins if he wanted to make some money. Sauls told Stanley that “guns and acid don’t mix,” and Stanley returned the gun to the glove compartment. During the course of the trip, Stanley took out the gun several more times. Stanley and Adkins discussed committing a robbery and slowed the vehicle several times to assess potential victims. When the group arrived in Corpus Christi, they drove to the beach. Kunkle and Zaiontz kept to themselves. Stanley, Adkins and Sauls went for a walk, and Stanley and Adkins again discussed robbing someone. The group left the beach and went to a convenience store to buy beer. There, Stanley and Adkins robbed a man in a phone booth at gunpoint, while Kunkle, Zaiontz, and Sauls remained in the car. Stanley and Adkins obtained only seven dollars from this victim, so they left the store to search for another victim. They spotted Stephen Horton walking along the road. They pulled up next to Horton, and Zaiontz asked him if he needed a ride. Though he resisted at first, Horton was eventually persuaded to get into the car. Horton sat in the front seat, next to Zaiontz. Once inside the car, Stanley put the gun to the back of Horton’s head and told him to give them his wallet. Horton turned to look at Stanley, but Zaiontz scratched his face and told him to look forward. Kunkle told Stanley to kill him, but Stanley refused. Kunkle then took the gun from Stanley, put it to Horton’s head, and said, “We’re going to take you back here and blow your brains out.” Adkins drove the car behind a skating rink, and Kunkle shot Horton in the back of the head. They pushed his body out of the car, and Zaiontz took his wallet. After the shooting, Kunkle quoted the following line from a song called "No Remorse" from an album "Kill ‘Em All" by the heavy metal rock group Metallica: “another day, another death, another sorrow, another breath,” and told the group that the murder was “beautiful.” On February 22, 1985, a jury convicted Kunkle for the capital murder of Horton. He was sentenced to death on February 26, 1985. Lora Lee Zaiontz received a life sentence for capital murder. Russell Stanley and Aaron Adkins were both sentenced to 30 years for murder. More than 20 years later, Horton’s widow has remarried. His now-grown daughters have moved near Dallas. And his parents have become too infirm to attend the execution. I just hope they get it over with," Horton’s father, Nolan, said. UPDATE: For a second time this year, condemned inmate Troy Kunkle avoided the Texas death chamber when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped his scheduled execution the same day he was supposed to receive a lethal injection. About 40 minutes after he could have been put to death Thursday night, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials in Huntsville received word the high court had blocked the punishment. Vote from the court was 5-4 on an appeal where Kunkle’s lawyers were seeking a review of the case. The justices in July also blocked the execution, although the ruling in his case then came about nine hours before he was scheduled to die. The same court last month had refused to review his case, clearing the way for setting of Thursday night’s execution date. Kunkle was in a small holding cell next to the Texas death house when he received word. He was condemned for a fatal shooting in Corpus Christi 20 years ago. "Ecstatic," Kunkle said when asked to describe his feeling. "Praise God." "He seemed completely surprised," Michelle Lyons, a Texas prison spokeswoman said. According to testimony at his capital murder trial, Kunkle was 18 when he fatally shot Stephen Horton, 31, then chanted: "Another day, another death, another sorrow, another breath" — the refrain from the Metallica song "No Remorse" on an album called "Kill ‘Em All." A pool of blood is depicted on the album cover. "Well, to be honest with you, it was basically just a situation to where it was a juvenile mistake made with juvenile peer pressure," Kunkle, 38, told San Antonio television station KENS Wednesday from death row. "There’s nothing about this to be proud of. Really, it’s kind of a shame and an embarrassment." Prosecutors also remembered him at one point playing an air guitar in the courtroom at his trial as lawyers discussed whether the Metallica song could be admitted into evidence. Defense lawyers contended Kunkle, born in Nuremberg, Germany, where his father was stationed in the military, was raised in a troubled home environment and left mentally scarred by parents who had been treated for depression. They said jurors were not properly allowed to consider. In their appeal, Kunkle’s lawyers argued the execution should be stopped in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that held some capital murder defendants in Texas were not given enough chance to present such mitigating evidence. "Plainly, Mr. Kunkle’s sentencing hearing was marred by the same constitutional flaw," attorney Robert McGlasson said. "The jury heard evidence that could have persuaded it to spare Mr. Kunkle’s life, but was limited to instructions that gave it no vehicle for expressing that conclusion." Nolan Horton, 74, whose son was killed in the attack, said he was angered by the appeal. "The most stressful part to me is, I’m very upset with the court system, the people sitting on those appeals courts," he said. "My name for a lot of them is do-gooders. They’re afraid they’re going to step on toes. Some of those toes need to be stepped on. It takes so long — the little trivial things they come up with as excuses." Court records show on the evening of Aug. 11, 1984, Kunkle and four friends got high on drugs and beer and drove from San Antonio to the beach at Corpus Christi, 140 miles to the southeast. They robbed a man of $7 at a convenience store, then drove around looking for someone else to rob. Stephen Horton was walking home after playing pool at a bar and they offered him a ride. When he got into their car, testimony showed Kunkle shot Horton in the back of the head with a.22-caliber pistol. His body was pushed out of the car and his wallet taken. It contained $13. Kunkle and his friends were arrested in San Antonio. Three companions received prison terms ranging from 30 years to life. Kunkle got death. No charges were filed against a fifth person in the car.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 23, 2004 Ohio Lubaina Ahmed
Abdul Bhatti
Ruhie Ahmed
Nasira Ahmed
Nawaz Ahmed stayed

Nawaz Ahmed was sentenced to death for the 1999 killings in St. Clairsville of his estranged wife, Dr. Lubaina Ahmed, her father, Abdul Bhatti, and her sister and niece, Ruhie and Nasira Ahmed, the weekend before Dr. Ahmed’s divorce from her husband was to be finalized. Dr. Ahmed and her father, who had been staying at her home because she feared her husband, drove from St. Clairsville to the Columbus airport and back on the night of the killings to pick up her sister and niece who were visiting from California. Belmont County sheriff’s deputies responding to an early morning phone call from concerned relatives found the victims’ bodies in the basement and garage of Dr. Ahmed’s home with their throats slashed and multiple stab wounds and blunt instrument injuries to their heads. A security badge issued to Nawaz Ahmed by his Columbus employer and used by him a few hours before the murders was found near his wife’s body. The U.S. Customs Service was immediately alerted that Ahmed might attempt to flee the country. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York the following evening, moments before he was scheduled to board a flight to his native Pakistan. Following a lengthy pretrial process in which Ahmed forced the withdrawal of one pair of court-appointed defense attorneys and repeatedly criticized and tried to dismiss their replacements, he was convicted of multiple counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in February 2002. *There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 30, 2004 Pennsylvania Roy Bensinger, 37 Ronald Champney stayed

Ronald Champney shot Roy Bensinger as he stepped out of his pickup truck after coming home from work. Roy Bensinger, 37, a construction worker, was shot to death while standing in front of his pickup truck by his home after stopping at the end of the driveway to get mail. A witness testified that Champney took him on a tour of the scene of the crime in February 1997. He said Champney pointed out Bensinger’s home where he entered through an unlocked door in the basement and stole Bensinger’s.30-.30 rifle. Champney then walked down by the garage so he had a clear view of the driveway. When Bensinger alighted from his vehicle and got the mail Champney aimed and fired but the gun misfired. Bensinger heard the click and turned around. Champney reloaded and fired and Bensinger fell on his back with the mail scattering around him. Champney walked up to the victim to see if he was dead and when assured then walked down a path and buried the rifle. The witness said he was told the plan was for a friend to come and get rid of the gun. The police never found the murder weapon. Testimony showed that Bensinger’s wife Beth had paid him $25,000 so she could collect on Bensinger’s life-insurance policy and end their troubled marriage. But Champney couldn’t keep his mouth shut after the hit. His car sported the vanity license plate "1 SHOT," and he boasted of killing Bensinger with one shot using a rifle from the victim’s own gun cabinet. When Champney was convicted, he already was in prison for 87 years for unrelated robbery, arson and assault charges. There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 30, 2004 Kentucky Tina Earley
Eddie Earley
Thomas Bowling, Jr. stayed

Thomas Bowling, Jr. has been on death row for nearly 14-years and has exhausted all of his appeals. A jury convicted of Bowling in 1991 of killing Tina and Eddie Earley and shooting their then two-year-old son outside the couple’s dry-cleaning business in Lexington in 1990. Bowling has said he was drunk and does not remember the day of the shootings. The couple were owners of the Earley Bird Cleaners, and were shot in their car outside their shop. Their 2-year-old son, Christopher, was also shot in the assault, but he survived. Early in the morning on April 9, 1990, Eddie and Tina Earley were shot to death in their automobile in a parking lot outside a Lexington dry-cleaning establishment. Their two-year-old son Christopher was also shot, but not fatally. Police arriving at the scene found several witnesses offering varied observations of the shooter, collected several bullets from inside and outside the vehicle, and recovered debris consistent with a car collision. After analyzing the debris, the police determined that the Earleys’ car must have been hit by a 1981 light blue Chevrolet Malibu. They also determined that a 1981 Malibu was registered in the county to Bowling. The police, however, did not seek to arrest Bowling at that point; instead they pursued several theories of who could have murdered the Earleys. On the following day, April 10, 1990, police received a telephone call from Bowling’s sister, Patricia. Patricia and her mother were worried because they had not seen Bowling, who was affectionately known as T.C., since approximately 6:00 a.m. the preceding day. Watching the news reports, they realized that Bowling’s car matched the description of the suspected killer’s car. Searching for Bowling, the two women drove to property owned by the family in rural Powell County. There they discovered Bowling’s car. Bowling, however, was not there. When they returned to Patricia’s Knoxville home, they discovered Bowling asleep on the couch. After consulting with their minister, they called the police, who came and picked Bowling up without incident. The police then recovered Bowling’s car from the Powell County property, where they also discovered a buried.357-magnum revolver. On December 10, 1990, the trial began. On December 12, the guilt phase of the trial began. The Commonwealth produced twenty-five witnesses. There were three eye-witnesses to the crime. The first said he never saw the shooter; he went to the crime scene after hearing what he thought was a car backfiring. By the time he reached the car, the killer had already fled, and the witness observed only the Earleys’ dented car, the dead bodies, and the child crying. Another witness testified that while stopped at a stoplight, he looked back to see two cars in the parking lot and a man firing a gun into one of them. According to this second witness, the shooter then stood and looked at the scene before driving off. He described the car as being a light blue 1979 or 1980 Malibu and described the shooter as being six feet tall with a medium build, wearing a black jacket and a brimmed hat. The third eyewitness, who had seen the events from a nursing home across the street, could not be found by either party. By agreement of the parties, the police played their audiotape of an interview with Pullins that took place the morning of the shootings. The police next testified regarding the crime scene and presented to the jury photographs and a videotape depicting the scene in considerable detail. The Commonwealth then focused on the evidence discovered at the Bowling property in Powell County. One officer testified that he found Bowling’s Malibu in the thicket, and an orange jacket, an orange Little Caesar’s T-shirt from Bowling’s workplace, and a black Rangers’ hat in a small shed. The officer also found an unused outhouse on the property into which several empty alcohol bottles had been thrown. Another officer testified to finding the gun on the property. Lastly, an officer testified that he retrieved Bowling’s personal effects from his sister’s house, including a black jacket. The state then introduced expert testimony. A forensic pathologist testified that the Earleys had no chance of surviving the injuries that they sustained. A police automotive expert testified that the glass, plastic, and chrome debris from the crime scene matched Bowling’s car. Another expert testified that paint from the Earleys’ car had rubbed off (because of the accident) onto Bowling’s car, and that paint from Bowling’s car had also rubbed off on the Earleys’ car. The expert unambiguously stated that tests on the paint samples demonstrated that it was Bowling’s car that had rammed into the Earleys’ vehicle. A state ballistics expert identified the recovered gun as a Smith and Wesson.357 and stated that the bullets shot from it would have identical markings to those recovered from the crime scene. On cross-examination, however, he admitted that there may be millions of guns that would have left marks like those on the bullets found at the crime scene. The Commonwealth also presented testimony from a man who said that he had sold a similar-looking Smith and Wesson.357 to Bowling a few days before the killings. There were also two witnesses who placed Bowling on the road in front of the property in Powell County the evening of the murders. The Commonwealth then called Bowling’s family to testify to the events leading up to the telephone call that they made to the police. Bowling’s family testified that Bowling had been seriously depressed in the weeks before the shootings. Bowling was also obsessed with death. During a drive with his mother a few days before the shooting, Bowling told her that his time had run out and that she should look for him at the family property in Powell County if he disappeared. During this drive, Bowling had stopped for approximately thirty minutes in a parking lot, behind the nursing home property across from the dry-cleaning place where the Earleys worked. Bowling had also shown to his family the gun that he had recently purchased. Prior to trial, Bowlings attorneys had Bowling undergo a neurological and psychological evaluation by Dr. Donald Beal but at trial, the defense presented no witnesses, choosing not to present the expert testimony of Dr. Beal. Bowling’s counsel asked for time to inform Bowling again of his right to testify, but after consulting with Bowling, counsel announced that Bowling would not testify. The defense rested on their cross-examinations of the witnesses. The defense had brought out Bowling’s erratic behavior during the weekend before the shootings. The man who testified about selling Bowling the gun admitted, while he was being cross-examined, that he traded in handguns without keeping records and had poor memory and hearing. One of the eyewitnesses admitted that he may have told a police detective that the shooter had long brown hair, a dark complexion, and possibly a mustache — none of which describe Bowling. Though defense counsel did not gain much ground from the expert witnesses, the Commonwealth’s ballistics expert did concede that the.357-magnum was one of perhaps millions of guns that could have fired the bullets that killed the Earleys. Defense counsel also established that none of Bowling’s possessions, including his car, had any blood on them, that there were no fingerprints found on the gun or at the crime scene, and that the only lead residue on Bowling’s belongings was inside the left pocket of his jacket and could have come from a gun or from bullets. The defense asked for jury instructions on extreme emotional disturbance, circumstantial evidence, and reckless homicide. The trial court denied these instructions. The jury found Bowling guilty of intentionally murdering Tina and Eddie Earley and assaulting their son Christopher. Before the penalty phase began, Bowling, his defense counsel, and the prosecution met because Bowling had filed a pro se motion to discharge his attorneys. Bowling stated that he was angry with his attorneys because they had essentially presented no defense on his behalf. Bowling claimed that he did not have ample opportunity to meet with his attorneys; Bowling told the state court judge that his attorneys had not spent more than a total of one hour with him throughout the litigation. Bowling said that there were many witnesses who could have been called to testify — although, when questioned, he could not give the names of any such witnesses or list any particular act that his attorneys failed to do. Bowling stressed, however, that he had no time to tell his attorneys of witnesses who might have been called, because his attorneys had not met with him. Bowling said that he felt that his attorneys did not take his case seriously, and that they once remarked to another person in front of Bowling that they did not have a defense. The district court denied his motion to discharge his attorneys. The penalty phase then began. The defense called six witnesses to testify. There were three non-family members: a former co-worker of Bowling and two jail employees, all of whom spoke kindly of Bowling. The defense also called Bowling’s mother, his sister, and his son, who discussed their love for Bowling, his mental and emotional deterioration in the weeks before the killings, his failed marriage, and his having only a ninth-grade education and being of low mental ability. Bowling did not testify. The trial court denied Bowling’s request for specific mitigating instructions on extreme emotional disturbance, mental illness, intoxication, and model jail conduct, but gave a general mitigating instruction. The trial court also instructed the jurors on one statutory aggravating factor, that of intentionally causing multiple deaths. The jury found that the aggravating factor applied and recommended two death sentences. The trial judge sentenced Bowling to death. UPDATE: Two courts yesterday blocked the scheduled Nov. 30 execution of double-murderer Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr. The Kentucky Supreme Court said it wants to rule on whether more examination is needed into claims by Bowling’s lawyer that he is mentally retarded and therefore cannot be executed under Kentucky law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Earlier in the day, Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden ordered the execution to be put off until he rules on whether the specific lethal injection process Kentucky uses is constitutional. Bowling, 51, was convicted in 1990 of fatally shooting Edward Earley, 25, and his wife, Tina, 22, as they arrived to open a family dry-cleaning business in Lexington. Lawyers for the state and Bowling said the orders mean the execution cannot be carried out Nov. 30. The attorney general’s office filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on Crittenden’s ruling. No date for a hearing on the appeal was set.

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