June 2010 Executions

Five killers were executed in June 2010. They had murdered at least 8 people.
Two killers were given a stay in June 2010. They have murdered at least 2 people.
One killer was given a commutation in June 2010. He has murdered at least 1 person.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 2, 2010 Texas Forest J. Hall, 22
Kendra Buckner, 20
George Jones executed
On April 13, 1993, Forest J. Hall’s lifeless body was found in a ditch alongside a road in Lancaster, Texas. Hall had been shot twice in the back of the head at very close range. Police recovered two spent.380 automatic shell casings near Hall’s body. The following day, Dallas police officers recovered Hall’s vehicle abandoned on a street near Fair Park in Dallas. Hall’s car had been stripped; the tires and rims were missing, as were the car’s stereo and speakers. Within a week, a Lancaster patrolman involved in a pursuit of a suspected stolen vehicle recovered a.380 automatic pistol that was later found to be the weapon used to kill Hall. The pistol was left behind in the stolen car, after the car’s lone occupant fled on foot. Five months following Hall’s murder, Derrick Rogers confessed his and Jones’ participation in Hall’s murder to detectives with the Dallas Police Department and a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At trial, Rogers testified that he had known Jones for over two years and that, on the afternoon of April 13, 1993, Rogers and Jones, along with two others, went to a shopping mall in Dallas to look for someone to rob. They first saw Hall get out of his white car and enter the shopping mall. The group then waited, and when Hall left the mall, Rogers and Jones, armed with a.380 automatic pistol, forced Hall into his car and drove to a secluded road in South Dallas. The others followed them in a separate car. Once parked, Jones ordered Hall out of the car and shot him twice in the head as Hall lay down in the grass. Afterwards, Rogers and Jones took Hall’s car and rejoined the others at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. Rogers detailed his and Jones’s participation in a voluntary written statement given to the detectives on September 23, 1993. Once Jones had been implicated in the capital murder, the detectives obtained a warrant and then arrested Jones at his home in South Dallas. Within hours, Jones also gave a three-page voluntary written statement admitting his involvement in the murder. Jones also admitted that a car stereo and speakers found in his house belonged to the victim and the tires and rims were pawned at a nearby pawn shop. A forensic document examiner determined that it was in fact Jones who signed the pawn slip for the tires and rims. The jury also heard from Derrick Rogers’ girlfriend, who confirmed much of Rogers’ testimony. She testified that she saw Jones, armed with a pistol, force Hall into his car and drive away from the shopping mall. She then followed Jones, Hall, and Rogers to a secluded street south of Dallas. There she saw Hall step out of the car with his hands raised as Jones held a gun on him. As she drove away, she heard two gunshots. Later she asked Jones why he killed Hall. Jones replied so he wouldn’t get to see his son. In addition to facts of the capital murder, the State presented evidence that Jones had actively participated in at least five other aggravated robberies. The facts of the various aggravated robberies are very similar. In each, Jones, along with one or more other individuals, confronted a victim in a public place, and armed with either a handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, or some other weapon, forcibly took the victim’s car. The victim of at least one of these aggravated robberies was shot at several times, and another was maced as he used a public pay phone. The cars that were eventually recovered had been destroyed or stripped of all their specialty equipment, such as the tires, rims, and stereos. Jones’ jury also heard testimony that during one of his car jacking sprees, Jones and an accomplice kidnapped and killed a young woman named Kindra Buckner. Jones and his accomplice drove their 20-year-old victim to a secluded spot, forced her to strip naked, searched the contents of her purse, and then shot her twice in the head. Fearing that Buckner might have survived, Jones and his cohort later returned to the scene and shot her in the face with a shotgun. They then burned the car to cover their tracks. This particular murder occurred five months after Jones killed Forest Hall. UPDATE: George Jones was executed on June 2 for the fatal shooting of a Dallas man during a carjacking at a mall in 1993. Relatives of the slain man, Forest Hall, watched through a window. Jones told them that he hoped the punishment "brings you closure or some type of peace." A tattoo of the word killer could be seen on his right arm. "It was a bitter, bitter situation," Hall’s uncle Theron Nash said afterward. "We thank God for this day and we ask God’s mercy upon George Jones’ mother." Jones was arrested at his parents’ home about five months after Hall’s body was found along a rural road near Lancaster in April 1993. Forest was an employee of Parkland Memorial Hospital. He had been shot twice in the head after he was abducted from a mall. Prosecutors tied Jones to 21 crimes, including other carjackings and the slaying of Kendra Buckner, 20, a south Dallas woman abducted as she walked home in September 1993. Buckner’s brother and sister also witnessed Jones’ execution Wednesday. Jones was never tried in her death. Jones was implicated by accomplice Derrick Rodgers, who plea-bargained for a 22-year prison term for aggravated robbery and testified against Jones.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 9, 2010 Georgia Martha Chapman Matich, 31
Lisa Chapman, 11
Melbert Ford executed
After his relationship with Martha Matich broke up, Melbert Ray Ford, Jr. began harassing her by telephone. Two weeks prior to her death, Ford told a friend of his that he “was going to blow her… brains out.” The day before her death, Ford unsuccessfully tried to convince a friend to drive him to the convenience store where Matich worked. Ford told the friend that he planned to rob the store and work revenge upon Matich by killing her. On March 6, 1986, Ford talked to several people about robbing the store. He told one that he intended to kidnap Martha, take her into the woods, make her beg, and then shoot her in the forehead. Ford tried to talk another into helping him with his robbery (Ford had no car). When this effort failed, Ford responded that “there wasn’t anybody crazy around here anymore.” Finally, Ford met 19-year-old Roger Turner, who was out of a job and nearly out of money. By plying him with alcohol, and promising him that they could easily acquire eight thousand dollars, Ford persuaded Turner to help him. They drove in Turner’s car to Chapman’s Grocery, arriving just after closing time. Ford shot away the lower half of the locked and barred glass door and entered the store. Turner, waiting in the car, 2 heard screams and gunshots. Then Ford ran from the store to the car, carrying a bag of money. At 10:20 p.m., the store’s burglar alarm sounded. A Newton County sheriff’s deputy arrived at 10:27 p.m. Martha Matich was lying dead behind the counter, shot three times. Lisa Chapman was discovered in the bathroom, shot in the head but still alive, sitting on a bucket, bleeding from the head, and having convulsions. She could answer no questions. Lisa’s father Oliver Chapman said he got to hold his daughter for a few moments before she was taken away in a medical helicopter, but she could not speak to him. She died en route to the hospital. Ford and Turner were arrested the next day. Turner confessed first and was brought into Ford’s interrogation room to state to Ford that he had told the truth. Ford told him not to worry, that Turner was not involved in the murders. Afterwards, Ford told his interrogators that the shooting began after Martha Matich pushed the alarm button. He stated that, had he worn a mask, it would not have happened. Ford claimed at trial that he was too drunk to know what was happening, and that it was Turner who entered the store and killed the victims. The jury deliberated only an hour and a half before finding Ford guilty and only one hour before imposing two death sentences. UPDATE: Melbert Ray Ford died by lethal injection at 7:27 p.m. Wednesday, 23 years after he was convicted in the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Martha Chapman Matich, and her 11-year-old niece, Lisa Chapman. Cindy Griffeth, mother of the slain 11-year-old, said the execution, at which she was a witness, brought closure to her but also disappointment. “I was hoping that (Ford) would at least have prayer and apologize,” Griffeth said. “But I thought, deep down in my heart, he wasn’t going to do it. It shows his true character.” When asked how she felt about the execution, she replied, “It was too easy for him.”
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 10, 2010 Alabama Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett John Parker executed
In March 1988, Charles Sennett contracted with one of his tenants, Billy Gray Williams, to murder his wife, Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, for $3000. Williams, in turn, hired John Parker and Kenneth Eugene Smith for $1000 each to commit the murder. Williams gave Parker $100 to purchase a weapon on 17 March 1988, and promised to pay him the balance when the job was completed. Instead of buying a weapon, Parker used the $100 for drugs and injected 3 cubic centimeters of Talwin, a narcotic analgesic (painkiller), while en route to the Sennetts’ residence on 18 March. Parker drove his vehicle to the Sennetts’ residence while Smith, who was in the passenger seat, sharpened Parker’s survival knife. Parker parked his car behind the Sennetts’ home, told Dorlene that her husband had given them permission to look at the property as a hunting site and, upon receiving Dorlene’s approval, walked into a wooded area with Smith. They later returned to the house and received permission from Dorlene to use her bathroom. While in the bathroom, Parker put cotton socks onto his hands. He then exited the bathroom, jumped Dorlene, and began hitting her. Parker and Smith hit Dorlene with a galvanized pipe and stabbed her while she pled with them not to hurt her. Consistent with their plan, they broke the glass in the medicine cabinet and took a stereo and video cassette recorder (VCR) to make the assault look like it was done during a burglary. Parker later burned his clothes and threw the stereo off a bridge, and he and Smith threw away the knife that they used. Parker subsequently received the additional $900 for the murder. When Sennett arrived home, he found his house ransacked and Dorlene close to death, and called Colbert County Sheriff’s Investigator Ronnie May at 11:44 A.M. May dispatched a rescue squad and sheriff’s deputies to the Sennetts’ home. May and another deputy arrived at the Sennetts’ home about 12:05 P.M., and the rescue squad arrived soon thereafter. Dorlene was transported to the hospital, and seen by Dr. David Parks McKinley. Resuscitation efforts failed and Dorlene was declared dead as a result of cardiac arrest and exsanguination. An examination of her body revealed multiple stab wounds to the right side of her chest, the right side of her neck, the base of her neck, forehead, nose, and scalp, and contusions on her nose and forehead. Hairs found at the crime scene in a cap located near Dorlene’s body were consistent with Smith’s known hair sample, and on an afghan that had been wrapped around Dorlene’s body were consistent with fibers later taken from Parker’s knife. The VCR taken from the Sennetts’ house was found inside Smith’s residence. In April 1988, Parker was indicted for the capital murder of Dorlene by beating and stabbing her with a knife for the pecuniary consideration of $1000. At trial, he was found guilty by a jury; the jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. The judge, however, overrode the jury and sentenced Parker to death on 21 June 1989. Charles Sennett, a Church of Christ minister, committed suicide on 25 March 1988, seven days after Dorlene died. Williams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Smith was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. UPDATE: John Forrest Parker, executed for the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, told the woman’s family, "I’m sorry, I don’t ever expect you to forgive me. I really am sorry" moments before he died by lethal injection at Holman Prison in Atmore.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 10, 2010 Ohio Patricia Newsome Richard Nields commuted
Prior to 1997, Richard Nields and Patricia Newsome had an on-again, off-again relationship for approximately ten to twelve years. In the year leading up to the murder, they lived together at Patricia’s home in Finneytown, Springfield Township, in Hamilton County. Patricia worked as a realtor in Fairfield, and Nields was a keyboard musician who was out of work most of the time. On March 27, 1997, Patricia had lunch with her friend, Dorothy Kiser. Patricia told Kiser that she asked defendant to move out. Even though Nields had packed his clothes in his car in order to move out, "he kept coming back to the house." In the weeks leading up to March 27, Nields would call Patricia with hostile messages. On one occasion, an angry call for Patricia was received by the office receptionist, Floanna Ziegler, from a man identifying himself as a musician. Patricia wrote the incident down and told Ziegler, "I’m trying to file charges against him and I want to document everything that he said to you." During the afternoon of March 27, Dorothy Alvin had a conversation with Nields, who was a stranger to her, at Lulu’s bar in Springfield Township. Nields told Alvin that the lady whose house he lived in was throwing him out. Nields further told Alvin, "I’d like to kill her, but I guess I won’t do that because I don’t want to go to prison." Later, during the evening of March 27, Barbara Beck and Patricia Denier were dining at the Briarwood Lounge on Hamilton Avenue. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Nields entered the bar and approached the two women, both of whom he knew. Both women noticed blood on his right hand and asked him what happened. Nields said to them, "You’ll hear it on the news tomorrow." Nields also kept repeating, "I’m in serious, serious trouble." Both women thought that he was in shock and was acting strange. Neither smelled any alcohol on his breath. As Beck and Denier left the lounge, Nields walked them to their car and asked to go with them. After they declined to take Nields with them, Nields told them, "I’m going to be driving home in a Cadillac." They saw Nields walk across the street to a white Cadillac. Friends of Patricia Patricia testified that she owned a white Cadillac but never let anyone else drive it, especially Nields, "because of the way he drank." Anthony Studenka was at DJ’s Pub on Winton Road on the night of March 27, a little before midnight and sat down next to a person at the bar who "told me he killed somebody." That person was Nields. Nields showed Studenka his hands, which had cuts on them, and told Studenka that he had killed some kid who was a drug pusher. Nields then suddenly became belligerent and started calling Studenka insulting names. Kimberly Brooks, a friend of Studenka, also heard Nields declare that he had killed someone and noticed that Nields had "dried blood all over" his hands. However, Nields then denied that he had killed anyone, and said that he had helped drag the body away. Brooks called 911 to report Nields’s statements. Springfield Township Police Officer Greg Huber was in front of DJ’s Pub when he heard a radio call that a male at the bar was bragging that he had killed someone. Huber encountered Nields inside the bar and asked him to step outside because of the noise. After initially refusing to do so, Nields went outside and spoke with Huber, who then noticed blood on both of Nields’s hands. When asked about the blood, Nields told Huber that he was in a fight across the street at Lulu’s bar. At that time, Police Sgt. Ken Volz arrived on the scene. Huber then went to Lulu’s to investigate and discovered that there had been no fight there. Sgt. Volz and another officer, Clayton Smith, spoke with Nields outside of DJ’s Pub. Nields told the officers that the story of the killing he was telling inside the bar was really about a Clint Eastwood movie. Smith, who was familiar with such movies, asked Nields questions to find out to which movie Nields was referring. However, Nields could not sufficiently answer any of his questions. Sgt. Volz then instructed Smith to drive Nields home due to his "intoxication level." Nields pointed to the white Cadillac across the way as "his girlfriend’s car" that he drove, which Volz learned was registered to Patricia Newsome. Volz then went to Patricia’s house on 8527 Pringle Avenue, "to check on [her] well being." When he peered through the front window, he could see that the television and some lights were on, and he could hear the dog barking inside. As Officer Smith drove up to the Pringle Avenue residence with Nields, Sgt. Volz was standing on the front porch area. Nields "became very uptight and aggressive and verbal and almost yelling" at Smith. Nields declared that they were not going into the house without a search warrant. Nields eventually calmed down, and the officers let him enter the house and hoped he would calm down for the night. However, after Nields entered the house, the officers could see Nields through the front window "waving his hands in an erratic fashion." As the officers were leaving, they noticed the door on the attached garage was open. Officer Smith entered the open lit garage and peered in a window that looked into the kitchen. Smith saw "a female on the ground who was obviously deceased." The officers went to the front door and saw Nields through the front window still waving his arms. They knocked on the door, and as Nields opened the door, they grabbed his arm, pulled him outside, and handcuffed him. Police arrested Nields and advised him of his Miranda rights. Sgt. Volz entered the house to check on the victim but could not detect a pulse. While Nields was detained in the police cruiser, he kept asking Officer Smith, "Is she alive?" During the arrest, police found fifteen traveler’s checks in Nields’s possession, all of which bore Patricia Newsome’s name. Police Chief David Heimpold arrived at the scene and re-advised Nields of his Miranda rights. Nields told Heimpold that he and Patricia had been in an argument. She hit him with the telephone, he then pushed her, and she hit her head on a bookcase. Nields also mentioned that someone named "Bob" was also there, but shortly thereafter, he admitted that this was a lie. Nields admitted that he had choked Patricia after they had had a fight. The assistant medical examiner, who performed the autopsy on Patricia, concluded that she had died from asphyxia due to manual strangulation. Nields was incarcerated at the Hamilton County Justice Center. Two days after the murder, he talked with Timothy Griffis, who was serving time that weekend for nonpayment of child support. Nields told Griffis that "he had killed his girlfriend," that they had argued, and that he "jumped on top of her, started beating her up." Nields said that he then went to a bar. He came back to Patricia’s home to see if she was breathing and started strangling her. He laid the phone on top of Patricia’s chest, called her either "bitch" or "baby," and told her, "Call me from heaven." According to Griffis, Nields at times appeared to be remorseful, but at other times, he exhibited a carefree attitude while recounting the details of the murder. Nields also told Griffis that he took money, jewelry, and traveler’s checks out of Patricia’s purse. According to Griffis, Nields was kind of upset because he could not use the traveler’s checks. On May 2, 1997, the grand jury indicted Nields for aggravated robbery, aggravated murder with prior calculation and design, and aggravated felony-murder during an aggravated robbery. A death penalty specification attached to the aggravated murder counts alleged that Nields had committed aggravated murder during the aggravated robbery and that he was either the principal offender or committed the aggravated murder with prior calculation and design. Prior to trial, a suppression hearing was held on Nields’s motion to suppress his statement to police after he requested an attorney, his statements at DJ’s Pub, and his statement to Timothy Griffis because the police entered the curtilage of Patricia’s home without a warrant. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, holding that exigent circumstances justified the search of the home. The court further held that Nields’s statements to police after he requested an attorney were freely and voluntarily given and that his statement at the Justice Center to Griffis and his statements at the pub were not suppressible. The state called numerous witnesses to establish Nields’s guilt before a jury. The defense conceded that Nields had killed Patricia but disputed that he had purposefully or "knowingly caused the death of Patricia Newsome" because he was "under the influence of sudden passion and rage." During the trial, Officer Nancy Richter testified that she discovered three pages of yellow legal paper entitled "Record of Abuse" at Patricia’s residence while she and Patricia’s children were looking for her will several days after the murder. A forensic document examiner with the coroner’s office determined that the "Record of Abuse" pages were written by Patricia. Also at trial, Springfield Township Police Officer Paul Rook testified that he responded to a "domestic call" at Patricia’s residence on March 1, 1997. At that time, Patricia told Rook that she wanted Nields to leave her home and that she was afraid of him. Rook and another officer took Nields from Patricia’s residence until he could find someone else who would come and get him. The defense called one witness. After deliberation, the jury found Nields guilty as charged. UPDATE: Less than a week before his scheduled execution date, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland accepted the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board and commuted the sentence of Richard Nields to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The Parole Board felt that the robbery was inconsequential and without that factor, this would not have been a death penalty case.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 15, 2010 Texas Ralph Ablanedo , 26 David Powell executed
Officer Ralph Ablanedo - murder victimDavid Lee Powell was valedictorian and “most likely to succeed” in his high school class. After graduating from high school a year early, he was accepted into the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas. While there, he became an anti-war protester and began using drugs. He never finished college. By 1978, when he was 28 years old, he had become a heavy user of methamphetamine and was also selling it. He was wanted by the police for misdemeanor theft and for passing over 100 bad checks to merchants in the Austin area. He had become so paranoid that he had begun carrying around loaded weapons, including a.45 caliber pistol, an AK-47, and a hand grenade. On May 17, 1978, Powell asked his former girlfriend, Sheila Meinert, to drive him from Austin to Killeen, Texas. They went in Powell’s car, a red Mustang. Powell had the.45, the AK-47, and the hand grenade with him, as well as a backpack containing about 2 1/4 ounces of methamphetamine. Officer Ralph Ablanedo was on duty in his marked patrol car when he spotted the Mustang and noticed that it did not have a rear license tag. He pulled the vehicle over. Meinert got out of the car and approached Ablanedo. She told him that she had lost her driver’s license, but showed him her passport. Ablanedo also checked Powell’s driver’s license and asked the dispatcher to run a warrant check on Meinert and Powell. The dispatcher informed Ablanedo that the computers were not functioning properly, but that there were no local warrants for Meinert. Ablanedo gave Meinert a ticket for failing to display a driver’s license and allowed her and Powell to leave. Moments later, the dispatcher told Ablanedo that Powell had a “possible wanted” for misdemeanor theft. Ablanedo signaled for Meinert to pull over again. Meinert testified that she got out of the car and as she was approaching the officer, she heard a very loud noise and ran back to the car. As Ablanedo approached the Mustang, Powell shot him with the AK-47, in semi-automatic mode, through the car’s back window, knocking Ablanedo to the ground. As Ablanedo tried to get up, Powell fired at him again, after switching the AK-47 to automatic mode. Dr. John Blewett, an emergency room physician, and Austin Police Officer Roger Napier, testified that they, too, heard Ablanedo say “that damn girl” when he was in the emergency room prior to his death. Bobby Bullard, who happened to be driving by on his way home from work, witnessed the shooting of Ablanedo. He testified at trial that he saw shots fired from the Mustang that knocked out the back windshield. He saw a man sitting in the middle of the front seat, lying on top of the console, sort of into the back seat. He said that the man who fired the shots had long hair and was wearing a white t-shirt, and at trial he identified Powell as the man he saw that night. Edward Segura, who lived in the area, heard what he thought sounded like machine gun fire. When he went outside, he saw a red Mustang driving away. Segura testified that Ablanedo said that he had been shot. When Segura asked, “who was it,” Ablanedo replied, “a girl.” When the dispatcher learned that there was a possible warrant for Powell, as a matter of routine, she sent Officer Bruce Mills to assist Ablanedo. When Mills arrived at the scene a few minutes later, he found Officer Ablanedo lying on the ground. Although Ablanedo wore a bullet-proof vest, it was not designed to withstand automatic weapon fire. Ablanedo suffered ten gunshot wounds and died on the operating table at the hospital, about an hour after he was shot. Bullard, his wife Velma, who came outside after seeing the lights from the police car, Segura, and Officer Mills all attempted to aid Ablanedo while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. All of them testified that Ablanedo said, repeatedly, “that damn girl” or “that Goddamn girl.” Mills testified that Ablanedo told him that a girl and a guy were in the car, and that they were armed with a shotgun or machine gun. Mills said that Ablanedo told him, twice, that “He got me with the shotgun.” Apparently one of the shots fired by Powell flattened one of the Mustang’s rear tires. Meinert drove the car into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex. Officer Villegas, who was en route to the scene and who had heard a description of the Mustang in the dispatcher’s broadcast, spotted the vehicle in the apartment complex parking lot and pulled in. He immediately came under automatic weapon fire. He testified that a male with medium length hair and no shirt was firing at him. More police officers arrived, and a shoot-out ensued. Miraculously, no one was shot. Sheila Meinert testified that Powell handed her a hand grenade in the apartment complex parking lot and told her to remove the tape from it. She said that she started peeling tape off the grenade, but was hysterical and shoved it back at him and she did not know what he did with it. Officer Bruce Boardman testified that the shooting in the apartment complex parking lot came from a person at the passenger side of the Mustang. He said that he saw that person appear again, making “a throwing motion” over the top of the Mustang, and simultaneously, a female at the driver’s side of the Mustang ran away from the car, screaming hysterically and flailing her arms. The person at the passenger’s side (Powell), after making the “throwing motion,” began running away from the scene toward the grounds of a high school across the street. Later, officers found a live hand grenade about ten feet away from the driver’s door of Officer Villegas’s car that was parked in the same parking lot. The pin for the grenade was discovered outside the passenger side of the Mustang where the person making the throwing motion had been. The grenade, which had a kill radius of 16 feet and a casualty radius of 49 feet, did not explode because the safety clip had not been removed. The State presented evidence that it was likely that only someone who had been in the Army (Powell had not) would have been familiar with the concept of a safety clip (also known as a jungle clip), which was added to the design during the Vietnam War to keep grenades from exploding accidentally if the pin got caught on a branch. Meinert was arrested in the apartment complex parking lot. She was later convicted as a party to the attempted capital murder of Officer Villegas. Powell was arrested a few hours later, around 4:00 a.m. on May 18, after he was found hiding behind some shrubbery on the grounds of the high school. Powell’s.45 caliber pistol was found on the ground near where he was hiding, and his backpack containing methamphetamine with a street value of approximately $5,000 was found hanging in a tree. Law enforcement officers searched the Mustang and recovered handcuffs, a book entitled “The Book of Rifles”, handwritten notes about weapons, cartridge casings, the AK-47, a shoulder holster, and a gun case. Following a search of Powell’s residence, officers seized another hand grenade, methamphetamine, ammunition, chemicals and laboratory equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine, and military manuals. In September 1978, Powell was convicted and sentenced to death for the capital murder of Officer Ablanedo. UPDATE: In his first comments to the family of an Austin police officer he fatally shot more than 30 years ago, Texas death row inmate David Lee Powell took responsibility in a hand-written letter and apologized for “the evil I have done. I am infinitely sorry that I killed Ralph Ablanedo,” wrote Powell, who shot Ablanedo 10 times with an AK-47, according to court records. “I stole from you and the world the precious and irreplaceable life of a good man.” Powell, whose execution date could be set within days, said he has no excuse for what happened May 18, 1978, in the 900 block of Live Oak Street near Travis High School in South Austin, but wrote that his actions happened “in a few frightened seconds.” He said that he wrote the four-page letter, dated Dec. 31, after years of consideration and that he wanted to address the enormity of his action. “I felt a spiritual need and a moral obligation to offer you whatever little I could,” Powell wrote. “I’m skeptical of the sincerity at this late date,” said Bruce Mills, who was Ablanedo’s patrol partner and later married his widow and adopted his two sons. “His taking responsibility or apologizing doesn’t change anything for me.” In the letter to Ablanedo’s family, Powell addressed Ablanedo’s mother, siblings, widow, two sons and Mills. Powell told Betsy Ablanedo that “in your son’s place, I left a deep and enduring sorrow. I know this because I left a different, but related sorrow in what had been my place in my mother’s life.” He wrote to Irene and Armand Ablanedo that they must miss their brother each day: “I placed an empty chair at the family table forever.” In his comments to Judy Mills, Powell said, “because of me, you had to explain to your sons that their father would never come home again. Because of me, you had to overcome the sorrow of your bereavement while starting life over as a single parent.” Powell told David and Steve Mills, Ablanedo’s sons, that “I stole from you a hero.” David Mills said Wednesday that “it was a good gesture to at least acknowledge to the family that he admits guilt, that he is apologetic. I guess I hope that maybe it was something that would bring him some closure as well.” But to Mills, the letter doesn’t change the facts of his father’s death or his opinion that Powell’s death sentence should be carried out.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 17, 2010 Oklahoma Earl Short, 77 Jeffrey Matthews stayed
On January 27, 1994, at around six o’clock in the morning, Minnie Short was awakened by a noise in her home in McClain County, Oklahoma. As she walked from her bedroom into the living room to investigate, an intruder wielding a knife attacked. The intruder cut Mrs. Short’s throat, but still she remained conscious. When Mrs. Short’s husband, Earl, followed her into the living room a few moments later, another intruder shot him in the head. Mr. Short died within minutes. The attackers then ordered Mrs. Short to lie still. They asked her where she hid her money. The two men kept Mrs. Short prisoner in her home while they searched it for nearly two hours, eventually leaving in the Shorts’ truck with $500 cash and a.32 caliber Smith and Wesson taken from the house. After the intruders left, Mrs. Short walked down a nearby road to seek help. A passing ambulance came to her aid, and police were notified of the attack. In response to police questioning, Mrs. Short recalled that the man who stabbed her wore a dark jacket and that the man who shot her husband wore tan, loose-fitting clothes. Mrs. Short also told police that the man who stabbed her made a telephone call from the kitchen just prior to leaving. Police traced this phone call and determined it was made at 8:16 a.m. to a Bill Guinn in Oklahoma City. Police promptly contacted Mr. Guinn, who told them he received a call at that time from his nephew and employee, Tracy Lynn Dyer. Dyer had called to say that he would be late to work that morning because of car problems. Police then located Dyer and took him to the sheriff’s office for questioning. There Dyer admitted that he and Jeffrey Matthews, a great-nephew of Earl and Minnie Short, went to the house to look for money they thought was hidden there. Dyer blamed Matthews for the attacks on the Shorts. Police arrested Dyer and secured an arrest warrant for Matthews. They also executed a search of Matthews’s home, where they seized a pair of brown coveralls, three $100 bills found in the freezer, and a prescription pill bottle for Xanax issued to Minnie Short. Officers also searched the backyard, but found nothing. Five months later, however, in June of 1994, one of Matthews’s neighbors found a.32 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver buried in a field directly behind Matthews’s house. The gun was later identified as the gun taken from the Shorts’ home by their attackers. The police then returned to the same field with metal detectors and found another buried gun, a.45 caliber Ruger pistol, that tests proved was used to kill Earl Short. In due course, Matthews was charged with first degree murder and various other crimes. At trial, Dyer testified against Matthews, implicating him as Dyer’s accomplice in the crime. At the close of evidence, the jury found Matthews guilty and sentenced him to death. Dyer pled guilty and received a sentence of life in prison. On appeal, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ("OCCA") reversed Matthews’s conviction and ordered a new trial. It held that the trial court erroneously admitted statements by Matthews that were the product of an illegal arrest. Matthews was then re-tried. At the second trial, the State again called Dyer to the stand. But this time he told a different story. Instead of implicating Matthews in the shooting, as he had in the first trial, this time Dyer testified that Matthews was not even involved in the break-in. When confronted by the government with his conflicting testimony from the first trial, Dyer said he had lied because prison guards and prosecutors threatened to harm him if he did not cooperate. Despite Dyer’s about-face, the jury found Matthews guilty of all charges against him. With respect to the first degree murder charge, the jury also found the existence of two aggravating circumstances: (1) Matthews’s action caused a great risk of death to more than one person, and (2) he committed the offense while under custodial supervision. Based on those aggravating circumstances, the jury sentenced Matthews to death. UPDATE: Gov. Brad Henry agreed to stay Matthews’ execution after defense attorneys requested more time to review fingerprint evidence, according to a statement from the governor’s office. Matthews’ execution was rescheduled for July 20. Charlie Price, a spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson, said prosecutors don’t believe a stay is necessary. "But we fully respect the governor’s position and are ready to provide any information he needs," Price said.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 18, 2010 Utah Melvyn John Otterstrom , 37
Michael J. Burdell, 36
Ronnie Gardner executed
Melvyn Otterstrom - murder victimMichael Burdell - murder vicitmIn February of 1980, Ronnie Lee Gardner was sent to prison for the first time, on a robbery conviction. On April 19, 1981, Gardner escaped from prison with another inmate. Two weeks later, Gardner finds and confronts a man who was sleeping with Gardner’s girlfriend. Gardner is wounded by gunfire and is eventually arrested and returned to prison. Serving sentences in the Utah State Prison for convictions of robbery, burglary and escape, Gardner is already a career criminal. On August 6, 1984, he was taken to the University of Utah Medical Center for a check-up where he overpowered a guard, stole his pistol and escaped again. On October 9, 1984, Melvyn John Otterstrom was shot and killed by Gardner as he tended bar at the Cheers Tavern in Salt Lake City. Mel Otterstrom was a husband and father who worked at the Utah Paper Box Company as a controller and moonlighted as a bartender part-time in the evenings. The medical examiner testified in a pre-trial hearing that Otterstrom was probably lying on his back on the floor when he was shot in the face. The bullet went through his skull. Darcy Perry McCoy testified under a grant of immunity in the Otterstrom case that she helped Gardner plan a robbery and waited for him in a car outside Cheers the night of the killing. Gardner was captured in November 1984. On April 2, 1985, Ronnie Lee Gardner was under a $1.5 million bail and was transported from the Utah State Prison to the Metropolitan Hall of Justice in Salt Lake City for a pretrial hearing on a second degree murder charge for killing Melvyn Otterstrom. As Gardner and his guards entered the courthouse basement, Darcy Perry McCoy’s sister, Carma Jolley Hainsworth, walked up and handed Gardner a gun. It was later discovered that she had also hidden a bag containing men’s clothing, duct tape and a knife in a tote bag under a sink in the women’s bathroom in the basement of the courthouse. The guards exchanged gunfire with Gardner, shot him through the lung, and then retreated from the area. In attempting to escape, Gardner entered the archives room, where he saw two attorneys, Robert Macri and Michael Burdell, hiding behind the door. Gardner pointed the gun at Macri and cocked the hammer of the gun. Burdell exclaimed, "Oh, my God!" Turning, Gardner shot Burdell, who died in surgery 45 minutes after the shooting. Gardner then forced prison officer Richard Thomas, who was also in the basement, to conduct him out of the archives room to a stairwell leading to the second floor. As Gardner crossed the lobby, he shot and seriously wounded Nicholas G. Kirk, then 58, a uniformed bailiff who was unarmed and had just stepped off an elevator. Gardner climbed the stairs to the next floor, where he took hostage Wilburn Miller, a vending machine serviceman. As Gardner exited the building, Miller broke free and escaped. Outside, Gardner was surrounded by half a dozen waiting policemen with drawn weapons. Ordered to drop his weapon, he threw down his gun and lay down, surrendering to the officers. Gardner’s attorneys, brothers Andrew and James Valdez of Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, were to meet Gardner that day at 9:00 a.m. for the pretrial hearing. Andrew Valdez was walking toward the courthouse when he saw Gardner go down to the ground. As Andrew ran across the street, he could see that Gardner was bleeding from the chest. Andrew spoke with Gardner and then left. James Valdez arrived at the courthouse soon after. He immediately approached Gardner and asked him if he was all right; Gardner responded that he was in pain. Gardner was later transported to the University Hospital. Wayne Jorgensen, a prison officer assigned to guard Gardner at the hospital, testified at trial that Gardner told him he shot Burdell because he thought Burdell looked as if he would jump on him. According to Jorgensen, Gardner also declared that he would have killed anyone who tried to stop him from escaping. Both Andrew and James Valdez represented Gardner at trial. The thrust of the defense was that Gardner was in such pain and physical distress after he was wounded that his shooting Burdell was only a reaction and therefore the killing was unintentional. In preparation for trial, defense counsel spoke with the emergency room doctors who treated Gardner. The doctors told counsel that Gardner was not in shock when he came into the emergency room, did not have excessive bleeding, was lucid and demanding, and was aware of the situation. Robert Macri testified at trial that after Gardner shot Burdell, Macri ran around the door and closed it behind him as a shield. However, at the preliminary hearing, Macri testified that he could not remember how the door shut. After the preliminary hearing but before trial, unknown to either the prosecution or defense counsel, Macri underwent hypnosis to help him remember how the door shut. Macri could not recall that detail while under hypnosis but asserted that while driving to California some months later, he suddenly recalled that he had shut the door. In all other respects, Macri’s testimony at the preliminary hearing and at trial were the same. It was at the post-conviction proceeding while Gardner’s appeal was pending that defense counsel first became aware that Macri had been hypnotized prior to trial. At trial, Gardner took the stand and testified on direct examination that he had been convicted of various crimes, including crimes of violence. Defense counsel elicited this information, according to the testimony at the habeas hearing, because he believed that the prosecution would use those convictions to impeach Gardner and he wanted to "steal the prosecution’s thunder." Carma Jolley Hainsworth pleaded guilty to aiding in an escape and was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison. In September 1994, Gardner attacked and stabbed another inmate with a homemade knife several times.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 30, 2010 Texas Christina Neal, 12 Jonathan Green stayed
Christina Neal - murder victimIn June 2000, Victor Neal, who was separated from his wife Laura, lived in the small community of Dobbin with his three daughters: sixteen-year-old Victoria, fifteen-year-old Jennifer, and the victim, twelve-year-old Christina. On the evening of June 21, 2000, Victor and Jennifer left home to get dinner for the family. Victoria and Christina said that they would eat when they returned from a friend’s house. The friend, Maria Jimenez, lived just down the street from the Neal family. After Victor and Jennifer left, Victoria’s boyfriend (and Maria’s uncle), Manuel Jimenez, came by the house to pick up the two girls. After driving around for a while, the group went to Maria’s house where they stood outside talking with Maria and her two brothers, Martin and Jose. While standing outside by the truck, Victoria and Christina began arguing. Victoria walked away from the argument and toward Maria’s house, leaving Christina and Jose outside. Shortly thereafter, Jose told Victoria that Christina was angry and had left. When Victoria returned home, she discovered that Christina was not there. The next morning, Victor saw Jennifer and Victoria sleeping on the couch. He also noticed that the door to the girls’ bedroom was closed. Assuming Christina was asleep in the bedroom, Victor left for work. When he got home about 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., Jennifer and Victoria told him that Christina had never returned home the night before. Victor asked the girls to go to Maria’s house and tell Christina to come home. They found that Christina was not at Maria’s house. After learning about the argument between Christina and Victoria the night before, Victor concluded that Christina had spent the night at another friend’s house, and the family began searching the neighborhood. Along the road near the Neal home, Victoria and Maria found Christina’s glasses. The glasses were "smashed and broken," but Victoria testified that Christina had a habit of destroying her glasses when she got mad. Victor stopped looking for Christina around 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. The next morning, Victor asked his sister, Tereza Goodwin, to look for Christina while he was at work. Christina had run away before, so Victor told Tereza to report her as a runaway if she could not find her. Later that day, having failed to locate Christina, Tereza reported her missing to a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy. Local law-enforcement officers then joined the family in searching for Christina. On June 26, the FBI joined the search. On that same day, Jennifer and her mother found what appeared to be Christina’s panties at the edge of the woods across from the Neal home. Also around this time, Victoria found Christina’s bracelet and necklace along a pathway in the woods. The search continued. On June 28, investigators spoke with Jonathan Marcus Green, who lived in Dobbin. He said he had no information concerning Christina’s disappearance, and that he was either at home or at his neighbor’s house on the night she disappeared. He gave the investigators permission to search his home and property, with the condition that he be present. Investigators performed a cursory search of the house and property, but they noticed nothing significant. A few days later, investigators again asked Green his whereabouts on the night of Christina’s disappearance. Again, Green claimed to have been at home or at his neighbor’s house. On July 19, Manuel Jimenez, who lived on the property behind Green’s, told investigators that Green had an unusually large fire in his burn pile the day after Christina disappeared. A few days later, investigators went to Green’s home and asked if they could search his property again, including his burn pile. Green again consented, but insisted that he be present during the search. FBI agents Sue Hillard and Mark Young walked around the burn pile with Green. Young pushed a metal probe into the ground to vent the soil and check for any disturbances. When the probe sank three feet into the ground at one location, Young determined that the ground had been disturbed or dug up in that area; he concluded that the disturbed section covered a very large area. He also smelled a distinct odor emanating from the disturbed section of ground which he identified as "some sort of decaying body." The investigation team then began to dig up the disturbed area. Green, who had been cooperative up to that point, became angry and told the officers to get off his property. The investigative team returned to Green’s property later that night with a search warrant. They discovered that part of the burn pile had been excavated, leaving what appeared to be a shallow grave. They also smelled the "extremely foul, fetid odor" of a "dead body in a decaying state." When investigators asked Green what had happened at the burn pile, Green said that he had dug the pit to show authorities that "there was no dead body in there." An officer then arrived with a "cadaver dog," trained to detect human remains. As the dog was walking to the burn pile, it alerted to the house. Upon entering the house, the dog repeatedly went to the side of a recliner that was wedged into a corner of the room. Agent Hillard looked behind the recliner and saw "a foot sticking out of the top of [a blue] bag" and what appeared to be human remains. Before the discovery was announced, Green was overheard to say, "Those Mexicans are setting me up" and "put a body in my house." The remains were identified as Christina’s. The medical examiner, Dr. Joye Carter, concluded from a ligature mark around Christina’s neck that Christina was strangled. She also determined that Christina’s arms had been tied behind her back and that Christina had been sexually assaulted before she died. She testified that the body had been wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a blue bag. During the course of the autopsy, various materials were recovered from Christina’s body. Two black hairs that did not appear to be Christina’s were found in her pubic area. Based on the way Christina was positioned within the blanket, Carter determined that the hairs must have been present before her body was wrapped in the blanket, and could not have been transferred there afterward. Mitochondrial-DNA testing excluded 99.7% of the African-American population as a source of the hair. Green, an African-American, could not be excluded from the remaining 0.3%. Carter also recovered a black cotton cloth from Christina’s mouth. The cloth was positioned in such a way that Carter determined, to a medical certainty, that the cloth did not cause Christina’s death. Criminalist Bradley Mullins from the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab testified that many of the fibers recovered from Christina’s body matched fiber samples seized from Green’s property and residence. On the panties that were recovered near the Neal home five days after Christina had disappeared and nearly a month before her body was found, Mullins found a fiber that had characteristics identical to carpet in Green’s residence.

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