February 2013 Executions

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 13, 2013 Louisiana Wesley Allen Mercer, 6 Chris Sepulvado stayed
On Thursday, March 5, 1992, Christopher Sepulvado married 6-year-old Wesley Allen Mercer’s mother, Yvonne. The next day, Friday, Wes came home from school, having defecated in his pants. Yvonne spanked him and refused to give him supper. Sepulvado returned home from work at approximately 9:00 p.m. That night, Wes was not allowed to change his clothes and was made to sleep on a trunk at the foot of his bed. On Saturday, the boy was not allowed to eat and was again made to sleep on the trunk in his soiled clothes. At around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, Sepulvado and Wes were in the bathroom, preparing to attend church services. Sepulvado instructed the boy to wash out his soiled underwear in the toilet and then take a bath. When Wes hesitated to do so, Sepulvado hit him over the head with the handle of a screwdriver several times with enough force to render him unconscious. Thereafter, Wes was immersed in the bathtub which was filled with scalding hot water. Approximately three hours later, at around 1:50 p.m., Sepulvado and his wife brought the child to the emergency room at the hospital. At that time he was not breathing, had no pulse, and probably had been dead for approximately thirty to sixty minutes. All attempts to revive the boy were futile. The cause of death was attributed to the scald burns covering 60% of Wes’s body, primarily on his backside. There were third degree burns over 58% of the body and second degree burns on the remaining 2%. The scalding was so severe that his skin had been burned away. In addition to the burns, medical examination revealed that Wes had been severely beaten. His scalp had separated from his skull due to hemorrhaging and bruising. Also, there were deep bruises on his buttocks and groin which were not consistent with accidental injury. At trial, Sepulvado admitted that he hit the child with a screwdriver, but contended that Wes fell into the tub accidentally. However, the state presented expert testimony that the burn marks on the boy’s body did not indicate he accidentally fell into the tub, since there were no signs of splash marks that would result from a struggle. The experts testified that the marks were consistent with the child being dipped or immersed into the scalding water. After being convicted of first-degree murder of his six-year-old stepson, Christopher Sepulvado was sentenced to death. Sepulvado’s wife, Yvonne Sepulvado, originally charged with first-degree murder, was convicted of manslaughter.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 19-26, 2013 Georgia Myra Wright
Joseph Handspike
Warren Hill stayed
Warren Lee Hill shot and killed his former girlfriend Myra Wright with a 9-millimeter handgun. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The evidence shows that Myra Wright, Hill, and several other people were gathered on a public sidewalk. Hill withdrew a pistol from his clothing and, without warning or provocation, shot Myra Wright. Although wounded, Myra ran from Hill, who pursued her and continued to shoot. Myra collapsed, and Hill stood over her prostrate form and fired several more rounds into her body. Myra Wright died almost immediately, having been shot eleven times. At the time of the murder of Joseph Handspike, both he and Hill were inmates at the Lee County Correctional Institute. Hill was serving a life sentence for Myra Wright’s murder. On the morning of August 17, 1990, as Joseph Handspike slept, Hill removed a two-by-six board that served as a sink leg in the prison bathroom and forcefully beat him numerous times with the board about the head and chest as onlooking prisoners pleaded with him to stop. A prison guard witnessed the attack and testified at trial. Several prisoners testified that Hill mocked the victim as he beat him. Joseph arrived at the hospital in a coma and died there.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 20, 2013 Texas Monica Abellina Meza Allen Frome, 29
Dominique Elise Frome, 2
Britt Ripkowski stayed
Monica Allen and Britt Allen Ripkowski dated for awhile but had a stormy relationship. Monica had a two-year-old daughter, Dominique "Nikki" Frome , from a prior relationship as well as two other daughters, ages 4 and 8 years old. Ripkowski had lived with Monica at various times in Salt Lake City, Utah and in Houston, Texas. On October 3, 1997, Ripkowski was in Salt Lake City and had a violent argument with Monica. He slammed her and one of her daughters into the wall and threw a rock into the windshield of Monica’s Toyota van. After being injured during this fight with Ripkowski, Monica sought a protective order against him, but the order was dismissed on November 10 when Monica failed to appear for a court hearing. Ripkowski rejected court-ordered counseling and had no adverse consequences for his failure to attend. A domestic violence counselor wrote a scathing report to Utah court officials in September 1997, saying, "Britt has shown no remorse, no accountability, no responsibility in the matter of his abusive behaviors. I am concerned for the safety of his partner and her children." Ripkowski had a prior conviction for stalking a former girlfriend in 1996. In late 1997, Ripkowski lived in Houston and Monica was in Salt Lake City where she had tried to reconcile with her husband, Nathan Frome. They had separated again a couple of weeks before Christmas. On December 21, Monica’s neighbors heard and argument in her apartment. On December 22, 1997, a young woman’s body was found by the side of a roadway near Monticello, Utah. There was a white teddy bear and a bloody coat lying nearby which was seen by a passing motorist who stopped to investigate, and spotted Monica’s body under some tree branches. The body was not identified at that time as there was no identification and she was dressed in only a sweatshirt and shorts with no shoes on. A composite drawing was released. When Nathan Frome went to pick up his daughter for Christmas, no one was home. The family became very concerned when Monica did not pick up her other two daughters from her first husband, Shawn Allen. Family members knew something was wrong since Monica’s children were very important to her. On December 30th, a missing persons report was filed on Monica and her daughter. Nathan Frome told a local reporter that he was very worried about Nikki. "She walks into a room and absolutely lights it up,” he said. "She has to be the most cheerful baby I have ever been around with. She is always smiling and she has big brown eyes.” The FBI and the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) began an investigation of the disappearances. Detective Kelly Kent of the SLCPD was one of the officers assigned to investigate. On January 15, 1998, the body found in Utah was identified as Monica’s. Her landlord identified her from the composite drawing. The following day, Special Agent Gary Steger, with the Houston Division of the FBI, contacted Ripkowski at his apartment in Houston. Steger and another FBI agent introduced themselves and told Ripkowski that they were investigating the disappearance of Monica and her child. They talked with Ripkowski, received his permission to search the apartment, and conducted a search that revealed nothing of importance to the investigation. Special Agent Steger did see a crack pipe in the apartment. That same day, Ripkowski called Detective Kent, with whom he had past dealings. Ripkowski told Kent that he, Monica, and Nikki had left Salt Lake City together but parted ways at St. George, Utah on December 21st. Ripkowski called Kent again on January 19th. This time he told her that he had taken Nikki to Houston and that a friend had taken her to Mexico. On January 20th, Ripkowski called Kent and told her that he had been in contact with the FBI and he believed that they were following him. That same day, the FBI searched Ripkowski’s apartment pursuant to a federal search warrant. Ripkowski told Special Agent Steger the revised story of taking Nikki to Houston and a friend taking her to Mexico. Ripkowski said that he had used Monica’s van to drive from Salt Lake City to Houston, and he told FBI agents where the van was located. The van was seized by the FBI and Special Agent Steger returned Ripkowski to his apartment. On January 22nd, Ripkowski was arrested by federal agents. Special Agent Eric Johnson read Ripkowski his Miranda warnings and transported him to the Houston FBI office. Detective Kent interviewed Ripkowski. This first interview by Kent was not electronically recorded. During the interview Ripkowski admitted to killing both Monica and Nikki. Ripkowski related that, on December 24th, he killed Nikki, put her body in a suitcase, left it by the side of the road, then approximately one week later, retrieved the suitcase and buried it in an undeveloped area near the Sheldon Reservoir in northeast Harris County. Ripkowski agreed to help locate Nikki’s body. He went with law enforcement agents to the area he described and they attempted to find the victim’s body. But the terrain was swampy and covered with underbrush, and Ripkowski exhibited confusion about the body’s location. Several law enforcement agents testified that they believed Ripkowski was honestly trying to help locate the body but was unsuccessful. Ripkowski informed officers that the body could be further up the same road about a half mile. After this failed attempt to find the child’s body, Steger took Ripkowski to the homicide division of the Houston Police Department. Ripkowski was placed in an interview room with Detective Kent and Houston Police Officer Robert King. Kent then conducted a videotaped interrogation of Ripkowski. Kent and King both testified that Ripkowski did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the interrogation and that Ripkowski responded appropriately to questions. During the interrogation Ripkowski again described how he killed Monica and Nikki and again described how he disposed of Nikki’s body. Ripkowski also stated that he had used cocaine extensively up to and just prior to arrest, that he had recently attempted suicide by trying to slit his wrists, and that he had tried to kill himself by taking an overdose of pills shortly before his arrest. After the taping ended, Ripkowski was shown a map, and he pointed out the area on the map where Nikki’s body was located. On January 23rd, armed with this information, law enforcement agents found Nikki’s body. As the family was planning Monica’s funeral, Nikki’s body was found. Joel Meza, Monica’s uncle, said he doesn’t think the family can take any more. "They’ve had one blow after another," he said. "Our souls are torn apart at the moment, but we do have faith that our Heavenly Father loves us." Nikki, he said, was a bright, sweet, happy child who laughed a lot, played hard and loved life. "She was so close to the Lord that she was happy all the time," Meza said. "She enjoyed life as much as any little angel could. She was a beautiful little girl, and I don’t know how something like this could happen to her." Ripkowski admitted to Salt Lake investigators that he suffocated Monica in her apartment, then put her body in the van and kidnapped Nikki from the apartment so no one would know what happened to Monica. During his trial, the videotape of the interview with Ripkowski was played for the jury. On it, he told police how he went to Monica’s apartment on Dec. 22, 1997, and attacked her. "She looked at me like she knew it was going to happen," Ripkowski said. "I was face-to-face with her with my hands covering her nose and her mouth. I told her, `Don’t worry, we’ll be together again. She tried to hit me again, and then I saw her eyes roll back. I gave her a hug and said, `I’m sorry.’ " Ripkowski said it took five minutes for him to smother Allen in her bathroom. An autopsy confirmed she had been suffocated and suffered blunt trauma to the head. Ripkowski told police that Nikki was watching television as he suffocated her mom. "My heart was beating 20,000 miles a minute. I wanted her buried," said Ripkowski. After cleaning the blood out of the bathroom, he loaded Monica’s body into her van, along with her little girl. "Nikki didn’t know what was going on. I cleaned up because there was blood on the ground where I had dropped her and cracked her skull." Ripkowski said he drove around with the girl and the body, then returned to the apartment to make sure he had not missed any blood. He then left a note saying they had all gone out with someone. As the child slept, he said, he then drove to a spot close to Monticello, Utah, near the Colorado border. In a snowy, wooded area off State Road 666, he dumped Monica’s body, leaving a stuffed animal nearby. He also told how he began smothering Nikki while she slept. "I put it (my hand) over her head. She had a little, small head. It wasn’t hard to do. I felt her hand, her little hand, trying to pull it away. At that point, I had to pull her closer to me and held her." Ripkowski further described how he clamped his hand over the girl’s mouth and nose for several minutes, or until she "quit kicking," as they lay on a couch in his Houston apartment early on Christmas Day 1997. On the tape, he also told police how he found a suitcase to put Frome’s body in. "And then I came back downstairs and I had this suitcase and it just so happened to be the perfect size for her," Ripkowski told police. He said he had intended to abandon the girl in a shopping center in Roswell, New Mexico but said he couldn’t do it. They arrived in Houston on December 24 and he killed her the next morning. After stuffing her body in the suitcase and leaving it next to a tree, he went to Baytown to celebrate Christmas with his family. He said he returned to the suitcase a week later after buying a shovel and buried the suitcase in a shallow grave in a swampy area near a freeway. The jury took about three hours to declare Ripkowski guilty of murdering Nikki Frome. During the punishment phase of the trial, Nikki’s father, Nate Frome, told reporters that he wanted Ripkowski to get a death sentence. "I want him dead. He didn’t ask her if she wanted to live or if she wanted to die. She didn’t have anybody standing up for her. Why should he be any different?" Nate’s father, Robert, welcomed the verdict. "This has made a believer in the death penalty of every family member because of the utterly depraved and evil manner in which he took Nikki’s life and Monica’s life." Monica’s father, Andy Meza, said his wife is tormented by nightmares of her daughter’s death and wakes up crying in the middle of the night.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 21, 2013 Texas Carmen Richards-Sanders, 38 Carl Blue executed
Carmen Richards-Sanders, murder victimCarl Henry Blue and Carmen Richards-Sanders lived together for four or five months during the early part of 1994. However, their relationship was apparently fraught with arguments. Blue even broke Carmen’s nose once at a family reunion after which he threatened her, "If you ever mess off on me, I’ll kіll you." Blue also threatened to bеаt Carmen’s sister. Carmen broke off her relationship with Blue around early summer 1994 and moved into her own apartment in College Station. Soon after her move, Carmen met and began dating the surviving victim, Larence D. Williams. Approximately one week before the murder, Blue went to Carmen’s apartment uninvited and told her visiting brother, "I love her but I’ll kіll her." On the evening of August 18, 1994, Blue again went to Carmen’ apartment. While Blue was there Williams arrived because he and Carmen had dinner plans. However, instead of going out to dinner, Carmen asked Williams to take Blue back to Bryan where he lived. Williams testified that Blue seemed angry on the ride back to Bryan, and asked if he and Carmen were "messing around." Williams said that they were just friends. When they arrived at their destination, Blue stated, "Well, man, I’ll go and buy me some gas and burn down that apartment and whoever’s in there." The next day, Blue walked from his Bryan apartment to the Tropicana convenience store/gas station, behind Carmen’s new apartment, where he entered the store three separate times for beer,.50 in gas on the pump, and then a jumbo soda cup. He pumped the gas into the cup. Blue then waited outside of Carmen’s door for her to emerge to go to work. When Carmen unlocked the deadbolt, Blue forced his way into the apartment, and doused her with the gasoline, set her aflame, threw more gasoline on Larence as he came out of the kitchen to help her, set him on fire, then returned to Carmen to shake the cup of the last drops of gas on her, and taunt her. Larence stumbled to the shower to put out the flames after rolling on the floor failed. He then helped Carmen into the shower. Larence called "911" and tried to put out the fire in the apartment, but decided that it was too hоt, and that they should leave the burning building. Volunteers who saw the smoke began to get people out of the apartment building. One gentleman went to help Larence and Carmen, who was having difficulty breathing by this time. Larence and Carmen were taken to Brazos Valley Medical Center. However, not being a burn center, the hospital was not equipped to give Carmen the definitive care for the extensive second and third degree burns on 40% of her total bоdy surface (occurring primarily from the wаіst up). Hence she was quickly Life-Flіghted to Hermann Hospital in Houston. Carmen remained on dialysis and a respirator for over two weeks until she died nineteen days after the attack from multi-system оrgаn failure caused by the extensive burns that she received on August 19, 1994. Larence Williams was also Life-Flіghted to Hermann Hospital at serious risk of death but survived. He suffered burns from the front of his thіghs up and received three skіn grаft surgeries. He remained in the hospital from August 19th to November 12th. Blue had a history of violence not only in his relationship with Carmen, but in past relationships. one woman testified that Blue would hit her with his fists and kick her. She further described different instances when Blue sеxually assaulted her, threatened to kіll her, and broke into her house. A second woman also told the jury about occurrences in which Blue would bеаt her. During one of these instances, Blue bеаt her while she was eight months pregnant and cосked a gun and put it to her head threatening to kіll her. The woman further related times when Blue kicked her in the ribs and times when he hit her in the face and jaw until she was unable to eat. Bryan Police officer Mark Barnett related an instance when he tried to place Blue under arrest and Blue’s response was to violently struggle with him and attempt to kick him. Several officers also testified to various times when they had tried to detain or arrest Blue and he had taken off running, showing a complete lack of respect for authority. Finally, John Krakin testified that Blue had been outside of his home waving a gun and repeatedly saying "I’m gonna kіll that b***h." UPDATE: In his final statements, Carl Blue greeted the victim’s daughter, Terrella Richards , as she entered the death chamber viewing area by telling her he loved her. "I never meant to hurt your mama," Blue said while strapped to a gurney in the state’s death chamber. "If I could change that, I would…. I forgive you. I hope you can forgive me." He also told his parents, watching through another window, that he loved them. "I did something wrong, and now I’m paying the ultimate justice," he said. "It may be crooked justice, but I forgive those people." The victim’s daughter, Terrella Richards said, "My journey is over. I can move on with my life."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 21, 2013 Georgia Patrick Grant Hendrickson, 22
Michele Lee Cartagena, 19
Andrew Cook executed
Grant Hendrickson, murder victimMichele Cartagena, murder victimAt approximately midnight on January 2, 1995, Mercer University students Grant Hendrickson and Michele Cartagena were parked on a small peninsula known as "the Point," which juts into Lake Juliette in Monroe County, north of Macon. Cook drove onto the Point, parked his Honda CRX near Hendrickson’s and Cartagena’s car, and shot them. Cook fired fourteen times with an AR-15 rifle from a distance of about forty feet and then moved closer and fired five times with a nine millimeter Ruger handgun. Grant and Michele were each hit multiple times and killed. Cook then went to the passenger side of the victims’ car, removed Michele’s body, and dragged her about 40 feet. He partially undressed her, knelt between her legs, and spit on her. Cook then drove away. The murders were completely random: Cook did not know the victims and there was no interaction between Cook and the victims before he killed them. Several people parking or camping around Lake Juliette heard the shots, and the murders were reported to the police the next morning when some campers found the bodies. A couple parked near the Point when the shots were fired said they saw a 1980s-model Honda CRX parked near the entrance to Lake Juliette. Later, they saw headlights going onto the Point, heard shots, and observed the CRX speeding away from the Point. The police recovered.223 caliber and nine millimeter bullets and shell casings from the crime scene, and the State Crime Lab reported that the weapons used in the murders were probably an AR-15 rifle and a nine millimeter Ruger handgun. There was saliva mixed with tobacco dried on Michelle Cartagena’s leg, and the Crime Lab extracted DNA from the saliva. The police began looking for suspects who chewed tobacco, matched the DNA taken from the saliva, and owned or had access to a Honda CRX, an AR-15 rifle, and a nine millimeter Ruger pistol. The investigation lasted almost two years. Many people were interviewed and dozens of suspects were excluded after they submitted blood or saliva samples to the Crime Lab, or allowed their weapons to be examined by a state firearms expert. In the fall of 1996, GBI Agent Randy Upton began tracking the purchasers of AR-15 rifles in the Macon area. He obtained a list of 108 people who bought AR-15 rifles from 1985 to 1995 from one of Macon’s most popular gun stores, and he started calling them and asking if they would give saliva samples and allow examinations of their rifles. On November 27, 1996, Agent Upton contacted Cook. Agent Upton told Cook he was conducting an investigation into the Lake Juliette murders and that Cook owned an AR-15 rifle in 1994 and 1995. Cook replied that he had "gotten rid of" his AR-15 in April 1994. Agent Upton stated that that was not possible because the records show that Cook did not buy his AR-15 until August 1994. Cook then became defensive and stated that his father was an FBI agent, and he did not have to cooperate. Agent Upton asked for a saliva sample, and Cook said he needed to talk with his father before giving a saliva sample. The conversation ended. Agent Upton learned that Cook pawned his AR-15 rifle back to the gun store in May 1995, five months after the murders. The police also discovered that Cook had an acquaintance purchase a nine millimeter Ruger handgun for him in December 1993 at the same gun store, because Cook was too young to buy it himself. Cook sold the Ruger to a friend in July 1995. The police sought to obtain these weapons from their current owners. They also learned that Cook owned a 1987 Honda CRX at the time of the murders. One of Cook’s friends, who worked with Cook at a diaper factory, testified that in late November 1996 he and Cook had a conversation about "the worst thing you ever did." Cook said he had killed someone with an AR-15. The friend did not believe Cook, but asked why he did it. Cook replied that he did it "to see if I could do it and get away with it." Cook refused to provide any more details. The friend testified that the following day at work, Cook received a call on his pager, and left his work area to return the call. Cook returned 15 minutes later and was "as white as a ghost." Cook said "I got to go," and spit the tobacco he had been chewing into a trash can. Cook said it was the GBI who had called and they wanted to question him about what he and the friend had talked about the day before, and test his saliva. He said, regarding the saliva, "that’s a DNA test right there, so they got my ass." Another friend testified that Cook told him in late November 1996 that he needed to leave town because it was "getting hot." After going to Cook’s home and not finding him, Agent Upton called Cook’s father, John Cook, on December 4, 1996. John Cook was an FBI agent and had been an FBI agent for 29 years. Agent Upton said he needed to ask Cook a few questions regarding the Lake Juliette murders, and asked John Cook for assistance in locating him. John Cook said he could probably contact his son. John Cook, who knew about the case from the media but had not worked on it, testified that he did not think his son was a suspect. John Cook paged his son several times and at 11:00 p.m. Cook returned his calls. John Cook told his son the GBI was looking for him concerning the Lake Juliette murders and asked him if he knew anything about them. Cook replied, "Daddy, I can’t tell you, you’re one of them… you’re a cop." John Cook said he was his father first and, believing his son may have been a witness, asked Cook if he was there during the shooting. Cook said yes. John Cook asked his son if he saw who shot them, and Cook replied yes. Although he still thought "maybe he was just there and saw who shot them," John Cook asked his son if he shot them. After a pause, Cook said yes. Cook told his father he was fishing at Lake Juliette and had an argument with the male victim. The male victim threatened him with a gun, and Cook shot the victims in self-defense. Cook realized that the male victim had only threatened him with a pellet gun, and he threw the pellet gun into the woods. John Cook urged his son to go to the authorities but Cook said he was going to run and "just disappear." John Cook was worried that his son was going to kill himself. John Cook was stunned by what his son had told him. After speaking with his wife, he called his friend and FBI supervisor, Tom Benson, who was at a conference in New Orleans. He and Benson decided that Benson would fly back to Georgia the next day and the two men would go to Monroe County Sheriff John Bittick, and John Cook would tell the sheriff what his son had told him. They arrived at the Monroe County sheriff’s office at about 4:00 p.m. on December 5, 1996. At about 11:45 a.m. on December 5, 1996, Cook was arrested by a game warden for shooting deer and turkeys out of season and giving a false name. He was taken to the Jones County sheriff’s office. Agent Upton, who did not know about Cook’s admission to his father, learned that Cook was being held in Jones County for game violations. He drove to Jones County to question Cook about the Lake Juliette murders. When Agent Upton introduced himself and asked to speak with him about the murders, Cook blurted, "it’s been two years since the murders and you guys don’t have anything; I had a CRX; I had an AR-15; I had a Ruger P89; you guys are going to try to frame me." Cook added, "get my father and get me a lawyer and I’ll tell you what you want to hear." The interview terminated. Agent Upton subsequently learned from Sheriff Bittick that John Cook was in Monroe County, and that Cook had made an admission to his father the night before. Agent Upton transported Cook to Monroe County. After Cook arrived at the Monroe County sheriff’s office, John Cook asked Sheriff Bittick if he could speak with his son, and the sheriff agreed. Cook and his father had a private meeting. Both men were crying and John Cook hugged his son. John Cook told his son he did not believe that he told the whole truth on the phone. Cook replied that there was no pellet gun, that "I pulled in, the car was already there, and I just stopped and shot them." Cook then dragged the female victim from the car to make it look like an assault or robbery. John Cook testified at trial about his son’s admissions. The police recovered from the current owners the AR-15 rifle and nine millimeter Ruger handgun that Cook owned in January 1995. Ballistics testing revealed that they were the murder weapons. Cook’s DNA matched the DNA extracted from the saliva on Michele Cartagena’s leg; the state DNA expert testified that only one in twenty thousand Caucasians would exhibit the same DNA profile. UPDATE: Andrew Cook apologized to his family and the families of the two people he murdered 18 years ago, but he didn’t ask for their forgiveness. “I’m not going to ask you to forgive me,” Cook said a few moments before he was executed by lethal injection late Thursday for killing two Mercer University students on Jan. 2, 1995. “I can’t even do it myself.” He said it was senseless to kill Grant Patrick Hendrickson and Michele Cartagena. He thanked his family for “their support, for being with me, and I’m sorry I took so much from you all.”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 26, 2013 Florida James Herbert Fulford, Jr, 35 Paul Howell stayed

Trooper James Fulford, murder victimPatrick Howell, Michael Morgan and Egnatius Johnson, among others, were the principal leaders of an elaborate drug operation, dating back to 1988, that supplied, distributed and sold crack cocaine throughout Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. Most of the leaders were Jamaican citizens residing in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area. Patrick’s brother, Paul Howell, Johnson’s former girlfriend and Morgan’s sister, Patricia Clarke, Norris Mothersill and Errol Morrison were also major players in the sophisticated and expansive operation. Egnatius Johnson distributed and supplied a great deal of crack cocaine from a source located in the Bahamas, employing individuals to import the cocaine on cruise ships sailing to and from Florida. Clarke, along with her brother, had been trafficking drugs from South Florida to Marianna, Florida, Georgia and Alabama; they joined Johnson in his endeavors sometime in early 1992. Patrick Howell, introduced to the area by Michael Morgan, sold cocaine in the Marianna Garden Apartments in Marianna, Florida throughout the 1980s, and later expanded his business to Georgia and South Carolina. Mothersill, assisted by Morrison, started dealing drugs in Marianna during the late 1980s. In August of 1991, Patrick Howell and Michael Morgan were plotting to rob a Ft. Lauderdale drug dealer named Alfonso Tillman. With Clarke and Johnson present, Howell and Morgan obtained a car rented by Paul Howell, and Morgan secured a weapon. Morgan, while Patrick Howell drove, shot and killed Tillman. After the shooting, the inside of the car needed extensive cleaning, and Clarke and Patrick and Paul Howell commenced the clean-up efforts. Tammie Bailey and Yolanda McCalister were the girlfriends of Michael Morgan and Patrick Howell respectively. Patrick Howell had informed McCalister of the murder, and warned her if she told anybody, he would kill her and her family. McCalister and Bailey ultimately rode in the rental car, noticing blood and bullet holes in the interior, and blood on Patrick Howell’s shorts. In October of 1991, after returning from a trip to Jamaica, Patrick Howell was detained by immigration officials and ultimately arrested. While Patrick was incarcerated, Paul took over the supervisory role in their drug operation. During this time, law enforcement officials were progressing in the investigation of the Tillman murder. In the wake of the Tillman murder, Paul Howell, concerned about the possibility of Ms. Bailey "straying" and turning to the authorities, constructed a pipe bomb with the intention of killing her in an apparent attempt to ensure she would not talk. To that end, he ordered the delivery of a gift-wrapped package containing a microwave oven to Ms. Bailey; inside the oven was the homemade pipe bomb that took Trooper Fulford’s life. On February 1, 1992, on a highway located in Jefferson County, Florida, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James Fulford observed a car exceeding the speed limit and made a routine traffic stop. After making the usual inquiries, he discovered the car was a rental, and the driver was without a license; he arrested the driver of the vehicle for operating a vehicle without a license. After the driver consented, and while waiting for the car to be impounded, Trooper Fulford opened a gift-wrapped package found in the truck of the vehicle, purportedly containing a microwave oven. Unfortunately, there was a homemade pipe bomb inside the microwave oven, which was triggered to explode when the microwave was opened. Trooper Fulford died from the extensive injuries he received from the blast. After law enforcement conducted a thorough investigation, the government indicted several individuals, ultimately filing a third superseding indictment on October 16, 1992, which included charges ranging from drug and RICO conspiracies to felony murder and the murder of a law enforcement officer. On March 9, 1993, after an eight-week criminal jury trial, they were convicted of several counts. Patrick and Paul Howell, Michael Morgan, Patricia Clarke, Norris Mothersill, Egnatius Johnson, and Errol Morrison were all found guilty of either Counts I or III, which alleged a conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 27, 2013 Texas Melissa Trotter, 19 Larry Swearingen stayed

Melissa Trotter smallLarry Ray Swearingen was convicted of killing Melissa Trotter in the course of either an aggravated kidnapping or aggravated sexual assault. Prosecutors believe that Swearingen became angry that Melissa Trotter rejected his sexual advances. According to the prosecution, Swearingen became acquainted with Melissa Trotter on Sunday, December 6, 1998, talked with her at length, got her phone number, and made plans to see or talk with her again the next day. The next day, she failed to show up for lunch after Swearingen had bragged to his coworkers about his plans to have lunch with Melissa. His coworkers teased him about being stood up even after he had told them that he called Melissa and she said that she had been taking a test. Swearingen appeared to be angry the remainder of the day. Later that evening, while using his truck to help transport some furniture, Swearingen commented to Bryan Foster and William Brown that he was going to meet a young lady named Melissa for lunch the next day, and if everything went right, he was going “to have Melissa for lunch.” Brown noticed various items of clothing in the backseat of Swearingen’s truck. Swearingen called Melissa Trotter from Foster’s house and talked about meeting for lunch and helping her study for an exam. On Tuesday, December 8, Swearingen met Melissa in the college library around 1:30 p.m., after she had purchased some tater-tots from the school cafeteria. After sitting by the computers and talking amicably with Swearingen for some amount of time, Melissa left the library with Swearingen around 2 p.m. Melissa’s vehicle remained in the college parking lot. At 2:05 p.m., Swearingen returned a page he received and said he would have to call back later because he was at lunch with a friend. Swearingen returned to his trailer sometime before 3:30 p.m. and left between 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., then returned again to the trailer sometime before 5:30 p.m., asked his landlord some questions, then left again between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., to pick up his wife, Terry Swearingen, from his mother’s house. His neighbor, seeing Swearingen’s truck come and go, was not able to see through the tinted windows or see who got in and out of the truck. When Swearingen and his wife returned home, a package of Marlboro Light cigarettes and a red lighter were on top of the television. The evidence showed that Melissa Trotter smoked Marlboro Lights and that neither Swearingen or his wife smoked. That evening, Swearingen called a former girlfriend and told her that he was in trouble and the police might be after him. On December 11, Swearingen was arrested pursuant to several outstanding warrants, and while being handcuffed, said that his wrist and ribs were sore from a bar fight he had been in the week before. Melissa’s body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest on January 2, 1999, with a piece of hosiery still tied, as a ligature, around her neck. The state of the body’s decomposition was consistent with having been in the woods approximately 25 days, supporting December 8 as the date of death. The location where Melissa Trotter’s body was found was heavily wooded, secluded, and remote. The police had previously searched the area three times without finding the body. One had to be within twenty feet of the body before seeing it. Swearingen knew his way around this area; he had driven a date around the vicinity a few months earlier in his red pickup. Melissa’s body was on its back in a pile of bushes, her right arm was above her head and slightly to the left. Her top and bra were pulled up under her arms, exposing her breasts and back. There were creases on her back from her neck to her waist that could have been caused by laying on the debris in the bushes for a period of time after she had died. Her jeans were on and the fly was closed, but the right rear pocket was torn downwards exposing part of her buttocks. She was wearing red underwear. There were no scratches found on her exposed skin as one would expect to find if she had been dragged to the location. However, there was no soil on Trotter’s shoes. She had only one shoe on; the other shoe was lying nearby. Melissa Trotter died from asphyxia, lack of oxygen, by ligature strangulation. The nylon ligature was a section cut from a pair of pantyhose; the matching complementary portion of the pantyhose was found in Swearingen’s trailer. There also appeared to be a sharp-forced injury on Melissa’s neck that would have been inflicted before she died, while her blood continued to circulate. Although there was subsequent animal activity and tooth marks on the neck organs at that area, a cut with a sharp object, like a knife, could not be ruled out. The lack of defensive wounds, such as broken fingernails, and the difficulty of tying an elastic piece of nylon around a struggling victim, suggested that she may have been unconscious when the ligature was applied. Although the state of decomposition made it difficult to determine, the left side of Melissa Trotter’s face was much darker and at a more advanced stage of decomposition, which could be consistent with having sustained a bruise on the left side of her face. Evidence showed that animals are drawn to blood and a bruise would collect blood close to the skin’s surface. There was also a deep bruise on Melissa’s tongue, like a bite or a cut, consistent both with being struck under the chin, which would push the lower jaw up onto the tongue, and with biting down on the tongue while being strangled or suffering a seizure. There was also discoloration on her vaginal wall, a bruise that could have been caused by sexual intercourse on the day of her disappearance. There were fibers found on Melissa’s body similar to fibers from Swearingen’s jacket, others similar to the seat and head-liner in Swearingen’s truck, and others similar to the carpet in Swearingen’s master bedroom. There were also fibers found in Swearingen’s truck that were similar to fibers from Melissa’s jacket. There were hairs in Swearingen’s truck that appeared to have been forcibly removed from her head. An internal examination revealed that Melissa’s stomach contained not only what appeared to be a form of potato, but also what appeared to be chicken and a small amount of greenish vegetable material. While in jail awaiting trial, Swearingen sent a letter to his mother that the evidence showed Swearingen had written, with the help of an English-Spanish dictionary and had his cellmate copy. The letter stated it was written by a girl named Robin who could identify Melissa Trotter’s murderer as someone other than Swearingen and who knew the details of the murder. The translation of the letter is as follows:

I have information that I need to tell you about Melissa and Wanda. I was with the murderer of Melissa, and with the one that took Wanda from work. I am not sure what he did with Wanda, but I saw everything that happened to Melissa. He was talking to her in the parking lot. They went to school together is what he told me. “We drove for awhile, and then we went and had breakfast. I began to talk about sex when she said she had to go home.” He hit her in the left eye, and she fell to the floor of her car. He took her to the wood and began to choke her with his hands at first, then he jerked (jalar is slang) her to the bushes. He cut her throat to make sure that she was dead. Her shoe came off when he jerked (slang) her into the bushes. Her jabear (cannot make out/ no such word in Spanish) was torn. I am in love with him, and I don’t want him in jail. The man in jail doesn’t deserve to be in jail, either. To make sure that you know, I am telling you the truth. She was wearing red panties when R.D. murdered her. He choked her with his hands first, but he used A piece of rope the truck from his truck; he had a piece of black rope that he used in his boat to anchor it, or something, he said. When he dragged her from the car, he put her in the shrub on her back. I know that I should turn him in, but he told me that he would kill me, too, and I believe him. He has told about this murder to 3 other women in the past, will tell you that he smokes, and he smoked with her at the college at 2:30 and drove a blue truck. His hair is blonde and brown and lives here. His name is Ronnie, but that is all I can tell, if you want more information, say it on paper and I will continue to write, but I want to come in.

Presumably the "Wanda" referred to in this letter is Wanda May Pitts, 18, who disappeared on January 23, 1999 from her job as a motel clerk in the small town of Shenandoah, near the area where Melissa’ murder occurred. A drifter named William Ray Matthews confessed to killing Wanda, who had only worked at the motel for a couple of months. He said he had taken Wanda to a room at the motel where he sexually assaulted her before strangling her to death. He was unable to show investigator where he put her body, but her remains were found about one year later near a gated driveway.

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