June 2015 Executions

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 3, 2015 Texas Bobby Glen Tate, 50
Philip Boyce Good , 29
Ronald Mayes, 37
Jerry Mack Brown , 51
Lester Bower, Jr. executed
One of the victims, Bobby Glen Tate, owned the B & B Ranch which was located near Sherman. Mr. Tate owned an ultra light aircraft which he stored in a hangar located on his property. Another ultra light aircraft owned by David Brady was also stored in the hangar. Evidence was presented to show that Tate had decided to put his ultra light up for sale and his friend, Philip Good, another one of the victims, who sold ultra lights was attempting to find a buyer for the aircraft. A day or two before the commission of the offense, Tate told his wife, Bobbi, that Philip Good had met someone the previous Wednesday who was interested in buying the ultra light. On October 8, 1983, Mr. Tate went out to his ranch to work on a house he was building. According to Bobbi Tate, he was to return to their home in town around 4:30 p.m. About 7:30 p.m., when he failed to return, Bobbi and her stepson, Bobby Jr., went to the ranch. Outside of the hangar, they saw vehicles belonging to Tate, Philip Good and Ronald Mays. However, the hangar was locked and no lights were showing through the windows. Bobbi retrieved a key from her husband’s pickup and unlocked the hangar door. Upon opening the door, they saw the body of Ronald Mays lying in a pool of blood. Bobbi and Bobby, Jr. went to the nearest phone and called police. Marlene Good, the widow of Philip Good, reiterated a similar story. She testified that on September 30, 1983, someone called their home and spoke with Philip for ten or fifteen minutes regarding an advertisement Philip had placed in "Glider Rider" magazine regarding the sale of an ultra light. Philip told the caller that he had sold the ultra light advertised in the magazine, but he had another that he could sell. On the following Monday or Tuesday, the man called again. On Wednesday, October 5, Philip met the man at the Holiday Inn in Sherman and took him out to the B & B Ranch in order to show him Bob Tate’s ultra light. When Philip returned at about 4:00 p.m., he told Marlene that he thought he had sold Bob Tate’s ultra light and the man was going to pick up the plane on Saturday, October 8. On October 8, the day before Philip Good’s 30th birthday, Marlene testified that she spent the day with Ronald Mays’ wife. Philip spent the day helping Jerry Brown build an ultra light in Philip’s hangar. At 3:30 p.m., Philip called her and told her he was going to meet the man at the hangar on the B & B Ranch at 4:00 p.m. At approximately 4:30 p.m., Ronald Mayes left to go the hangar at the ranch. When he had not returned by 6:30 p.m., Marlene went to the hangar to see what was happening. When she arrived, she too saw all the vehicles parked outside. The door to the hangar was locked and when she looked into the hangar windows, she could see that Bob Tate’s ultra light was missing. Seeing that no one was around, she went home. When investigators arrived on the scene, they discovered a grisly sight. Immediately inside the door of the hangar, they found the body of Ronald Mays. Underneath a pile of carpeting, investigators found the bodies of Philip Good, Bobby Tate, and Jerry Mack Brown. Good, Tate, and Brown had each been shot twice in the head. Mays had been shot once in the head, once in the neck, once in the right arm and once in the right side of the chest, and once in the back of the chest. All of the victims still had their wallets and their jewelry. Tate’s ultra light which had been in the hangar earlier in the day was missing. A table situated against one wall of the hangar had a large spot of blood on it. Tests showed that this blood matched a sample of blood taken from Tate’s body during an autopsy. This, plus the placement of the bodies underneath the carpet, led investigators to speculate that Tate had been shot while sitting at the table and then had been dragged over and placed with the bodies of Brown and Good. Investigators also found eleven spent.22 caliber shell casings which had been manufactured by Julio Fiocci. The scattered arrangement of the casings on the floor of the hangar indicated that the killer had used an automatic weapon rather than a revolver, since an automatic ejects the cartridges after each shot. Dr. Charles Petty performed autopsies on the victims. According to Dr. Petty, three of the victims, Good, Brown and Tate all sustained two gunshot wounds to the head. In the cases of Good and Tate, both men had one contact wound. On the other hand, both of Brown’s wounds were contact wounds. Mays sustained one contact wound to the head and four other wounds to the upper part of his body. Dr. Petty further testified that the presence of the contact wounds indicated that when the weapon was fired, the muzzle of the gun was placed directly against the victim’s head. In addition, the gunpowder residue left on the victims indicated that in each instance the murder weapon was equipped with a silencer. Dr. Petty testified that he removed eleven bullets and fragments from the victims. All of the bullets appeared to be.22 caliber hollow point bullets. Larry Fletcher, a firearms examiner with the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences, testified that tests run on both the spent casings and the bullets indicated that the shots were fired from either an AR-7.22 caliber rifle, a Ruger.22 caliber semi-automatic pistol, or a High Standard.22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Markings on the bullets indicated that a silencer was used. In addition the ammunition was manufactured by Julio Fiocchi and was A-sonic (traveled at speeds below the speed of sound) and had hollow points. Fletcher testified that A-sonic ammunition had the characteristic of reducing the noise discharge normally heard upon the firing of a weapon. Fletcher also testified that Julio Fiocchi ammunition was unique in that in his nine years as a firearms examiner, he had never encountered it before. Due to the condition of the bullets, Fletcher could positively say that only two of the bullets were fired from the same weapon. One of these bullets was extracted from the body of Mr. Mays and one from the body of Mr. Tate. Much of Fletcher’s testimony was duplicated by the testimony of Paul Schrecker, a firearms examiner with the FBI. Schrecker testified that all eleven casings were fired from a single weapon, and the markings on the casings were all consistent with a Ruger firearm. His examination of the bullets indicated that at least seven of the bullets were fired by the same weapon. He agreed with Fletcher that a silencer was used. As far as the type of ammunition used, Schrecker testified that he had [769 S.W.2d 891] never encountered Fiocchi.22 caliber long rifle ammunition before this case. Dennis Payne, Bower’s supervisor at Thompson-Hayward Chemical Company in Dallas, testified that Bower had worked for the company in Colorado until he was laid off in February of 1983. Then in May of 1983, Payne had hired him for a sales position in Dallas. Although Bower’s job performance in Colorado had been excellent, his performance in Dallas was poor. While working in Dallas, Bower had been assigned a telephone credit card. A review of the record of the Thompson-Hayward Chemical phone bills indicated that on Friday, September 30, a call was made and charged to Bower’s company credit card. This call was made to Philip Good’s residence and the conversation lasted ten minutes. A direct dial call was made to Philip Good’s residence again on Monday, October 3. This was a two minute call. Another call was placed on Bower’s credit card to Philip Good’s residence on Friday, October 7. This call lasted three minutes. Another one of Bower’s coworkers, Randal Cordial, testified that prior to the company sales meeting on January 3, 1984, Bower told him that he was building an ultra light airplane and lacked only the engine. FBI Special Agent Nile Duke testified that after they traced the above-mentioned phone calls to the Thompson-Hayward Chemical Company, he began interviewing all the employees of the company in hopes of finding out who had placed the calls. After learning that Bower had told Special Agent Jim Knight that he had telephoned Philip Good, he scheduled an interview with Bower on January 11, 1984 at the company office. During the two hour interview, Bower told Duke that he had seen an advertisement in Glider Rider Magazine regarding an ultra light aircraft that Good had for sale. Bower admitted calling the Good residence twice. According to Bower, during the first call which he said was the shortest, he had spoken only with Mrs. Good who told him that Mr. Good was not at home. He later called back and spoke with Mr. Good who informed him that the ultra light had been sold. Bower told Duke that he had made only two calls and none of the calls had been placed on company credit cards. Bower also told Duke that he had never made an appointment to see Good and had only passed through Sherman on his way to Tulsa or Gainesville. When asked his whereabouts on the day of the murders, Bower told Duke that he could not account for his whereabouts on October 8, although he did remember that he was sick with a virus on Monday, October 10 and had stayed home from work. Finally Duke testified that Bower admitted he owned a.300 Winchester Magnum rifle, a Remington 1100 shotgun, a Savage Model B side-by-side double barrel shotgun, a Ruger 277V.220 caliber rifle, a 6.5 caliber Japanese rifle, a Winchester bolt action.22 caliber rifle, a Marlin lever action.4570 caliber government rifle, a.243 caliber Remington 700 rifle, and a.20—Model 929 Smith and Wesson.44 caliber Magnum revolver. Bower also told Duke that he had previously owned a.357 caliber revolver. When asked specifically about a.22 caliber handgun, Bower replied that he did not own one. On January 13, 1984, Bower went to the FBI office in Dallas to take a lie detector test. After talking with the agents there, Bower decided not to take the test. According to FBI agent William Teigen, at that point all the authorities knew about Bower was that he was employed at Thompson-Hayward, that three telephone calls had been made on the company phone bill to Philip Good’s residence and that he was interested in ultra lights. Bower stayed and talked with the FBI agents some four hours. During this conversation, Bower admitted that he had made the calls but that he decided not to buy the ultra light from Good and never had any further contact with him. Bower also told the agents of his interest in ultra lights. Bower related to the agents how he had spent hours researching ultra lights and how he hoped someday to build an ultra light. Bower went on to tell the agents that he had already obtained a piece of fabric for the covering, a fiberglass boat seat and some aircraft aluminum. Teigen testified at trial that after talking with Bower he believed that Bower was more than obsessed with the aircraft. When asked specific questions by the agents, Bower said that he had never bought an ultra light, that he had not been in Sherman on the day of the murders, that he had not met Philip Good on the day of the murders and had never met him in person, that he did not know where the missing ultra light was, and that he had never seen the missing ultra light. After further investigation, a search warrant was obtained for Bower’s residence. The search was conducted during the evening of January 20, 1984. Among the items seized were various manuals and magazines which were introduced into evidence at trial: a manual on the Cuyuna ultra light aircraft engine, a magazine entitled Glider Rider’s Magazine which showed Bower as a subscriber, the World Guide to Gun Parts, the Instruction Manual for Ruger Standard Model.22 Automatic Pistols, Vol. II of Firearm Silencer Manual, two Xeroxed pages from Shotgun News depicting silencers and silencer weapons, The AR-7 Exotic Weapons System Book, a manual on explosives entitled High-Low Boom! Modern Explosives, another manual entitled Semi-Full Auto, AR-15 Modification Manual, another weapons manual entitled Rhodesian Leaders Guide, and several catalogs containing ads for military equipment including guns, clothing and numerous publications including books on how to kill. Authorities also found a form letter address to "Dear Customer" from Catawba Enterprises, indicating that Bower had purchased an item from the company. Authorities also found inside a briefcase which was located inside Bower’s garage an Allen wrench which could be used to mount a Catawba silencer to a pistol and a packet of materials which included among other things Bower’s Federal Firearms Licenses which permitted him to sell firearms, ammunition and other destructive devices. Bower’s own Firearms-Acquisition and Disposition Record which was also seized during the search indicated that he bought a Ruger RST-6-automatic.22 pistol, serial number 17-28022 on February 12, 1982 and sold it to himself on March 1, 1982. Investigation showed that on February 12, 1982, Bower also ordered three boxes of Julio Fiocchi.22 ammunition. Perhaps most incriminating were the parts of the ultra light found during the search. In the garage were two ultra light tires and rims with the name "Tate" scratched in each rim. Another ultra light tire and rim were found in Bower’s house. Six pieces of aluminum ultra light tubing were found in the garage. Wadded up on top of a box in the garage were warning stickers that had been removed from the aluminum tubing of an ultra light. In addition, an ultra light harness was found in the house and a fiberglass boat seat was found in the garage. Authorities also removed a pair of rubber boots and a blue nylon bag from Bower’s garage after noticing what appeared to be blood stains on these items. Also removed was a sledge hammer and some ashlike debris taken from the trunk of Bower’s car. Scientific evidence presented at trial showed that a fingerprint belonging to one of the victims, Jerry Mack Brown, was found on one of the pieces of ultra light tubing found in Bower’s garage. In addition, an analysis of the sledge hammer removed from Bower’s garage showed that material present on one side of its head was polypropylene, the same material which was used to make the American Aerolight decals. Metallic smears present on the other side of its head tested out to be of the same type of aluminum alloy as was used to make the Cuyuna engine, the reduction unit for a Cuyuna engine, the crank case and the carburetor used in ultra light aircraft. An analysis of the material taken from the trunk of Bower’s car also revealed a fragment of this same aluminum [769 S.W.2d 893] alloy. A forensic metallurgist with the FBI determined that this metal fragment was once a portion of a reduction unit for an ultra light engine and it appeared that the reduction unit was fragmented by a smashing action, consistent with a blow from a sledge hammer. Also found in the debris from the trunk of Bower’s car were fragments of an American Aerolights decal. Tests on the boots removed from the garage showed the presence of human blood on the right boot but an attempt to type the blood was inconclusive. Tests on the blue nylon bag found in Bower’s garage also indicated the presence of human blood. Other testimony was presented to show that Catawba Enterprises dealt primarily in silencer parts and that the Catawba silencer could be easily installed on a Ruger RST-6 semi-automatic.22 pistol with an Allen wrench. Ed Waters, the attorney for Catawba Enterprises testified that ninety-nine per cent of the company’s business was selling silencers and thus if Bower had one of the company’s form letters acknowledging a transaction, Bower had probably purchased a silencer from the company. Sandy Brygider, the owner of Bingham Limited, the sole distributor of Julio Fiocchi ammunition in the United States testified that the.22 sub-sonic Fiocchi ammunition was not sold over the counter but rather was a specialty item used primarily for suppressed weapons. Brygider testified that in the previous three years, his company had sold Fiocchi ammunition to only ten or fifteen dealers in Texas. He further testified that his company records showed that they had shipped three boxes of Fiocchi.22 long rifle sub-sonic hollow point ammunition to Bower on February 12, 1982 and five more boxes on December 10, 1982. Lori Grennan, the customer service coordinator for American Aerolights, testified that her company manufactured the ultra light owned by Bob Tate. She testified that it was possible for the aircraft to be broken down and put into a thirteen foot carrying case and carried by one person. Grennan also testified that every ultra light manufactured by her company bears three company decals, two on one of the pieces of tubing and one on the engine. However, after examining the tubing removed from Bower’s garage, she noted that these stickers decals were not present. She also testified that every ultra light has certain warning stickers. When shown the wadded up stickers found on the box in Bower’s garage, Grennan testified that those were the warning stickers that would go on the ultra light manufactured by her company. Finally, Grennan testified that the harness and tire rims found in Bower’s garage came from an ultra light manufactured by American Aerolights. Marjorie Carr, the owner of a fruit stand in Sherman, testified that she had seen Bower in the company of Philip Good in Sherman in late September of 1983. According to Carr, Good and Bower had come into her stand and Bower was interested in buying some oranges. Carr related that she spoke with Bower for some ten or fifteen minutes and she remembered Bower telling her that he had moved from Colorado several months earlier and was then living in Dallas. Further testimony showed that Bower had gone to the Arlington Sportsman’s Club on September 30, 1983 and had spent fifteen minutes firing.22 ammunition. During the defense case-in-chief, Bower presented several witnesses who testified that Bower’s reputation for being a peaceful and law-abiding citizen was good. Evidence was also presented to show that although Bower had bought a Ruger RST-6 semiautomatic.22 pistol in 1982, he had lost it in the mountains of Colorado while backpacking alone in August of 1982. Finally, Bower’s wife testified that on the morning of the offense, Bower left their home around 6:30 a.m. to go bow hunting. He returned home around 6:30 p.m. UPDATE: Lester Bower was executed thirty-one years after the murders of four men he stole an ultra light aircraft from. Ronald Mayes’ mother Winnie died just five months prior to the execution of her son’s murderer.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 9, 2015 Missouri Eva Washington, 23
Zandrea Thomas, 2
Richard Strong executed
St. Ann, Missiouri police received a 911 call on October 23, 2000, at 3:30 p.m. The call was immediately disconnected. The dispatcher replayed the call and heard a scream. The dispatcher tried to redial the number repeatedly until officers arrived at the source of the call approximately two minutes later. The call originated from the apartment where Eva Washington lived with her two daughters. The older daughter, Zandrea Thomas, was two years old. Strong is the father of the other girl, who was three months old. When officers arrived at the apartment and knocked, initially there was no answer at the front or back door. They continued to knock and shouted, and Strong eventually came to the back door. Upon inquiries by the police, Strong initially told them Eva and the kids were sleeping. Strong meanwhile stepped outside and closed the door behind him. The police again asked about Eva, and Strong told them she had gone to work. Because this was an inconsistent response, the police asked about the children, and Strong told them the kids were inside. The officers asked if they could check on the children, and Strong told them he had locked himself out. Strong knocked on the door and called for someone to open it. Officers noted that Strong was sweating profusely, had dark stains on the knees of his jeans, and had blood on his left hand. They ordered Strong to step aside and kicked in the door. Strong ran. When the officers chased him, Strong told them, "Just shoot me; just shoot me." After he was handcuffed, he told the officers, "I killed them." Inside the apartment, police found the dead bodies of Eva and Zandrea in a back bedroom. They had been stabbed repeatedly with a knife. On the bed, one of the officers found a large butcher knife and a three-month-old baby sitting next to a pool of blood. An autopsy revealed that Eva had been stabbed 21 times, with five slash wounds, and the tip of the knife used to stab her was embedded in her skull. The autopsy of two-year-old Zandrea showed she had been stabbed nine times and had 12 slash wounds. Strong was charged with both murders. After a trial in St. Louis County, a jury returned a guilty verdict. At the penalty phase trial, the jury found the existence of two statutory aggravators for each murder and recommended a death sentence for Strong. The trial court sentenced Strong accordingly. UPDATE: Willie Mae McCoy, grandmother of Zandrea Thomas, and Virgil Sammant, sister of Eva Washington and aunt of Zandrea Thomas, witnessed the execution and spoke to media during the press briefing. “We have waited a long time,” said Willie Mae McCoy, Thomas’ grandmother. “This has been 15 years too long, and I thank god he allowed me to live, and my son to live to see this day come." Friends and relatives of the victims say Strong abused Washington for some time. "I dread the day that my sister met this man,” said Virgil Samant. “He’s in hell now and my sister and niece are in heaven." Petrina Thomas, aunt of Zandrea Thomas, also witnessed the execution and read a statement during the press briefing. Here is her statement as written: On behalf of the Thomas family, we would like to thank the state of Missouri for finally providing our family with closure of the horrific death of my niece and her mom. For 14 years, we have impatiently waited for this day to come. It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree; the wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone. The reality is we will grieve forever. We will not get over the loss of our loved ones, and we will learn to live with it. We will heal, and we will rebuild around the loss that we have suffered. We will never be the same again. He had a chance to watch his daughter grow up and laugh and smile with her. We never got a chance to see her first day of school, graduations, or watch her go on prom. My brother will never get a chance to walk his daughter down the aisle for her wedding day. Human life has dignity at any age. Nothing can justify the shedding of innocent blood or the taking of lives. You must take 100 percent responsibility for your choices and your actions, and pay with your own life. We are at peace now and so glad that it is finally over. Thank you
Eva Washington, murder victim Zandrea Thomas, murder victim
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
June 18, 2015 Texas James Syvertson, 75 Gregory Russeau executed
On May 30, 2001, 75-year-old James Syvertson was murdered at his Tyler auto repair garage. Syvertson’s widow testified at trial that he left for work at approximately 7:00 a.m. on the day in question and that she spoke with him on the telephone sometime that morning. She further testified that he ate lunch at a Luby’s Cafeteria every day and that he usually left the garage at about 10:45 a.m. in order to "beat the crowd." The manager of the Luby’s testified that he saw Syvertson at approximately 11:00 a.m. on the day in question. Mrs. Syvertson testified that she went to Syvertson’s garage sometime between 11:00 a.m. and noon. At that time, she noticed Syvertson’s gray Chevrolet Corsica parked outside. The doors to the garage were locked. She knocked on the doors but got no answer, so she left. Katie Jordan testified that she contacted Syvertson by telephone sometime between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. Syvertson told her that he could do some repair work for her employee, Bob Bruner, if he brought his car to the garage right away. When Bruner arrived at the garage between 12:20 and 12:30 p.m., the gray Corsica was parked outside, a light was on inside the garage, and a large fan was running on the side of the garage, but the doors to the garage were locked. Bruner knocked but got no answer. Bruner parked his car outside the garage and left. At 1:30 p.m., Bruner called Syvertson from his cell phone but got no answer. Bruner drove by the garage at about 2:00 p.m. The gray Corsica was still parked outside, and the light and fan were still on. Bruner returned to the garage at about 5:30 p.m. The gray Corsica was still parked outside, the light and fan were still on, and the garage doors were locked. Bruner knocked on the garage doors again but got no answer. Mrs. Syvertson testified that she went back to the garage sometime in the afternoon and found the doors still locked. She knocked but got no answer. She went to get her daughter, who had a key to the garage. When they returned at 7:00 p.m., the gray Corsica was gone. Once inside the garage, they found Syvertson’s body lying face down in a pool of blood next to a white Chevrolet Corsica. Apparently, Syvertson was working on the white Corsica when he was murdered. Rigor mortis had set in, and it appeared that Syvertson had been hit in the head several times with a hard object. The wallet he usually carried and the keys he usually kept clipped to his belt loop were both missing, and one of his pants pockets had been turned inside out. Several valuable tools were also missing from the garage. A bolt on an office door was broken and hanging by a single screw. Police testified that the door looked like it had been kicked in. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Syvertson’s body testified that the manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was blunt force head injuries. Syvertson suffered multiple abrasions and lacerations to the front and back of his head. Many of the abrasions had a crescent or half-moon shape, and one had a circular outline. The blows were delivered with a blunt object that had a round, flat surface and was either fairly heavy or used with a great deal of force. The medical examiner estimated that the time of death was between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Several witnesses testified that they saw Russeau in the vicinity of the garage on the day of the murder. One named Robert testified that Russeau came to his house sometime after lunch and inquired about buying some illicit drugs. A friend named Terry testified that Russeau arrived at his house on foot at 3:00 p.m. Russeau told Terry that he had been getting high on crack cocaine and asked whether he would sell him some crack. Terry refused to sell drugs to Russeau but gave Russeau a small amount of change and drove him to some duplexes nearby. At about 7:30 p.m., Russeau arrived at the home of his friend Lisa, who was about to leave on a date with her boyfriend, Marcus. Russeau told the couple that his car had broken down, and he asked for a ride to his mother’s house. On the way, Russeau pointed to a gray Corsica parked behind a house and told them that it was his wife’s car and that it had stalled. As they approached the intersection near Syvertson’s garage, they saw police, an ambulance, and crime scene tape. The couple wanted to drive by the garage to see what was going on, but Russeau asked that they continue driving. Marcus decided to turn and drive by the garage. Before they reached Russeau’s mother’s house, Russeau had Marcus drop him off "at a house on Gaston Street." Robert’s residence was on Gaston Street. Appellant visited Robert’s residence again that evening. They talked briefly, and Russeau left on foot. Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., Russeau returned to Terry’s house and spoke to him for a few minutes, then continued down the alley on foot. Another friend named Lashundra testified that she saw Russeau smoking crack cocaine in Longview sometime in the afternoon or evening. She saw him again at about 3:20 a.m. the next morning, and Russeau was driving a gray Corsica. He asked her where he could "get more crack and rent the car out for crack." She got into the car, but they were stopped by Longview police about ten minutes later. Police discovered title and registration documents to the gray Corsica in Russeau’s pocket. Syvertson’s keys were in the ignition. Fingerprint and DNA evidence recovered from the garage connected Russeau to the crime. Russeau’s fingerprints and a palm print were found on the white Corsica next to Syvertson’s body. Syvertson’s son testified that a hammer leaning against a plastic bottle on a shelf near the body was out of place. Hairs found on the bottle were consistent with Russeau’s DNA. Court documents showed Russeau had felony and misdemeanor convictions for organized criminal activity, burglary, theft and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to prison in 1988, but was paroled after serving nearly three years of a 10-year sentence.
James Syvertson, murder victim

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