September 2008 Executions

Four killers were executed in September 2008. They had murdered at least 6 people.
killers were given a stay in September 2008. They have murdered at least 30 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 9, 2008 Texas Donna Duncan Vick Gregory Wright stayed

The evidence at trial established that Donna Vick was stabbed to death in her home in DeSoto, Texas, about 15 miles south of Dallas, in the early hours of March 21, 1997. Wright, a homeless man who had been taken in by Donna, was seen with her at a VFW lodge on the night before the murder. Around 4:00 am the next morning, Wright and his friend, John Adams, drove Donna Vick’s car to purchase crack cocaine from a drug dealer who was staying at Llewelyn Mosley’s home. Mosley testified that Adams and Wright arrived at his house on the night of the murder and told him that they had some things from a woman in DeSoto that they wanted to get rid of, including a television, a weed eater, a rifle, a color printer, and a microwave. Several of these items were later identified as belonging to Donna Vick. Wright negotiated with the dealer. After exchanging some of the items, Wright and Adams appeared cheerful and exchanged “high fives.” The next day, Adams asked an employee at a video store to call the police because he wanted to turn himself in. Adams directed the police to Donna Vick’s house and assisted in recovering her car. DNA testing revealed that blood found on the steering wheel belonged to Wright. At the house, the police found Donna’s body on her bed and Wright’s bloody fingerprint on her pillowcase. In a trash can, the police found a handwritten note reading, “Do you want to do it?” Adams also led the police to a shack that Wright sometimes stayed in, where they arrested Wright and seized a bloody and gold-paint splattered pair of blue jeans. Outside the shack, the police found a bloody knife. DNA evidence established that the blood on the knife and jeans was Donna’s. Several cans of gold spray paint were found in Wright’s home, and witnesses testified that Wright had previously been seen with gold paint on his face and clothes. It was theorized that Wright had inhaled spray paint to get high. The police also found mail addressed to Adams at the shack. After Wright was arrested, he phoned a friend from jail and asked her to remove any of his clothing from the shack. Adams also led the police to a knife in a vacant lot near Mosley’s home. DNA testing revealed that the knife had Donna Vick’s blood on it. A medical examiner testified that Donna could have been stabbed by more than one knife. At trial, the prosecution argued that both Adams and Wright attacked Vick. The jury found Wright guilty, and he was sentenced to death. UPDATE: The execution of Gregory Wright has been stayed in order to allow for additional DNA testing of his clothing.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 9, 2008 Arkansas Clyde Spence Frank Williams, Jr. stayed

In Bradley, Arkansas, Frank Williams, Jr. shot and killed Clyde Spence with a.25-caliber handgun shortly before midnight on October 7, 1992. Spence was a farmer who employed Williams on a prison work-release program and was extremely generous to him over the years. Spence had helped Williams get out of prison and into the work release program, gave him a job, and had allowed him to move into an old trailer on his farm. Earlier on the day of the shooting, Spence fired Williams for breaking a tractor. Williams went to trial on February 9, 1993. Williams was convicted of capital murder, and an Arkansas jury sentenced him to death on February 12, 1993. UPDATE: The execution of Frank Williams was stayed while the Arkansas Supreme Court considers his lawsuit over the state’s lethal injection procedures. The suit challenged changes made to the procedures which included requiring at least two years of medical experience for those on the team inserting the intravenous lines and administering the drugs to the condemned inmate. The policy also required executioners to check for fluttering eyelids and shake condemned inmates to assure they are unconscious before delivering the two final drugs. The lawsuit alleges the state prison system violated the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act in making changes without giving public notice and a chance to comment about it. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled last week that the state improperly put the new procedures in place.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 10, 2008 Texas Ronald Williamson
Tracie Wallace
Charles Hood stayed

On November 1, 1989, Charles Dean Hood was living with his boss, Ronald Williamson, and Williamson’s girlfriend, Tracie Wallace. At 11:30 a.m., Williamson came home for lunch and found a note allegedly from his girlfriend saying that she had gone jogging. However, Williamson suspected something was wrong since Tracie’s name was misspelled on the note. Williamson called the police at 11:53 a.m. and told them that he believed that his girlfriend had been abducted. During this tape-recorded phone call, Williamson indicated that someone named “Dean” had already called the police from Williamson’s residence to report a burglary, but Williamson wanted to add a possible abduction. However, the police noted that no previous calls to the police had been made or recorded from the Williamson residence. A second voice could be heard in the background of the tape; the voice was later identified as Hood’s. Hood was known to go by his middle name, “Dean.” When the police arrived at Williamson’s house at 11:57 a.m., they found Williamson dead on the kitchen floor. The police searched the house and found blood outside a closet door, and a weight machine propped up against it. Inside the closet they found Tracie Wallace’s body, wrapped in two garbage bags layered on top of each other. Both victims died from gunshot wounds to their heads. Wallace had been shot in her bed, presumably while she slept. Hood’s fingerprints were found on the note allegedly from Wallace, on both garbage bags that had covered her dead body, on the closet door where her body was found, and on documents that had been taken from Williamson’s safe. Hood’s bloody prints were found on the weight machine placed in front of the closet door. Hood was scheduled to report to work at 12:30 p.m. that day, but did not show up. He was arrested by police in Indiana the next day. At the time of his arrest, Hood was in possession of several items belonging to Williamson, including his car, jewelry, camera, wallet, credit cards, and clothing. Hood had used Williamson’s credit cards, cashed one of Williamson’s business checks, and pawned several pieces of jewelry shortly after the murders. At the punishment phase of trial, the jury heard that Hood received juvenile probation for breaking into a school and a gun club when he was twelve or thirteen. When Hood was eighteen, he pled guilty to theft and forgery, and was sentenced to two years in the Indiana Department of Corrections, where he was categorized as a problem inmate. Hood was eventually placed on parole for this conviction, but violated his parole when he absconded to Texas with a fifteen-year-old girl. When Hood was nineteen he entered the relationship with the fifteen-year-old, against the wishes of her parents. When her mother attempted to end the relationship, Hood became enraged; Hood struck and injured his father who tried to intervene. Hood was hostile towards police officers who responded to a disturbance call regarding this altercation. Hood told the officers that he had hit his father because he did not like anyone touching him, and that he had told his father that if he touched him again he would kill him. Hood threatened to kill anyone who tried to touch him. Hood and the minor continued to secretly see each other after this incident. Hood was violent and abusive towards the girl, and would not allow her to break things off with him. If the girl refused to have sex with him, Hood would force her. In July 1989, the minor ran away with Hood to Texas. After a few months, she was picked up by the police. As her mother was preparing to leave for Texas to retrieve her, Hood called and threatened to kill the mother if she came. Hood’s former brother-in-law, Dwayne Matthews, testified that he tried to help Hood get a job in Texas but Hood got fired after two months because he did not want to work. Matthews threw Hood out of his home because Hood would not help pay the bills; when Hood left, he stole some equipment that Matthews used in his construction business. Hood was also fired from a job at a Taco Bell – after working there for only three days – for fighting. Evidence was admitted that, while Hood was living at Williamson’s house, Hood raped another fifteen-year-old girl. Hood called the victim shortly after the attack and told her that if she told anyone or if he ever saw her again he would kill her. UPDATE: A convicted killer won a reprieve Tuesday, one day before his scheduled execution, after an appeals court said it would reconsider its earlier dismissal of a challenge over jury instructions at his murder trial. In granting the reprieve to Charles Dean Hood, the Texas Court of Appeals cited developments in the law regarding jury nullification. The court however dismissed his attorney’s claims that Hood was denied a fair trial because of what would be a legally unethical relationship between the judge and prosecutor.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 16, 2008 Georgia Barbara Jean Blase Alderman, 20 Jack Alderman executed

barbara jean aldermanJack Alderman was sentenced to death for the Sept. 21, 1974, killing of his wife Barbara Jean Alderman. Alderman, an assistant manager at a grocery store in 1974, asked an acquaintance, John Arthur Brown, to help him kill his wife in order to collect her insurance proceeds of $10,000. She was employed in the tax assessors’ office in Savannah. Brown went to the Aldermans’ apartment in Garden City and Jack Alderman got a 12-inch crescent wrench and gave it to Brown, telling him to hit his wife in the head with it as she lay sleeping. Barbara Alderman woke up and began cleaning up after their dog in the dining room. Brown followed her until he was able to hit her. She ran but her husband tackled her. Eventually, Alderman and Brown tried to strangle and choke her and covered her nose and mouth until she passed out. Alderman filled a bathtub and placed his wife under the water to make sure she was dead. Alderman and Brown then left the apartment and went to two Savannah bars. Around 10 pm, they returned to the apartment and took Barbara’s body out of the tub and wrapped it in a green quilt. They placed her body in the trunk of Alderman’s car and, with Brown driving the car, Alderman followed on his motorcycle to Dasher’s Creek in Rincon. Once there, they put Barbara’s body behind the steering wheel and pushed the car toward the water, trying to make her death look like an accident. They left the engine and the lights on and the transmission in drive, but the car did not go all the way into the creek. Alderman then told Brown to open the car door and let the victim’s body fall out slightly, leaving the impression that it was an accident. Alderman later said he found his wife’s body that night in the creek but was so traumatized by her death, he didn’t tell anyone. Brown testified against Alderman at the trial. Alderman and Brown were each found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in 1984. Alderman has been on death row for 34 years, nearly a record, and has outlived almost everyone involved in his case, including his accomplice, the victim’s mother, the trial court judge, the prosecutors and his defense attorney. In 1983, a federal appeals court vacated Alderman’s death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. A second jury sentenced Alderman to death in 1984. Alderman received a stay in October 2007, just one day from his scheduled execution, while the US Supreme Court considered challenges to the issue of lethal injection. Debra Blase, the victim’s sister, said, "We’re just hoping it will soon be over with. We live with this every day. He’s been through appeal after appeal after appeal." Before his trial, John Arthur Brown rejected an offer of a life sentence. After serving three years on death row, Brown’s sentence was overturned and he was resentenced on a plea bargain to life in prison. In late 1986, the parole board notified Barbara Alderman’s family that they were considering parole for Brown. Barbara’s mother, Rheta Earlene Blase, opposed Brown’s release, writing to the parole board and asking how they would feel if it was their daughter. Brown was paroled in March of 1987. In 1988, he was investigated on charges of molesting two teenage girls. In 1994, the parole board commuted his life sentence to time served. In February 2000, Brown committed suicide at age 51 when police tried to arrest him on the child molestation charges and charges of illegal possession of firearms.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 17, 2008 Texas Rena Ratcliff, 93 William Murray executed

Less than four months after being released from "shock probation" after serving only three months of a ten year sentence for a count of burglary of a habitation, William A. Murray robbed, beat, raped and murdered a 93-year-old woman. The convicted murderer’s mother had once cared for the elderly woman as a home nursing aide. After his arrest, Murray told his mother he killed the woman in a drug frenzy after breaking into her home. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy." Evidence showed Murray had two earlier marijuana convictions. According to court documents, Murray attacked Rena after she woke up while he was in her room looking for valuables and confronted him. Police acting on a warrant that tied Murray to an earlier burglary arrested him when they found evidence linking him to the slaying. The facts in evidence show that, on the night of February 10, 1998, in Kaufman, Texas, Murray beat, strangled and raped 93-year-old female Rena Ratcliff. Law enforcement officers responded to a call concerning the victim at her residence. When the officers arrived, they found the residence to be in disarray and appeared to have been ransacked. They found the victim in the bedroom, nude from the waist down with wounds and bruising on and about her head area. The victim also had an Ace bandage tied around her neck and into her mouth, which was soaked with blood. It was stated that the victim’s death was caused by strangulation and blunt force injuries. Murray confessed to entering the residence and ransacking it. Murray admitted that he physically and sexually assaulted the victim, and wrapped an Ace bandage around her face and mouth. Murray admitted he removed about $10 worth of change from a jar and a small knife which he later traded for drugs. UPDATE: A man who raped and murdered a 93-year-old woman in her Dallas-area home was executed Wednesday after he apologized to his victim’s relatives. "I’m sorry for what I did," William Murray told two nephews of Rena Ratcliff who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." In an recent interview with the Associated Press, Murray said, "Yes, I did do this. I’m not trying to blame this on somebody else. I want people to know I’m sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and I’m asking them to forgive me. That’s all I can do." Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a dozen burglaries, including the one in February 1998 where Ratcliff was awakened while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy. I didn’t know she was in there," he said. "I messed up. Somebody hit me from behind and I went off. I did what I did."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 17, 2008 Missouri Alfred Pinegar
Randy Hamilton
Stacey Hodge
John Middleton stayed

John C. Middleton was convicted of killing two people in 1995 in Mercer County. Middleton also was convicted in a separate case of killing a third person. He also received a death sentence in that case. John Middleton was a user and dealer of methamphetamine. On June 10, 1995, police arrested several people in Harrison County, Missouri, for possession and sale of the drug. Middleton was not one of the people arrested. About ten days after the Harrison County arrests, Middleton told a friend that "the snitches around here are going to start going down." Middleton told another individual there were “some snitches that should be taken care of,” because Middleon did not want to return to prison. Middleton mentioned several names, including Randy “Happy” Hamilton. On June 11, Middleton and his girlfriend met Hamilton and Stacey Hodge, Hamilton’s girlfriend, on a gravel road. Middleton shot Randy Hamilton in the back once with an SKS rifle and shot Stacey in the back three times. Middleton then killed Randy with a shot to the head. Middleton’s girlfriend killed Stacey with another SKS rifle by shooting her in the head. Middleton and his girlfriend placed both bodies in the trunk of Randy Hamilton’s car. Middleton drove the car, looking for a place to dispose of the bodies, with Middleton’s girlfriend following in a truck. While driving around in Hamilton’s car, Middleton encountered Danny Spurling. Middleton, covered in blood, told Spurling he had “taken care” of Hamilton. Middleton then asked Spurling for advice on what to do with the bodies. Middleton indicated he might burn the bodies in Hamilton’s old house. The next morning, Middleton gave Spurling the car stereo from Hamilton’s car and said “they were really going to freak out when they found those two.” Middleton also showed Spurling a written list of names and asked if Spurling knew anyone on the list. About a week and a half later, Middleton told Richard Pardun “there was a narc around and they were going to take care of it.” Middleton said he had a “hit list” and mentioned several names on it, including Hamilton, Alfred Pinegar, and William Worley. Middleton offered Pardun $3,500 to set up a meeting with Worley. Two days after making these statements, Middleton told the same friend that he was "on his way to Ridgeway, Missouri, to take Alfred Pinegar fishing." Alfred Pinegar was also a dealer of methamphetamine and was associated with Middleton as a fellow drug dealer. Pinegar lived with his fiancÚ Priscilla Hobbs in Davis City, Iowa, just north of Harrison County, Missouri. On June 23, 1995, the day of Pinegar’s murder, Hobbs was driving toward her home in Davis City when she saw Middleton and his girlfriend Maggie Hodges in a white Chevrolet 4×4 pickup traveling in the opposite direction. Hobbs noticed that Hodges was sitting in the middle of the truck seat instead of in the right passenger’s seat. When Hobbs reached her home, Pinegar was not there and the yard had been partly mowed, as if Pinegar stopped in the middle of the job. Pinegar habitually carried a twelve-gauge shotgun, and that shotgun and about two hundred dollars were missing from the home. Around noon that same day, a man who was working in the sporting goods department of a Wal-Mart store in Bethany, Missouri was approached by Hodges, Middleton, and another man, presumably Pinegar. Middleton asked for six boxes of nine-millimeter shells and two boxes of twelve-gauge "double-ought" buckshot. Middleton paid cash for the ammunition. During the entire transaction Middleton was standing at the counter across from the man. Middleton, Hodges, and Pinegar left Wal-Mart and drove several miles northeast of Bethany near the town of Ridgeway where they parked in a field. Pinegar got out of the truck and began to run when he saw Middleton raise the twelve-gauge shotgun. Middleton shot Pinegar twice in the back. Middleton then delivered the fatal wound to Pinegar, shooting him in the face. Middleton dumped Pinegar’s body over a fence. After committing the murder, Middleton and Hodges went back to the Wal-Mart store in Bethany to return the nine-millimeter ammunition. On June 25, John Thomas and Middleton discussed informants at Middleton’s house. Middleton named several people who “needed to be taken care of,” including Hamilton, Pinegar, and Worley. While at Middleton’s house, Thomas noticed two SKS rifles as well as a box belonging to Hamilton. When Thomas inquired about the box, Middleton replied “the guy who owned that box wouldn’t be needing it no more.” Around the same time, Middleton visited Dennis Rickert in Iowa. Middleton told Rickert, “I’d knowed ‘Happy’ for 15 years. He knew enough to put me away for life. I done ‘Happy.’” Middleton then gave Rickert several guns, including two SKS rifles, which Rickert later turned over to the police. Pinegar was found murdered on June 26, 1995, and Middleton was arrested for Pinegar’s murder shortly thereafter. On July 10, Hamilton’s car was discovered abandoned in the woods. Hamilton’s and Hodge’s decomposed bodies were found in the trunk, and the car stereo was missing. Bullet fragments taken from Hodge’s body displayed class characteristics consistent with the SKS rifles Middleton gave to Rickert. While awaiting trial, Middleton confessed to fellow jail inmate Douglas Stallsworth, who testified Middleton described the murders, admitted killing Hamilton and Hodge because they were informants, and acknowledged hiding their bodies and taking the rifles to Iowa. Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Callaway County, Missouri, Middleton was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action. He was sentenced to death for each of the murders and given consecutive ten-year sentences on the armed criminal action counts. UPDATE: The Missouri State Supreme Court issued a stay of execution while a federal lawsuit challenging Missouri’s lethal injection procedures is considered.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 18, 2008 Texas Robert Ratliff, 64 Joseph Ries stayed until 10/21/08

Joseph Ray Ries was condemned to death for breaking into a rural home, fatally shooting the man who was sleeping there and driving off in his car. A jury in Sulphur Springs in Hopkins County took only seven minutes to convict Joseph Ray Ries of capital murder, then decided he should die for the 1999 slaying of 64-year-old Robert Ratliff. Authorities identified Ries as the triggerman in the killing of Ratliff, who was shot three times with a small-caliber gun in the bedroom of his home in the small town of Cumby, about 65 miles northeast of Dallas. Another 19-year-old, Christopher Lee White, also was arrested for his involvement. White was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Both Ries and White were from the Commerce area, about 10 miles north of where Ratliff lived. White already had been wanted by police on a burglary warrant and Ries was being sought for taking Ratliff’s pickup truck a week before the killing. Ries lived with Ratliff months earlier, but the man kicked him out after some items turned up missing. A week before the killing, authorities believed Ries stole Ratliff’s pickup for a trip to San Antonio. Because the truck apparently didn’t get good fuel mileage, he and White came back to take his Lincoln Continental. Ratliff wasn’t home, so they broke in and stole two rifles, drove the pickup into a pond until it sank, then waited behind a barn until he returned home and went to sleep, according to court records. They went back inside, where Ratliff was shot, then drove off in his Lincoln. Ratliff’s body was found later by a relative. When he was arrested, Ries gave a videotaped confession to police.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 19, 2008 Washington Patrick Oliver, 21
Susan Savage, 22
Stacy Elizabeth Hawn, 23
Yolanda Sapp, 26
Nickie I. Lowe, 34
Kathleen Brisbois, 38
Sherry Anne Palmer, 19
Patricia L. Barnes, 60
Shannon Zielinski, 39
Jennifer Joseph, 16
Darla Sue Scott, 29
Melinda L. Mercer, 34
Shawn L. Johnson, 36
Laurel A. Wason, 31
Shawn A. McClenahan, 39
Sunny G. Oster, 41
Linda Marie Maybin, 34
Michelyn J. Derning, 47
Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35
Melody Murfin, 43
Heather Hernandez
Robert Yates, Jr. stayed

Yolanda Sapp Kathleen Brisbois, 1990 Sherry Palmer, 1992 Shannon Zielinski, 1996 Heather Hernandez, 1997 Jennifer Joseph Darla Scott, 1997 Melinda Mercer, 1997 Shawn Johnson, Victim Laurel Wason shawn mcclenahan Sunny G. Oster Linda Maybin Michelyn Derning Connie LaFontaine-Ellis Melody Murfin
Melinda Mercer turned to prostitution in November 1997 to support her heroin addiction. She was last seen alive on the night of December 6, 1997, leaving a Seattle tavern. According to the testimony of a friend, Mercer left the tavern to go to Aurora Avenue to make money for a heroin buy. On the following morning, Mercer’s nude body was found in some blackberry bushes in a vacant lot in Tacoma, a lot used as a dump site for garbage. Some of her clothing had been thrown on top of her, but other items were never recovered. An autopsy revealed that she had been shot three times in the back left side of the head. Only one of the three bullets penetrated her brain, but it did so without affecting the areas that control consciousness and motor response. Found nearby was a.25 caliber shell casing. Bloodstains on her blouse indicated that she had been clothed and upright when shot in the head. After shooting her, the killer encased her head in four plastic grocery bags. The two outer bags contained very little blood, but blood had pooled inside the two inner bags. Mercer’s nostrils and upper lip were visible through small tears in the two inner bags, which had been partially drawn into Mercer’s mouth; the holes suggested that Mercer was alive when the bags were tied over her head and that she had used her teeth to create the holes. Although Mercer could have died solely from the gunshot wounds, the oxygen deprivation would have hastened her death. Connie Ellis likewise worked as a prostitute to support a heroin addiction. Ellis had reentered a methadone treatment program on September 8, 1998, and she was last seen alive on September 17, 1998, when she received a dose of methadone at the clinic (a urinalysis taken at that time revealed that she was again using heroin). On October 13, 1998, approximately 11 months after the discovery of Mercer’s body, a search and rescue dog that was engaged in an unrelated search in Pierce County discovered Ellis’s decomposed body 10 feet down an embankment in a greenbelt used as a dump site. The degree of decomposition suggested that Ellis had been killed a month prior, not long after her September 17 visit to the methadone clinic. Ellis’s body was clothed in jeans, a blouse, and socks, but lacked any undergarments. Ellis died of a single gunshot wound to the left side of her head. The wound was consistent with a.25 caliber bullet. Her head was encased in three plastic grocery bags. The Spokane County Murders. On the day Ellis’s body was discovered, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department learned of the Pierce County case. In a phone call to one of the Tacoma detectives investigating the Ellis murder, a Spokane detective asked, “‘Will you just tell me one thing? Does she have plastic bags on her head?’” Detectives from Tacoma and Spokane shared information gathered on the 2 Pierce County murders and 10 unsolved murders committed in Spokane County between 1996 and 1998. The 10 Spokane victims (with the dates their bodies were found) were Shannon Zielinski (June 14, 1996), Jennifer Joseph (Aug. 26, 1997), Heather Hernandez (Aug. 26, 1997), Darla Scott (Jan. 5, 1997), Shawn L. Johnson (Dec. 18, 1997), Laurie Wason (Dec. 8, 1997), Sunny Oster (Feb. 8, 1998), Linda Maybin (Apr. 1, 1998), Michelyn J. Derning (July 7, 1998), and Melody Murfin (who disappeared in 1998 but whose body was not recovered until 2000 after excavation at Yates’s house). Joseph was shot with a.22, the remaining nine with a.25. As did Mercer and Ellis, the 10 Spokane victims had a history of drug abuse and worked in prostitution (all were last seen in the East Sprague Street corridor in Spokane, an area known for prostitution). Again like Mercer and Ellis, the Spokane victims had been shot in the head with a small caliber handgun. Moreover, just as Mercer’s and Ellis’s heads had been encased in plastic bags, two or three plastic bags had been tied over the heads of five of the Spokane victims. Similarly, plastic bags were found in the grave with one victim and near the body of another, and a towel was found on or near the first two victims. On April 18, 2000, a year and a half after the discovery of Ellis’s body, the Spokane police arrested Yates. The police first contacted him in July 1998, after the body of Michelyn Derning was discovered on July 7, 1998, a block north of Pantrol, a manufacturing company where Yates had worked since moving to Spokane in April 1996 after being released from the army. Yates gave the officer his name, date of birth, and address. A second contact occurred on November 9, 1998, when a police officer saw Yates pick up Jennifer Robinson in the East Sprague Street area. Yates told Robinson to say that he was one of her father’s friends, and Robinson complied. When asked for identification, Yates gave the officer his driver’s license. The officer ultimately let them move on, and Yates dropped Robinson off a few blocks away. Following the Pantrol interview and the Robinson incident, the police learned that Yates had once owned a white Corvette, a type of car that witnesses had reported seeing in relation to the disappearance of two of the earliest victims, Jennifer Joseph and Heather Hernandez. Late in 1999, a Spokane detective interviewed Yates, who claimed he never patronized Spokane prostitutes and owned no handguns. He admitted that he had previously owned a white Corvette and had sold it to a friend, Rita Jones. The police located Yates’s white Corvette in January 2000 and discovered under the front passenger seat the white mother-of-pearl button missing from Joseph’s blouse. Bloodstains found in the Corvette matched Joseph’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Following Yates’s arrest, the police developed additional evidence. On the day after the arrest, Christine Smith, a former prostitute, contacted the police to identify Yates as the person who had picked her up in Spokane in August 1998 and shot and robbed her in the back of his van. In May 2000, officers searched Yates’s black Ford van, in the back of which Yates had installed a homemade wooden platform bed covered with carpet. The carpet, padding, and underlying wood tested positive for blood (later identified as that of Ellis and Murfin), and three bullet holes were found, as well as a spent bullet and bullet debris (containing Smith’s DNA). Just as Joseph’s blood was found in Yates’s white Corvette and Ellis’s and Murfin’s blood in the Ford van, Zielinski’s blood was found on the carpet of Yates’s Chevrolet van. From Yates’s house, the police took records indicating that he had owned at least three guns, one.22 caliber and two.25 caliber handguns. Forensic analysis later showed that Mercer was killed with the same.25 caliber handgun used in the murders of Spokane victims Johnson, Oster, Wason, and Maybin and that Ellis was killed with a different.25 caliber gun, the same one used to murder Murfin and wound Smith. Other evidence taken from Yates’s house established that, at the time Mercer and Ellis were last seen alive, Yates had been in the Tacoma area, fulfilling National Guard duties at nearby Fort Lewis. From Yates’s closet, the police took a jacket identified as the one Smith had been wearing on the night Yates assaulted and robbed her, and from Yates’s laundry room, they took a canvas coat that bore a stain later identified by DNA analysis as Mercer’s blood. Using Yates’s hand-drawn map, police excavated an area on the east side of Yates’s house, beneath his bedroom window, and recovered Murfin’s body. The semen collected by oral, vaginal, and/or anal swabs from Mercer and six Spokane victims (Scott, Johnson, Wason, Oster, Maybin, and Derning) was linked by DNA analysis to Yates, as were hairs found on Mercer and Maybin. Yates was ultimately charged in Spokane County Superior Court with 10 counts of first degree murder and 1 count of attempted first degree murder. On October 13, 2000, in exchange for the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s agreement not to seek the death penalty, Yates pleaded guilty to the Spokane County crimes, as well as to two counts of first degree murder in Walla Walla County and one in Skagit County. His statement on plea of guilty did no more than acknowledge that he had committed with premeditated intent the murders listed in the amended information, which had provided nothing more than the names and dates of the murders. Yates was sentenced to 408 years in prison. On July 17, 2000, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney filed an information charging Yates with the aggravated first degree murders of Mercer and Ellis. On each count, the State alleged three aggravating factors and a firearm enhancement. At the time the information was filed, the State also provided Yates with notice of its consideration of a special sentencing proceeding, inviting Yates to submit mitigation material to the prosecuting attorney. At Yates’s arraignment on October 31, 2000, he entered a plea of “not guilty,” and the court read the State’s notice of consideration of a special sentencing proceeding. The court entered an order extending until January 15, 2001, the State’s deadline for filing its notice to seek the death penalty, a notice that the State timely filed on January 12, 2001. Opening statements were delivered on August 12, 2002, and the State rested its case-in-chief on September 11, 2002. The defense rested the following day. The jury found Yates guilty on both counts of first degree murder and likewise determined that, with respect to each count, the State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of all three aggravating circumstances. Additionally, the jury found that Yates committed the murders while armed with a firearm. After hearing the evidence and closing arguments in the special sentencing hearing, the jury returned a verdict for a death sentence. At sentencing, the court rejected Yates’s argument that his death sentence had to be served consecutively to the 408-year sentence imposed in Spokane County. UPDATE: The Washington Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for convicted serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr. today. Justices also appointed attorneys Ronald Ness of Port Orchard and Judith Mandel of Tacoma to represent Yates during the next stage of his appeals process.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 23, 2008 Florida Jasmine Lewis, 3
Jamilya Lewis, 7
Richard Henyard executed

In June 1994, a jury in the Circuit Court of Lake County, Florida, convicted Richard Henyard of multiple crimes, including the carjacking of Dorothy Lewis and her two children, Jasmine, age 3, and Jamilya, age 7; the first degree murder of Jasmine and Jamilya Lewis; and the rape and attempted murder of Dorothy Lewis. The jury unanimously recommended, and the trial court imposed, a sentence of death. The record reflects that one evening in January, 1993, eighteen-year-old Richard Henyard stayed at the home of a family friend and stole a gun that belonged to the man. Several friends of Henyard’s testified they had seen him with a gun after that date. He showed one friend a small black gun and said that, in order to make his trip, he would steal a car, kill the owner, and put the victim in the trunk. A woman testified that around 10 p.m. on January 30, she went to the Winn Dixie store in Eustis. She saw Henyard and a younger man sitting on a bench near the entrance of the store. When she left, Henyard and his companion got up from the bench; one of them walked ahead of her and the other behind her. As she approached her car, the one ahead of her went to the end of the bumper, turned around, and stood. The woman quickly got into the car and locked the doors. As she drove away, she saw Henyard and the younger man walking back towards the store. At the same time, the eventual survivor and victims in this case, Ms. Dorothy Lewis and her daughters, Jasmine, age 3, and Jamilya, age 7, drove to the Winn Dixie store. Dorothy noticed a few people sitting on a bench near the doors as she and her daughters entered the store. When she left the store, she went to her car and put her daughters in the front passenger seat. As she walked behind the car to the driver’s side, Dorothy noticed Alfonza Smalls coming towards her. As Smalls approached, he pulled up his shirt and revealed a gun in his waistband. Smalls ordered Dorothy and her daughters into the back seat of the car, and then called to Henyard. Henyard drove the Lewis car out of town as Smalls gave him directions. The Lewis girls were crying and upset, and Smalls repeatedly demanded that their mother “shut the girls up.” As they continued to drive out of town, Dorothy beseeched Jesus for help, to which Henyard replied, “this ain’t Jesus, this is Satan.” Later, Henyard stopped the car at a deserted location and ordered Dorothy out of the car. Henyard raped Dorothy Lewis on the trunk of the car while her daughters remained in the back seat of the car. Dorothy attempted to reach for the gun that was lying nearby on the trunk. Smalls grabbed the gun from her and shouted, “you’re not going to get the gun, bi+ch.” Smalls also raped Dorothy on the trunk of the car. Henyard then ordered her to sit on the ground near the edge of the road. When she hesitated, Henyard pushed her to the ground and shot her in the leg. Henyard shot her at close range three more times, wounding her in the neck, mouth, and the middle of the forehead between her eyes. Henyard and Smalls rolled Dorothy’s unconscious body off to the side of the road, and got back into the car. The last thing Dorothy remembers before losing consciousness is a gun aimed at her face. Miraculously, Dorothy survived and, upon regaining consciousness a few hours later, made her way to a nearby house for help. The occupants called the police and Dorothy, who was covered in blood, collapsed on the front porch and waited for the officers to arrive. As Henyard and Smalls drove the Lewis girls away from the scene where their mother had been shot and abandoned, Jasmine and Jamilya continued to cry and plead: “I want my Mommy,” “Mommy,” “Mommy.” Shortly thereafter, Henyard stopped the car on the side of the road, got out, and lifted Jasmine out of the back seat while Jamilya got out on her own. The Lewis girls were then taken into a grassy area along the roadside where they were each killed by a single bullet fired into the head. Henyard and Smalls threw the bodies of Jasmine and Jamilya Lewis over a nearby fence into some underbrush. The autopsies of Jasmine and Jamilya Lewis showed that they both died of gunshot wounds to the head and were shot at very close range. Powder stippling around Jasmine’s left eye, the sight of her mortal wound, indicated that her eye was open when she was shot. One of the blood spots discovered on Henyard’s socks matched the blood of Jasmine Lewis. “High speed” or “high velocity” blood splatters found on Henyard’s jacket matched the blood of Jamilya Lewis and showed that Henyard was less than four feet from her when she was killed. Smalls’ trousers had “splashed” or “dropped blood” on them consistent with dragging a body. DNA evidence was also presented at trial indicating that Henyard raped Dorothy Lewis. The day after the crimes, Henyard went to the Eustis police and told them a story blaming the crime on Smalls and another man. When detectives noticed bloodstains on his sock, he admitted that he helped abduct Dorothy and her daughters, and that he raped and shot Dorothy. He told police that he was there when the girls were killed but that he did not shoot them. Smalls was 14 years old at the time of the crimes and could not be sentenced to death. He received 8 consecutive life sentences for the kidnappings, rape and murders. Today, Dorothy Lewis is a pastor and motivational speaker, and speaks about her ordeal. On a web site , she says, "Today I can truly say that I am no longer a victim, but I am victorious through the love of God."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 23, 2008 Georgia Mark Allen MacPhail, 27 Troy Davis stayed

mark macphailTroy Anthony Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in 1989. On August 19, 1989, Troy Anthony Davis was at a Burger King restaurant with friends and and struck a homeless man named Larry Young in the head with a pistol when Young refused to give a beer to one of Davis’s friends. Officer MacPhail, who was working an off-duty security detail at the Greyhound bus terminal next door, heard Young cry out and responded to the disturbance. Davis fled and, when Officer MacPhail, wearing his full police uniform, ordered him to stop, Davis turned and shot the officer in the right thigh and chest. Although Mark MacPhail was wearing a bullet-proof vest, his sides were not protected and the bullet entered the left side of his chest, penetrating his left lung and his aorta, stopping at the back of his chest cavity. Davis, smiling, walked up to the stricken officer and shot him in the face as he lay dying in the parking lot. The officer’s gun was still strapped in his holster and his baton was still on his belt. Davis fled to Atlanta and a massive manhunt ensued. The next afternoon, Davis told a friend that he had been involved in an argument at the restaurant the previous evening and struck someone with a gun. He told the friend that when a police officer ran up, Davis shot him and that he went to the officer and "finished the job" because he knew the officer got a good look at his face when he shot him the first time. After his arrest, Davis told a cellmate a similar story. He was arrested after surrendering a few days after the murder. Trial began exactly two years to the day of Officer MacPhail’s murder. This resulted in Davis’ conviction for murder after less than two hours of deliberation by the jury, and in the imposition of a death sentence after seven hours of deliberation. He was also convicted of obstruction of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. One of the two counts of aggravated assault arose from an incident where Davis shot into a car that was leaving a party an hour before the murder of Officer MacPhail. Michael Cooper was struck in the head by a bullet, severely injuring him and leaving the bullet lodged in his jaw. Ballistics tests matched the shells from the murder of the police officer to shells found at a party earlier in the evening where Michael Cooper had been shot. Cooper identified Davis as the shooter. Even though the US Supreme Court rejected his final appeal without dissent in June of 2007, Davis received a 90-day stay from the state pardons and parole board just one day before his July 17, 2007 execution date. The stay was granted to examine claims by witnesses that they had given erroneous testimony or were no longer certain about their identification of Davis. Mark MacPhail’s son, 18-year-old Mark Allen MacPhail Jr. spoke against the stay to members of the Board of Pardons and Parole. "I told them how it felt having him ripped away from me at such an early age. Picture having Father’s Day and having no one to give anything to," MacPhail said he told the board. Anneliese MacPhail, mother of the slain officer, commented to a reporter after learning that Davis’s request for a new trial was denied in March 2008. "I wonder, what do all those witnesses remember after 18 years? There is no new evidence. No mother should go through what I have been through." Mark’s wife Joan MacPhail said she has lost her best friend, the father of her two children and now her peace of mind as appeals for Davis have drawn on for almost two decades. "It’s like another punch in the stomach," she said. "You have to relive that night over and over. That’s so wrong. Why shouldn’t we have peace in our lives?" About the changing witnesses, the Georgia Supreme Court stated that most of the witnesses who recanted "have merely stated they now do not feel able to identify the shooter." The majority could not ignore the trial testimony, "and, in fact, we favor that original testimony over the new." The son of a U.S. Army Ranger, Mark MacPhail was a graduate of Columbus High School in Georgia. His mother, Anne, still lives in Columbus.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
September 25, 2008 Oklahoma Judy Ann Moody Mayo, 42
Melissa Moody, 11
Jessie Cummings executed

Jesse James Cummings was convicted and sentenced to death in Coal County, Oklahoma District Court for the September 1991 murders of his sister, Judy Ann Moody Mayo, 42, and Mayo’s daughter, Melissa Moody, 11. An appeals court later reversed Cummings’ conviction for Mayo’s murder but his conviction for the murder of the child stands. In September of 1991, Cummings lived in Phillips, Oklahoma, in a residence he shared with his first wife, Sherry Cummings, his second wife, Juanita Cummings, Cummings’s and Sherry’s daughter, Debra, Juanita’s son Robbie, and Cummings’s father, Jesse Samuel Cummings. Cummings had married Sherry in 1987, and, without divorcing her, had married Juanita in 1989. He, in effect, had two wives. On September 8, 1991, Cummings went to the Atoka County Sheriff’s Office and reported his sister, Judy Ann Moody Mayo, and her daughter, Melissa Moody, as missing. Cummings told the clerk that friends had told him that his sister’s vehicle had been seen parked at Atoka Lake on Highway 43 and that it had broken down as its hood and doors were opened. Cummings reported what his sister and her daughter had been wearing at the time of their disappearance. He also said that someone had possibly picked them up. Cummings showed the clerk pictures of Judy and Melissa. The next day, on September 8, Judy’s body was found floating in a small pond adjacent to Atoka Lake. She had suffered gunshot wounds to her head and neck and her body was wrapped in a quilt and a mattress pad. The following month, in October, the skeletal remains of Melissa were located by the side of a bridge over the Clear Boggy River in Choctaw County. Due to the skeletonization of the body, an exact cause of death could not be determined but evidence of sharp force injuries to several ribs was noted. The case remained unsolved for almost three years. During this time, Cummings and his two wives moved from Phillips, Oklahoma, to Lehigh, Oklahoma. In the summer of 1994, Juanita went to work for a minister named Edward Fields. Juanita told Fields that she had shot Judy and that Cummings had made her do it. She also stated that Cummings had wanted her to kill Melissa but she got sick and could not do it. She told Fields that after she killed Judy she went to work and when she got back Judy’s body was gone and so was Melissa. Subsequently, Juanita was charged with First Degree Murder for the death of Judy, and Sherry was charged with First Degree Murder for the death of Melissa. First Degree Murder charges were dropped against Sherry when she entered a plea agreement with the State and pled guilty to two counts of Accessory After the Fact and one count of Permitting a Child to be Abused. First Degree Murder charges were also dropped against Juanita and she pleaded guilty to Second Degree Murder. Both Sherry and Juanita implicated Cummings in the commission of the crimes and testified against him at trial. Sherry testified that on September 4, 1991, Cummings told her to take his sister, Judy, to look at houses and to shoot Judy from behind when they got to an empty house. The next morning, on September 5, Cummings left early to drive his father to the hospital in Oklahoma City. That morning, Sherry took Judy to look at houses. She did not shoot Judy while they were looking at houses. When they had finished looking at houses, Sherry and Judy returned to Cummings’s residence. Sherry, Judy, and Juanita watched TV in the house and the kids, Debra, Robbie and Melissa were outside. When Judy indicated she was ready to leave, Sherry went to the bathroom. While she was gone she heard five gunshots. When she returned to the living room she saw Judy sitting on the couch slumped over. Juanita had shot her. Sherry and Juanita brought all three kids into the house, covering their eyes when they passed through the living room, and they put them in a back room. They then pulled Judy through the house and outside into the cellar. They cleaned blood off the couch, the floor and the living room wall. After they had cleaned, Robbie and Debra went back outside and Juanita left to go to work at the Dairy Queen in Atoka. Melissa stayed locked in the back room. Juanita returned from work around 11:00 that night. Cummings returned from Oklahoma City later that same night. When he got home Sherry and Juanita met him and Juanita told him that she had killed Judy. The three of them retrieved Judy’s body from the cellar and pulled her to her truck. Cummings went to the house and got something white that he wrapped around Judy. Cummings drove Judy’s truck and Sherry followed in the car. Juanita stayed at the house. Sherry followed Cummings toward Atoka Lake. She parked her car and waited while Cummings drove on further. When he came back Judy was no longer in the truck. Cummings parked Judy’s truck off the side of the road next to a bridge. He raised the hood and left the truck there. Cummings drove home in the car with Sherry. Sherry testified that when they arrived back at the house, Cummings and Juanita went into the bedroom where Melissa was hand-cuffed to the bed. They were there from fifteen to twenty minutes. Juanita came out first and then Cummings followed. Cummings handed Juanita the keys to the hand-cuffs and told her to bring Melissa out of the room. Cummings then told Sherry and Melissa to go get in the car. Sherry testified that Melissa asked where they were going and Cummings said they were going to meet her momma. Sherry fell asleep while they drove and she woke up when the car stopped. Cummings got out of the car and told Melissa to get out. They walked behind the car and climbed over a railing. They were gone fifteen to twenty minutes and when he returned to the car, Cummings was alone. Sherry stated that he had blood on his hands and the front of his coveralls. Cummings drove back to Atoka Lake and stopped on the opposite side of the lake from where he had taken Judy. He cleaned up, threw away his shoes and they drove back toward the house. On the way there Cummings threw his coveralls out the window. When they arrived back at the house, Cummings and Juanita took the couch and left. They were gone for about an hour before they returned. Sherry testified that when she was first questioned by authorities about Judy and Melissa’s disappearance she told them that they had left in a dark blue or black pickup that had come by the house. She claimed to have given this statement because Cummings told her to. Juanita also testified against Cummings at trial. She testified that on the morning of September 5, 1991, Cummings told her that he wanted her to kill his sister, Judy, and he wanted her to use the.38 to do it. Cummings then left to take his father to Oklahoma City. Juanita testified that on the morning of September 5, she took Melissa to the welfare department with her. When they arrived back at the house, Juanita was there with Sherry, Judy and the kids. The kids were outside playing. Sherry went to the porch and called her to come out there. Sherry told her to do what she knew she needed to do and she brought Juanita the gun. Juanita went back into the house and shot Judy. Juanita and Sherry brought the kids into the house and told them to play in the bedroom. They then drug Judy’s body to the cellar. They cleaned the house and couch and then Juanita went to work at the Dairy Queen. Juanita testified that she arrived back home at around 11:00. When she got home she went into the bedroom where Melissa was handcuffed and lying on the bed. She went back into the living room. Cummings came home a little after midnight. He asked her if it was done and she replied that it was. Then Sherry and Cummings left the house and with the car keys and the truck keys. Juanita was told to stay in the house. She testified that she did not help move Judy’s body but she never saw it again. When Cummings and Sherry came back, Cummings told Juanita and Sherry to go in the bedroom and unhandcuff and undress Melissa. He then made them stay in the room while he raped Melissa. Afterward, Cummings, Sherry and Melissa left the house. Only Cummings and Sherry returned. When he returned, Cummings was wearing only a pair of shorts. He had been dressed in coveralls when he left the house. He told Juanita to help him load the couch on the truck and they took it to a bridge near Centrahoma and threw it over the side of the bridge. When questioned by authorities Juanita told them that she had been sleeping in her room when she heard someone pull up to the house and Judy hollered that she and Melissa were leaving.

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