Smiling Assassin: The Kaufman County DA Murders

It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking of the criminal justice system as a conglomerate being, a monolithic entity, a machine chewing up lives and spitting out justice. We have a visceral reaction to the idea of an impersonal system controlling our lives. Too often, we fail to realize is that just as a machine is made of parts, a system is made of people. Judges, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, court clerks, jailers, bondsmen, are all just people. They are good people, bad people, parents with grown children and single millennials, they have dogs or maybe cats. You get the point. The system is just made up of people. People like me and people like Mark Hasse.

 

Mark Hasse
Mark Hasse

Mark Hasse dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice. He graduate from SMU Law School in 1981 and went straight to work for the Dallas District Attorney’s Office. Mark made a name for himself by taking on the toughest cases, specializing in organized crime. He left to go into private practice, working as a defense attorney but also moving into the areas of family law and aviation law. That last might seem like an odd fit, but Mark had a commercial pilot’s license. He loved flying and he loved planes. That love almost stole his life when he was critically injured in a 1995 plane crash. He also loved rescuing dogs. You might say Mark was married to the job. At least, there was never a spouse or kids in the picture, but he did have a large, loving family and he had nieces and nephews to spoil.

I doubt that was on his mind when he drove to work on January 31, 2013.

courthouse
Kaufman County Courthouse

 

Criminal law had always held Mark’s heart. In 2010, he went back to work as a prosecutor, this time in Kaufman County. He moved there to work with newly elected District Attorney Mike McLelland as his Chief Felony Prosecutor. Kaufman County sits just east of Dallas. It’s mostly white and rural, and like so many similar places, the scourge of meth had sunk its teeth in deep. In recent years, Kaufman County experienced rapid growth as a bedroom community due to its proximity to Dallas, bringing with it big city problems. The meth trade in Texas is largely controlled by white supremacy gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Aryan Circle. With Mark’s experience prosecuting organized crime, he was a natural fit for aggressively pursuing those groups and soon developed a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense guy, the kind of prosecutor the skinheads didn’t want to mess with.

I doubt his reputation was on his mind when he parked behind the Kaufman County Courthouse just after 9:00 am.

He was probably thinking about that day. He was probably thinking about dockets, and witness meetings, and evidence exchanges. He was probably so focused on the minutiae that make up a typical day in the life of a prosecutor that he didn’t notice the man with the gun until he was right there on top of him. According to witnesses Lenda Bush and Kelley Blaine, Mark was walking, briefcase in hand, towards the courthouse when a masked man dressed all in black ran up to him brandishing a gun. The man shoved Mark who reflexively shoved back. The man pressed the gun to his neck. Mark raised both hands and pleaded for his life as the man shot him eight times, then jumped into the passenger side of a waiting car that sped away. Lenda Bush, a former police officer turned lawyer, gave chase to the vehicle. She was so shocked that she had difficulty dialing 911 and trying to follow the car which ultimately got away. There was no license plate on the car. She returned to the scene and gave Mark CPR until the ambulance arrived. He wouldn’t survive the trip to the hospital.

Hasse Crime Scene 2.png
DPS troopers walking past evidence markers on Grove Street, Photo credit: Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, David Woo

It was a hit in broad daylight just feet away from the courthouse.

Shock waves radiated through-out the criminal justice community. I heard about it within hours. My husband saw the murder on the news and called to tell me someone was assassinating District Attorneys. A sheriff’s deputy walked me to my car that day.

Within a week, there was a safety meeting at my office. We were advised to vary our times for arriving and leaving. Some people carried mace or alarm whistles. We walked in groups and had investigators escorting us. Everyone was sure that the ABT ( Aryan Brotherhood Texas) had finally gotten Mark. Who else would commit such a brazen hit? Which of us would be next?

As Mark was laid to rest and his family created a memorial fund for the children of Kaufman County, a massive manhunt was underway. FBI, the Texas Rangers, the Department of Public Safety, and the local sheriff’s department were all called in.

District Attorney Mike McLelland came out to give a press conference. He spoke to reporters with tears in his eyes. “I hope the people who did this are watching, because we are very confident that we are going to find you. We’re going to pull you out of whatever hole you’re in. We’re going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

While everyone else was concerned with investigating the ABT, the local sheriff had another suspect in mind. He immediately went to interview a disgraced former Justice of the Peace, Eric Williams.

In 2012, Mark Hasse had prosecuted Williams for stealing computer equipment after he was caught on surveillance video taking the items. The incident cost Williams his political career and his legal one after his law license was suspended. Williams had been extremely angry and publically blamed Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland of a “political assassination.” He blamed them for ruining his life.

Williams answered the door with his arm in a sling and told Sheriff Byrnes that he’d recently had shoulder surgery. He had an alibi in his wife and, although suspicious, Byrnes had nothing else to tie Williams to the crime.

At the beginning of March, a member of the 211 Crew, a prison gang, shot and killed the director of the Colorado Bureau of Prison. It was a bold crime. He simply knocked on the front door and executed the man when he answered. The killer would die in a hail of bullets on the highway.

Our security measures at work tightened. They were coming for us. Everyone scrambled to hide our home addresses. We had frequent emails on how to keep safe. I know I looked over my shoulder when going to my car every night. There are reports that a Kaufman County judge had taken to wearing a bullet proof vest. McLelland went armed. It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you.

Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia both had degrees in psychology. Cynthia told a friend that both were extremely concerned about Williams. They believed he was the type not to take humiliation well. Williams had been offered a plea to a misdemeanor for the thefts but he refused, confident he could represent himself and win. He was utterly humiliated by the felony conviction, even though he wasn’t sentenced to any jail time. Cynthia and Mark were both sure he was plotting some sort of revenge, even though he smiled to their faces. They had been worried even before the attacks started.

March 30, 2014, Cynthia answered a knock at the door.  She would never have opened the door to Williams, but at seeing the policeman with a  SWAT helmet on, she opened the door. Security had become a daily occurrence. But this was no police officer. Cynthia and Mike were shot repeatedly in extreme overkill. The first officer on the scene testified there was blood everywhere.

Crime scene_ lubbock

Once again media descended on Kaufman County. Williams didn’t shy away from the attention. He rode out on his Segway to give interviews. He told Jack Douglas of CBS-KTVT

“My heart goes out to all the families that have been affected by this tragedy. And especially to the people that work at the court house. I worked there for several years while I was going to law school and so I know that it’s a tight-knit family – that this is devastating to them,”

All of this was said with his trademark smirk. He might not have been smiling if he’d known police were narrowing in on him. They knew he had lied about the shoulder surgery. He’d also made a serious miscalculation.

 

Segway
Photo credit: CBS, KTVT

 

The day after the McLelland’s were murdered, a man sent an email to Crime Stoppers. The message began “Do we have your attention now?” The email went on to say that unless certain judges resigned, the killings would continue. The caller knew specific information about the crimes, including the type of ammunition used.

They had surveillance video of a white Crown Victoria driving through the neighborhood at the time of the crime. What they needed were direct links. They went to see Williams and were surprised when he invited them in. He was arrogant enough to let them see his guns and sights. The information they gained that day allowed them to obtain a search warrant.

They found the title to a white Crown Victoria, guns, and numbers written down by the phone. Those were the ID numbers assigned to the Crime Stoppers emailer. That is how anonymous call-ins work. Computer forensics would show that immediately after his conviction, Williams began stalking Mark Hasse. He was also the mysterious emailer.

Once the dominoes began falling, they didn’t stop. A friend of Eric Williams called in a tip about a storage facility. Williams had asked the friend to rent the facility for him, but didn’t want it in his name. They quickly obtained a search warrant for the storage facility and when them lifted the door to the unit, there was the white Crown Victoria. There was also enough guns, body armor, and crossbows to outfit a swat unit.

 

Storage search
FBI search of Williams’ storage facility, photo credit: Target Justice: 48 hours, CBS

 

 

weapons stockpile
Evidence, including the weapons stockpile, as shown in court, photo credit: Target Justice: 48 hours, CBS

 

Williams was arrested and with him, his accomplice, the woman who had driven him the get-away car when he gunned down Mark Hasse and again for the McLellands,  his wife, Kim Williams.

couple

Kim Williams would be the star witness against her husband. She testified that she was addicted to pain killers and was under her husband’s influence, but that she was a willing participant. “His anger was my anger.” She believed everything he told her.

Although she was testifying without a plea agreement, Kim was hoping for mercy in her sentence. She testified about the planning and execution of the crimes in chilling detail. She told the courtroom that her husband had always talked about killing people who he felt were conspiring against him. When he was going to trial, he warned her that they would tell lies about him. In particular, he told her they would put up a woman named Janice Gray, a former court coordinator he had dated before Kim. Gray might be going to testify that he had threatened to kill her when they broke up, but he assured Kim it was a lie. She says she believed him. He also was extremely angry with Judge Glen Ashworth whom he blamed for leading prosecutors to Janice Gray.

Williams had a hit list. His first target was intended to be Judge Ashworth. According to Kim Williams, her husband has started making napalm and storing it in pickle jars. He also bought a crossbow. These items were among those recovered from the storage facility. The plan was to go to Ashworth’s house following the Super Bowl. Ashworth lived just down the street, so it would be easy to go in and shoot him with the crossbow. Williams was then going to gore out his stomach and fill it with the napalm.

But Williams switched gears abruptly. He decided to kill Hasse first. He wanted to make a statement and gun Mark Hasse down outside the courthouse in view of everyone. Kim testified they were both very excited that morning. Williams dressed all in black with a ghoul mask.

She detailed the crimes, describing all the while how excited and happy Williams was. He was living his fantasy. He had decided to impersonate a police officer when they went to the McLellands’ and modeled the outfit for her like he was walking a runway. She sat outside as it sounded like the shooting went on forever. When he ran back out to the car, he told her he had to shoot Cynthia and additional time because she was moaning. He couldn’t leave a living witness, so he shot her in the top of the head. They celebrated that night with steaks on the grill and Williams made ready for the next people on his list, Judge Ashworth and County Court at Law Judge Erleigh Wiley, another person Williams believed had wronged him.

Rather than get involved in arguing whether Williams was justified in being angry about his prosecution, the special prosecutors tried him on the case involving the most innocent victim, Cynthia McLelland. Her only crime was being married to Mike. She was a beloved mother, grandmother, and a respected psychiatric nurse.

McLelland

The jury only took an hour and forty minutes to convict Williams of killing Cynthia. He was sentenced to death. Kim Williams later pled guilty and was sentenced to 40 years.

Perhaps the only thing more shocking to those of us who make up “the system” than the murder of  own was the identity of the murderer. He was also one of our own.  It’s true in investigating murders that the killer is usually someone the victim knows. It’s always the spouse, the roommate, the ex-boyfriend. We fear the stranger when we should instead be looking closer to the smiling assassin next to us.

 

Eric-Williams-112014
Photo credit: Dallas Morning news

 

Source Notes: I relied on the following sources. I highly recommend the CBS 48 hours and the Kaufman Herald which were my two primary sources.

http://www.kaufmanherald.com/hot_news/article_6bdeebda-8600-11e4-96dd-9725c54eff63.html
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/target-justice-48-hours-probes-texas-prosecutor-killings-hasse-mclelland/

While researching this case, I discovered true crime author Katherine Casey has book about these murders coming out in March. I’m excited to read it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaufman_County_murders
Kaufman County Murder Trial: Day 3 Updates
http://www.ktre.com/story/27520981/day-one-of-kaufman-da-murder-trial-concludes
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/woman-to-plead-guilty-in-connection-with-2013-kaufman-murders/
Kim Williams Testifies In Kaufman Trial
http://www.kaufmanherald.com/hot_news/article_6bdeebda-8600-11e4-96dd-9725c54eff63.html
http://www.kaufmanherald.com/around_town/article_9e2e02b0-bfdc-11e7-8f38-c30f7ae031ce.html
https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Closing-Arguments-Set-in-Ex-Officials-Capital-Murder-Trial-285933291.html
https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Eric-Williams-Sister-Speaks-out-About-Kim-Williams-Murder-Sentence-287065121.html

 

 

 

Betty Lou’s Wishing Well: The True Story of a Texas Black Widow

 

Betty Lou
Betty Lou was prettier when smiling

 

On August 6, 1983, Betty Lou Beets reported her sixth husband, Jimmy Don Beets missing from their home in Gun Barrel City, Texas. Jimmy Don was beloved in the community. He was a big, loveable bear of a man, a Dallas firefighter and a laidback cowboy. Betty Lou told investigators her husband had left the house to go fishing the day before and she hadn’t seen him since. An immediate search was launched, but with no results.

 

Six days later, Jimmy Don’s boat washed up near the Redwood Beach Marina on Cedar Creek Lake. Liz Smith, the owner of the marina spotted the green boat bobbing in the water. Two of her customers went out to check on the drifting vessel and spotted Jimmy Don Beets fishing license. Parks and Wildlife personnel spent weeks dragging the lake, looking for Jimmy Don’s body. His heart medication and glasses were also found in the boat and it was assumed he had trouble and had fallen overboard.

 

Gun Barrel City sits on the edge of Cedar Creek Lake, a man-made lake just sixty miles south of Dallas. The 34,000 acre lake is a popular get away spot, close enough to commute to Dallas daily, or a place to retire. It offers a small town lakeside feel, but with all the amenities of a big city just within reach. It was here that Jimmy Don planned to retire from the Dallas Fire Department. The location seemed perfect for him. Jimmy Don was an avid fisherman and Betty Lou already had a trailer on the lake, surrounded by a dense forest of pine and oaks.

The small community rallied to support Betty Lou. How unlucky could one woman be? Her last husband had just gone off and abandoned her and now another husband had vanished. Betty Lou was holding up awfully well, but everyone grieves differently, right? Perhaps she was just stoic.

Privately, though, people were already beginning to ask questions. Bodies just didn’t disappear in this man-made lake. Then there was the matter of Betty Lou’s attitude. A chaplain from the Dallas Fire Department went to visit with Betty Lou during this difficult time and he was taken aback when she immediately began asking if her husband had life insurance and how much she could get.

Betty Lou never had trouble attracting men. She married her first husband in 1952 at the age of 15. She’d had a hard upbringing. Born in 1937 to a pair of young sharecroppers, she was raised in a small pine cabin in Virginia without electricity or running water. Her mother suffered from mental illness and spent long periods of time hospitalized. Her father was a heavy drinker. A bought with measles left Betty Lou’s hearing severely damaged. Due to her mother’s illness, she spent her teen years caring for her younger siblings. Like so many girls of her time, she escaped her parents’ household by marrying in order to set up a house of her own. She was just 15 and Robert was just 18, but early on they seemed happy enough.

Betty Lou and Robert Branson would remain married for 17 years before divorcing. It would be her longest marriage. Betty Lou and Robert had six children together including her daughter Shirley, and son Robert “Robby” Branson II. Accounts suggest that neither spouse was exactly faithful. Betty Lou often escaped the drudgery of being a young mother and housewife to go honky-tonking. At one point, the couple moved to Mesquite, Texas to try and start over and save their marriage, but it didn’t work. Robert worked long hours and soon Betty Lou slipped off to drink and dance while her eldest daughters watched the other children.

Still, she was devastated when Branson left her for another woman and she began drinking heavily. Robert didn’t always pay her child support.  This was the first time she had ever been truly on her own and it was hard. Eldest daughter Faye repeated her mother’s choices and moved out at 15 to get married. Taking this as her cue to lighten the load, Betty shipped out the other children. She sent a daughter and Robby to live with their father. Although she promised them it was a temporary visit, she wouldn’t see them again for five years. Another daughter went to live with Faye. Shirley went to stay with friends. The only child she kept was three year old Bobby.

Just a year later, she would remarry. Her marriage to Billy Lane was short, but violent. There is little doubt that he abused Betty and left her bruised, but the two couldn’t seem to stay away. They would break up and reconcile over and over.  While they were apart, Betty Lou took malicious pleasure in tormenting Billy. She would go to the same clubs he was at and slow dance with other men while staring at her estranged husband. The marriage ended when Betty shot him twice.

Betty Lou claimed that Billy had forced his way into her house. (source: Buried Memories, by Irene Pence)

“That’s when I reached behind my back and got my gun. He didn’t act afraid. Maybe he thought I was bluffing. He took another step toward me, so I fired at him. Can’t remember how many times, but I kept firing until I saw him stagger out the back door.”

Billy’s teenaged daughter told a different story. She said that Betty Lou, who was living apart from Billy at the time, called and asked Billy to come over. Billy told police he came over in response to this invitation but the two argued, as always. He said he was leaving when she suddenly started firing. This scenario seems likely since he was shot twice in the back. One of the bullets caused so much nerve damage he was never able to walk properly again. He was lucky to have survived. Betty was charged with attempted murder.

Incredibly, the charges would be dropped down to a misdemeanor when Billy told the authorities he had threatened her during a fight. Of course, friends noted that Betty Lou was Billy’s angel while he was in the hospital. She was as loving and sorry as she could be. Betty Lou and Billy would marry again, but that reconciliation wouldn’t last longer than a month.  Once the charges were reduced, she had what she wanted. I suppose that technically makes Lane husband number two and husband number three. Either way, he was lucky to survive marriage to Betty Lou. Other men wouldn’t be so lucky.

Six years later, Betty Lou married her third husband (or fourth, depending on how you’re counting), Ronnie Threlkold. She had taken Bobby and moved off once again for a fresh start. This time she’d gone to Little Rock, Arkansas.  This marriage was also marked with violence on both sides. Ronnie slapped Betty Lou and she retaliated by slashing the tires on his truck. She also went after him with a tire iron during an argument. She moved back to Texas and Ronnie came with her.  Betty was insanely jealous and accused Ronnie of sleeping around with everyone, including her grown daughters. Ronnie finally had enough and packed up to return to Arkansas.  As he was packing his car, he heard the sound of an engine gunning, the only warning he had as Betty Lou tried to run Ronnie over. He dove out of the way in the nick of time, cowering between two parked cars as she sprayed him with gravel.

Less than a year after divorcing Ronnie, Betty married Doyle “Wayne” Baker. Betty Lou had a type and Wayne fit it to a ‘T’. He was tall and tan with dark hair and eyes. His work as a roofer kept him fit. Wayne was a hard worker, but he was also a hard drinker and just seven weeks after they married, Betty Lou and Wayne separated. They divorced, but the divorce was as short-lived as their first marriage. Betty was seriously injured in a car accident. As she recovered, Wayne came back with hat in hand, begging for another chance. They remarried. For Betty Lou, a new start always required a new location. Doyle’s boss owned a place on Cedar Creek Lake and the two had spent a lot of time down there. Betty Lou bought a half-acre lot down in Gun Barrel City and Wayne bought the trailer, a nice spot right on the lake.

The happiness didn’t last. One October evening, Betty Lou confided in a couple of her children that Wayne had slapped her and hit her. Her children immediately jumped to her defense and told her to divorce him, but Betty said she would handle it in her own way. The children were all shocked. They like Wayne. He had been nothing but nice to them and they had never seen him mistreat their mother. But they also knew how she was. Betty Lou could be sweet or she could be mean as a cornered rat snake, depending on her mood. Wayne was known to get in the occasional bar fight. Maybe he really did hit their mother.

Betty and Shirley sat outside with a quickly assembled bonfire. Shirley asked her mother what she was going to do about Wayne. “I’m going to kill him,” Betty Lou  replied. Shocked, Shirley at first thought her mother might be joking, but soon realized she was serious. She desperately tried to convince her mother to get another divorce, but Betty Lou wasn’t having it. Wayne owned the trailer, she explained to Shirley. Betty Lou just owned the land and she wasn’t about to start over again. Wayne had to go and she had been planning it for a while.

Betty Lou pointed out a hole in the backyard area. She had cajoled some e construction workers to dig for her so she could put in a barbecue pit. She told Shirley that Wayne was going to go in that hole and she would build her patio on top. That night, Betty Lou sent Bobby to stay at a friend’s house. The next morning, she called Shirley to say that the deed was done and she needed Shirley’s help to drag Wayne into the hole, but not until the cover of darkness.  Betty Lou also called Wayne’s boss to say Wayne wouldn’t be coming into work. She claimed they’d had a fight and he stormed off to buy cigarettes and hadn’t come back.

Wayne’s boss was shocked. They had a big job planned that day and Wayne was really responsible. That wasn’t like him at all. After three days without his best employee, the boss went by Wayne and Betty Lou’s trailer. He was surprised to see Wayne’s new truck and assumed that meant he had returned. Of course, Wayne wasn’t seen again, but Betty remembered to pick up his last check from the roofing company. Wayne’s boss was sure something was wrong with the situation. A man just doesn’t go off and leave his brand new truck, but he had no proof. Betty Lou filed for divorce claiming desertion. She sold the truck and settled down to live in her trailer, but she was never without a man for long.

Two years later, she would be married again, this time to Jimmy Don Beets.

beets-jimmy-don

Jimmy Don was financially well off. He owned his own house and he had a boat on Cedar Creek Lake. The two met at the Cedar Club, a smoky bar where Betty Lou was a waitress. After a day at work, Jimmy Don liked to stop by for a beer and some company.  He was a native Texan and liked his women curvy, blonde and bubbly and was quickly smitten with the waitress. Betty Lou like her men tall, dark, and financially well off. Jimmy Don fit the bill.

He had his own place at a neighboring lakeside community, Glen Oaks. It was a three bedroom and entirely paid for. Jimmy Don had been smart with his money. He also owned a nineteen foot Glastron fishing boat and tidy life insurance policy. The one downside with his house was that he had no lake access there. He had to use a friend’s dock. Betty Lou’s place was right on the lake, so it was only natural that he moved in with her.

He had a grown son and rented the place to his family. Jamie, the son, and Betty Lou hated one another on sight and the relationship only got worse from there. One day the house mysteriously burned down. It might have been saved, but somehow the water had been turned off. Good thing Jimmy Don had insurance on the place.

It was around this time that Jimmy Don’s niece discovered a new life insurance policy in her uncle’s name. She thought it was odd because he already had a good life insurance policy through the City of Dallas. Also, the policy information all went to Betty Lou’s daughter in Mesquite. She asked her uncle and he was surprised and told her to cancel it. When he confronted Betty Lou, she played it off as a misunderstanding.

Betty Lou was proud of her trailer. She was always neat as a pin, but she kept after Jimmy Don to help her with beautification projects. The first thing she wanted was a shed and she was very particular about where it should be. She wanted it built over a cement block patio. Jimmy Don agreed that a shed would be useful but he didn’t think the location was right. Why, he could see where the land had sunk in a bit under the patio, but she would not be deterred. She wanted a shed and she wanted it right there. Always indulgent, Jimmy Don built the shed just where she had wanted it.

Next Betty Lou wanted a wishing well. Jimmy Don had rebuilt his Glen Oaks house after it burned and he agreed to build the wishing well for her out of leftover brick. With the help of her son Robby, he spent three days building a four-foot-tall wishing well intended to be a planter. It was a dirty, sweaty job under the broiling August sun, but as Jimmy Don reportedly told Robby, “Whatever Betty wants, Betty gets.” (Source: Buried Memories).

Spinning her web like the black widow she was, Betty Lou put the next part of her plan into motion. Once again, she enlisted one of her children as her partner in crime. First she went to Shirley and explained her plan. Shirley was furious. “You promised me would never kill anyone again!” She refused to help. Apparently, she was okay with her mother killing one husband, but a second one? That was a husband too many.

“I’m going to kill, Jimmy Don,” she announced to Robby. He was shocked. Jimmy Don was the nicest of his mother’s husband’s to date, but she brushed aside his concerns. After a lifetime of living hand to mouth, Betty Lou was ready to cash in. Jimmy Don had plenty of assets and life insurance. She instructed Robby to take his brother and stay gone for several hours. He was to come home alone. She would take care of the killing, but petite as she was, she needed help getting the body out of the house.

Betty took her .38 and went into the bedroom where her husband lay sleeping. She shot him twice, once in the chest and again in the head. First she wrapped him in the bedspread and then she pulled a blue sleeping bag out of the closet. It was a mate to the one she and Shirley had wrapped Doyle Wayne Barker in. She called her daughter and told her she had done it. Again she wanted Shirley to come over and help, but Shirley refused. It was late and Shirley was a newlywed. Betty Lou was on her own until Robby came home.

With his help, they took the body out to the freshly complete wishing well and dumped him inside. Shirley did show up very early the next morning, while it was still dark out, and she asked her husband to stay in the car while she went inside. She came out later and only said that her mother and Jimmy Don had been fighting and he had gone off to Dallas, but everything was going to be okay. That didn’t sound like Jimmy Don. He wasn’t the kind to storm off. His truck was still there as well. Her husband knew something was up, but he kept his mouth shut. Where Betty Lou was involved, it was better not to ask questions.

Later that morning, Betty Lou filled her wishing well with peat moss and flowers. She’d had them in the shed, just ready to go. She instructed Robby to get Jimmy Don’s boat and help her stage the drowning. They placed the fishing license, pills, and glasses and then pushed the boat out. The boat was docked at the back of the property away from prying eyes.

Betty Lou was less than happy to hear that she was expected to wait seven years for her missing husband to be declared dead. She wanted Jimmy Don’s money now. She started looking around for ways to get her hands on his money. What followed was a struggle over the estate between Betty Lou and Jimmy Don’s son, Jamie. She put Jamie’s things out of the Glen Oaks house and tried to sell it without his knowledge. He had to get an attorney to take out a restraining order against her to keep her from selling off items of the estate. She still managed to forge Jimmy Don’s name to the boat title and sell it. She also faked a power-of-attorney form giving her the ability to dispose of his possessions. One day she was seen fiddling with the air conditioning unit of the Glen Oaks house. A little while later, the house burned to the ground for the second time. Firefighters determined the cause to arson.

Robby didn’t have his mother’s ability to stay quiet about his crimes. He told his common-law wife and his grandmother. Likewise, Shirley told their sister Phyllis about Mama’s crimes.

Never long without a man, Betty Lou took up with a new one. His name was Ray Bone and he was a bad, bad man. Ray had done time in the penitentiary for murder. He was known to be just plain mean. All of Betty Lou’s kids were a little scared of him. When rumors hit his ears about the husbands in the yard, a couple of Ray’s friends payed some visits to Robby’s common-law wife and other acquaintances. They never spoke about the rumors again.

Insurance companies don’t like to pay up when there are allegations of arson. Betty Lou was furious when they refused and she rushed off to her attorney. First she couldn’t collect the death benefits, then she couldn’t collect the fire insurance. Her attorney was a man named E. Ray Andrews. E. Ray suggested she seek a “Determination of Death” to speed up the process. She filed for a death certificate, swearing before a judge that there were no other heirs. March of 1985, the judge declared Jimmy Don Beets deceased and granted Betty Lou’s request to be named administrator of his estate, clearing the way for her to inherit everything, the life insurance money, the widow’s pension, and the house.

Just before she got her hands on it all, something happened.

Rose
Rick Rose

 

That something was a Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy named Rick Rose (1947-2015). In March of 1985, a jail informant was brought to his attention. This informant was charged with a drug case, but he had information to trade. Rose was skeptical. It would have to be something good. The informant offered to tell him who had killed Jimmy Don Beets. Well, that had Rose’s attention. It seems Ray Bone hadn’t been the only man in Betty Lou’s life. She’d had a one-night stand with a man while drunk out of her mind and blabbed about the dead husband in her wishing well. She even told the man that she had her husband build the wishing well before she killed them and that her son helped her dispose of the body.

Ray Bone’s attempt to put a lid on the rumors had failed. Even a conspiracy of two can fail. Shirley had talked to her sister Phyllis. Phyllis talked to a friend and that friend called Crime Stoppers. Rick Rose was now hearing the same story from multiple sources.

Meanwhile, Jamie had gotten wind of his step-mother’s antics. He filed a protest to have the “Determination of Death” set aside for a new trial because she had failed to include all the heirs. Betty Lou’s windfall would be delayed just a tiny bit longer.

Police were narrowing in on Betty Lou, but just before they could serve a search warrant for her trailer, it burned. Like the house on Glen Oaks, this was arson. Undeterred, police went out the next day to search the property. They tipped the wishing well over and dug it out. Inside was the blue sleeping bag containing the mortal remains of Jimmy Don Beets.

 

The trailer was burned, but not entirely. Police recovered 19 guns, including a .38. There were matching  projectiles from a .38 located inside the sleeping bag. Taking down the shed was a tougher prospect but finally they were able to get underneath and there they discovered yet another blue sleeping bag, with yet another husband. Doyle Wayne Barker was no longer missing.

 

Barker's resting place (2)
Doyle Wayne Barker’s grave; Photo from Henderson County Sheriff’s Department

 

An arrest warrant was issued for Betty Lou Beets. Surprisingly, a tip about her leaving town came from Ray Bone. He called Rose to let him know they were leaving his house in Mansfield. He told them exactly where they would be when. Mansfield Police Department was called in. They set up on a bridge and swooped in. Inside the truck were numerous guns, ammo, and Betty Lou’s clothing and jewelry.

The trial itself was a circus. Black widows make for great press and Betty Lou was blonde and pretty. Robby and Shirley both testified against her. Incredibly, she blamed them for the murders. She claimed she’d had nothing to do with the murders. Her story–at that time–was that Jimmy Don was very drunk. He and Robby started fighting and she heard the shot from the bedroom.  She testified that she had helped her son hide the body in the wishing well, but she denied knowing that Wayne was also buried on the property.

The jury didn’t buy it. They convicted Betty Lou of murder for remuneration, that is for killing for financial gain, and sentenced her to death. Throughout the numerous appeals, Betty Lou would tell many different stories. She became “born again” and bonded with her notorious cellmates including  pick-axe killer, Karla Faye Tucker and Darlie Routier.

In 1990, an execution date was set. Betty Lou’s attorneys peppered appellate courts with complaints. They claimed she was incompetent at the time of trial. They claimed she’d had a series of head injuries which caused her behavior. They claimed her father sexually abused her–the first time she had ever made such a claim–and that the memories had been repressed until now. They claimed all of her husbands had brutalized her, beating and raping her daily. Experts hired by the defense diagnosed her as suffering from Batter Woman’s Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, two things which were very much in the news at the time.

Media picked up the story and somehow the woman who had never admitted her crimes was suddenly a woman who desperately shot her husband in the midst of a beating. There was never any evidence to support this. One picture surfaced showing Betty Lou with a black eye and a bruise on her chin. Her hair and appearance likely place this as from the time she was married to Billy Lane who was known to have struck Betty Lou. She now said “What my husbands began, the State is going to finish.”

Betty Lou in Prison
photos from deathpenaltyinfo.org

 

You couldn’t escape the interviews. She was all over the media. In her pictures, she looked frail or elderly, but the steel was still there. The stories became more and more elaborate. She claimed to have been raped, dragged out in a field, strangled and left to die. She was even featured on Good Morning America.

Her appeals finally ran out. February 24, 2000 Betty Lou Beets was taken to Huntsville, Texas for her date with needle. Protesters stood outside, crying and holding up that picture of Betty Lou with the black eye. She had no final words.

The Texas Council on Family Violence declared:

 

“Beet’s life is a chronicle of virtually uninterrupted physical, sexual and emotional abuse. She was severely abused as a child and was battered by multiple husbands. Beets suffers from severe learning disabilities and a hearing impairment she has had since early childhood. She also suffers from organic brain damage caused by repeated blows at the hands of abusive men.”

 

The Council has done good work and I know they had the best intentions, but their pity was misplaced. Men who kill multiple women get called serial killers. Women get called Black Widows, but don’t let the cute moniker fool you. She may have only killed two husbands, but not for lack of trying. I’ve no doubt that her hard life shaped the woman she became, but many people have rough lives. They don’t think that entitles them to murder other people for personal gain. Betty Lou Beets learned early on that anything she wanted in the world, she would have to take. She took that to extremes and sadly Doyle Wayne Barker and Jimmy Don Beets paid the price.

 

 

SOURCE NOTES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Lou_Beets
https://www.thoughtco.com/the-crimes-of-betty-lou-beets-971313
http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/beets616.htm
Beets v. State, 767 S.W.2d 711 (Tex.Cr.App. 1987) (Direct Appeal). https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/2451426/beets-v-state/
Beets v. Scott, 65 F.3d 1258 (5th Cir. 1995) (Habeas) . https://www.casemine.com/judgement/us/5914bd42add7b049347a1423

Beets v. Collins, 986 F.2d 1478 (5th Cir. 1993) (Habeas). http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-5th-circuit/1321322.html
http://murderpedia.org/female.B/b/beets-betty-lou-photos.htm
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-executes-betty-lou-beets/

Betty Lou Beets


https://krazykillers.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/black-widow-betty-beets-begged-bush-for-benevolence/
https://krazykillers.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/black-widow-betty-beets-begged-bush-for-benevolence/
https://www.bing.com/search?q=betty+beets+family+photos&FO
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Texas+Betty+Lou+Beets&&view=detail&mid=0AFA4CE7BDDF44503F940AFA4CE7BDDF44503F94&FOR
Buried Memories, by Irene Pence, 2008, Penguin Random House

http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Psyc%20405/serial%20killers/Beets,%20Betty%20Lou%20_spring%202007_.pdf

 

 

When Evil Lives Next Door: The Bathtub Killer

He looks harmless enough. Photos show a man with an earnest,  slightly nerdy face. He wasn’t an imposing figure, standing a mere 5 foot 9 with a slender build. He liked dogs, cooking, and fishing. He had no criminal record and held down a job. In the mid-1990’s he was working office jobs and living in Arlington, but he had done warehouse jobs and sometimes he drove a forklift. He was the sort of man you might notice, or you might not. There was nothing that stood out about him. But in 1996 and again in 1999, he caused waves of panic for women in the DFW area, because Dale Devon Scheanette was a serial rapist and a brutal killer.

Vu_cover
Christine Vu

25 year-old school teacher Christine Vu lived with her Fiancé, Thang Khuu at the Peartree Apartments in Arlington, Texas. On Tuesday,  September 17, 1996, Khuu got off work early and came home. He was surprised to find their apartment locked and dead-bolted from the inside. Thinking Christine might be in the bathroom, he went and smoked a cigarette and then came back, only to find the door still locked. He went to a payphone and called but there was no answer. He came back to try one more time, but found the door unlocked.

 

 

 

Vu_Bathroom
Vu’s bathroom

He went inside where he discovered a scene from his worst nightmares. Christine was naked, face down in the bathtub. Her hands and feet were bound with duct tape, with a strip of the tape connecting them down her back, as if she had been “hog-tied” with duct tape. Detective Ed Featherstone was assigned the case. Initially he was very suspicious of Khuu. After all, we know it’s usually someone close to the victim. Khuu was extremely cooperative and DNA from semen recovered from Vu’s body excluded him as the rapist and killer. In addition, police discovered a fingerprint off the deadbolt lock on the front door. Heartbreakingly, Thang Khuu was most likely sitting outside smoking a cigarette while his fiancée was being killed.

Vu_Door
Christine Vu’s door

Christine had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and drowned. The print on her door didn’t match anyone who had a reason to be in Christine’s apartment leading police to conclude that they might have that rarity, a stranger killing on their hands. Within a few months, this would be confirmed.

 

Prescott_cover
Wendie Prescott

Wendie Prescott also lived at the Peartree apartments while she saved her money to go to beauty school. Wendie was expected at a Christmas Eve shopping trip. Her family became concerned when she didn’t appear and didn’t answer repeated calls so her aunt and uncle went over to check on her. She was left exactly like Christine: naked, bound by duct tape, floating in her bathtub. Detective Tommy Lenoir was called to the scene but it didn’t take him more than a minute to know what he was seeing, the genesis of a serial killer. He immediately called Featherstone to tell him they had another one.

 

 

Prescott_Bathroom
Prescott bathroom

 

 

Not only were the two women killed in an identical way, but the apartments had identical floorplans and décor. Then there was another piece of evidence that confirmed it if there was any doubt. Once again, the killer left behind a print, this time in the dust on a TV stand. He also left behind DNA that would match back to Vu’s rapist and killer. Police were hopeful that the prints or DNA would lead to a suspect. Surely the killer was in the system. This couldn’t be a first crime.

Prescott_Fingerprint
Thumbprint left on Prescott’s TV Stand

Christmas morning at the Peartree apartments was chaos. Word spread rapidly and all the single women were breaking their leases and moving out. Family members had descended, loading up cars with possessions. It made getting statements or canvassing potential witnesses extremely difficult. The exodus also made it easy for the killer to move out without attracting attention.

To the police’s consternation, the DNA and prints led nowhere. The ran the prints through AFIS, the American Fingerprint Identification System and were surprised to get no hits. For months, police pursued promising suspects, obtaining DNA samples that they hoped would lead to a resolution, but again and again, they got no match. They did clear over 200 suspects. They held their breath, wondering when he would strike again, but nothing. Gradually, they began to breathe again. What had happened to him? Perhaps he moved away. Perhaps he had died. Whatever the reason, he seemed to be gone.

AKA_Sorority_House
AKA Sorority House, UTA

 

Chima_Before.JPG
Chima Benson

February 23, 1999, 22 year old Chima Benson was a senior at UTA. On that night, she went to sleep in the AKA sorority house. She awoke with a man on top of her. He put a gun to her head and he told her, “Do what I say, and I won’t kill you.” He raped her orally. Chima wasn’t the sort to give up easily and she bit him, hard enough that he would forever carry a scar. Unfortunately, this enraged him and he beat her so severely she would need two facial surgeries to repair the damage. He raped her and left her naked, incapacitated and bloody on the floor of her bedroom. Police got a DNA sample from the semen and one more clue. He wasn’t wearing a mask. Chima got a good look at his face. She has been outspoken about her ordeal, even discussing it while she was on the Big Brother TV show. She now works as a TV host.

Chima_Beaten
Survivor Chima Benson’s face

Detective Lenoir soon received a tip. He heard from Wendie Prescott’s best friend and the last person to see her alive that until recently, she had lived in the AKA Sorority house, in the very same room that was now Chima Benson’s. “That should have been me,” she said. She believed the killer might be her ex-boyfriend who had been stalking her. The tie between Peartree and the AKA house couldn’t be ignored. When the crime lab compared the DNA of Chima’s attacker with that of the Bathtub Killer, it was a match. He was back.

They were hopeful when comparing it to the boyfriend that the case would finally be solved, but he was excluded. The killer was still at large. But at least they now had a physical description of the man, as well has his fresh injury. They went back and began checking the DNA against other sexual assaults. They got another hit, a sexual assault from Grand Prairie. Then another.  It’s unusual for a killer to de-escalate from murder to rape instead of the reverse, but the Bathtub Killer had done just that. Forensics would tie him five rapes following the two murders. The killer had morphed into a serial rapist.

Victims included Adrienne Fields, who has also been outspoken as a minister for other victims. In the Source Notes, I’ve included a link to an interview with her.

Adrienne_Fields
Adrienne Fields

Adrienne had seen the story of the murders in 1996. She had a feeling of doom, so strong that she moved out of Arlington to Grand Prairie. Although she couldn’t explain it, she was sure that man on the news would come after her. She was right.  October 26, 1999, she woke up in the night to the sound of someone running. She sat up in time to see a man in a mask rushing at her. For two hours he sexually assaulted her.

During the ordeal that followed, he told her that the “The Devil kept making him do it.” and also “You’re not like the others.” She knew then that this was a serial rapist. He knew her name and other information, making it clear he had been stalking her. When he was done, he simply walked away. DNA testing confirmed that the Bathtub Killer had indeed attacked her. The fear would hold her prisoner. At night she roamed her house, checking locks on the doors and windows.  She didn’t sleep soundly until a year later when police would call her to say they had the rapist in custody.

As so often happens, it was an advance in science that dropped the final puzzle piece into place. The FBI had a new AFIS system: I-AFIS.  This system could rotate prints and locate points of comparison where none had been matched before. The best latent print was the dust print from Wendie Prescott’s TV Stand, so Sgt. Gary Kohn submitted that print. Two weeks later, he had a result, and a name: Dale Devon Scheanette. Scheanette had been recently arrested on a burglary charge. Crime Scene Officer Joel Stevenson examined the prints and confirmed they were a match. But what about the print from Christine Vu’s door? He  compared those, and again: match. Excited, the two men took the information to the detectives. They had a suspect.

Detective Lenoir quickly checked the name against the case book. Dale Scheanette had lived in Peartree Apartments during the murders. Nothing had ever stood out about him and at the time he had no criminal history. He hadn’t voluntarily donated DNA. Police quickly located Scheanette still living in Arlington. He denied ever having been in the victims’ apartments, but he couldn’t answer why his print would be in both locations. Once again, he refused to voluntarily give a DNA sample or to allow inspection of his penis for damage. But now police had the evidence needed for a Search Warrant to compel him. They found the scar to his penis and DNA matched. He was charged, indicted, and brought to trial in 2003.

There wasn’t much Scheanette’s defense team could do. J.R. Molina, lead attorney for his defense team summed it up saying, “We put on our defense that the evidence was insufficient, but we were fighting that science … fingerprints in the apartment, and they had DNA. That’s some pretty strong stuff.”

January 8th, 2003, sentence was pronounced on Dale Devon Scheanette. The rape victims all testified against him at the punishment phase. They told the jurors similar stories of rape, beatings and sodomy. They were threatened should they ever come forward. After what they suffered and the threats, it’s important to remember that these are only the known victims. It’s entirely credible that others suffered at this man’s hands, but were too afraid to report the crime.  The women formed tight bonds during that trial. They supported one another through the grueling process and hugged and cried when the jury sentenced Scheanette to death by lethal injection.

Scheanette never spoke about his crimes. Not to detectives, not to reporters. He never admitted guilt, so we will never know what was going on in his head.  Why did he de-escalate? How did he choose his victims? He remained a cipher.

He filed numerous appeals, all based on sufficiency of evidence and procedural matters. He didn’t assert actual innocence, but he didn’t offer an alternative explanation either. As his own attorney noted, there wasn’t much to say about the strong forensic evidence. He asked for pen pals on an anti-death penalty site. Again, he complained about capital punishment being wrong and how the system was flawed. The irony is thick there.

After he had exhausted the legal process, his sister wrote appeals on his behalf, but his time ran out on February 10, 2009. Members of Wendie Prescott’s family chose to attend. Christine Vu’s family did not. Scheanette ignored them all.  According to ClarkProsecutor.org, his last words were not a statement of love for his family or plea for forgiveness. “My only statement is that no cases ever tried have been error-free. Those are my words. No cases are error-free.”

I have mentioned my ambivalence to the death penalty before, but I think I can speak for women everywhere when I say I feel safer without that man in the world. We all fear the monster in the night, but it is hard to feel safe when you see him and realize that anyone could be a monster inside. You can’t tell by the face he wears. He could live anywhere. Even next door.

SOURCE NOTES;

From <https://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/37367103.html&gt;

19 years later, ‘bathtub killer’ survivor speaks – YouTube

https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Arlington-Bathtub-Killer-To-Be-Executed-Tuesday-Night.html

https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Bathtub-Killer-Executed.html

https://mylifeofcrime.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/monsters-among-us-d-scheanette/

http://murderpedia.org/male.S/s1/scheanette-dale-devon.htm

http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/scheanette1146.htm

Cold Case Files: Déjà vu, Season 4, Ep 15,

Scheanette v. State, 144 S.W.3d 503 (Tex.Crim.App.,2004) (Direct Appeal).
Scheanette v. Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2005 WL 3147874 (N.D.Tex. 2005) (Pro Se).
Scheanette v. Quarterman, 482 F.3d 815 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buried Alive: The Lisa Rene Story

The 911 call came in just after 8 pm on September 24, 1994.  “There are three men trying to get in. They say they’re with the FBI. I think they have the wrong house.”

Sixteen year-old Lisa Rene was home alone. The straight A student had come from the Virgin Islands to live in Arlington, Texas with her older sister Pearl. Lisa wanted to be a doctor and so she was spending the night studying for finals.

Lisa’s brothers were also temporarily living with her and Pearl. Neil Nick Rene and Stanfield Vitalis had been arrested for dealing drugs and evicted from their apartment. The brothers insisted that it wasn’t true. It was a misunderstanding. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had trusted the wrong people.

Actually, Nick and Stanfield were the wrong people and they had run afoul of even worse people.

{left to right: Neil Nick Rene and Stanfield Vitalis}

If you were buying pot in Pine Bluff, Arkansas back in the early 1990’s, odds are you were doing business with one of three men: Bruce Webster, Orlando Hall, or Marvin Holloway. The three imported their weed from the DFW with the help of Steven Beckley. Beckley lived in Irving and was acquainted with Nick and Stanfield.

Typically, Beckley would purchase large quantities of the weed and transport it to Arkansas where it would be stored in Marvin Holloway’s house. Beckley introduced Hall to Nick and Stanfield as two local dealers who could get him what he wanted. Hall paid the brothers $4,700 to score pounds of pot for them.

The brothers missed their delivery date. Hall tracked them down by phone and the brothers claimed to have been robbed. They said they had been car jacked and the people took the money and the brothers car. Suspicious, Hall and Beckley tracked the brothers to the Arlington apartment they shared with their sisters. They saw the brothers were still driving the car they claimed to have been stolen. Beckley and Hall then knew they had been double-crossed. They called Webster who flew to DFW.

On the night of the 24th, they went to get there revenge. Hall, his younger brother Demetrious, and Webster, and Beckley drove a gold Cadillac belonging to the Halls’ elder sister. They went armed with guns, a baseball bat, duct tape, and gasoline. The plan was to pour gasoline on the brothers and force them to return the money or they would be set on fire.

Webster and Demetrious Hall went to the front door. They beat on the door claiming to be FBI, but there was no answer. They went around to the back and that’s when they saw Lisa.

Lisa panicked when the men were beating on the door. She called her sister. Pearl told her she was on her way, but instructed Lisa to call 911. On the 911 call, you can hear the men in the background, beating on the door. Lisa tried to describe what she could see and told the operator, “They’re trying to break down my door. Hurry up.”

On the recording, there is the sound of breaking glass as Demetrious broke in the through the sliding door. Lisa screams and you can hear a man say, “Who you on the phone with?”

The phone disconnected. The police arrived before Pearl.  The FBI were immediately alerted. At the time, it wasn’t known they would end up with jurisdiction, but because the men claimed to be FBI, they were contacted. FBI knew there was no involvement on their part because the men were all African American and at the time, there was only one African American agent in the district. Because he was called, he responded to the scene and remained as the lead on the case.

The brothers had gone to Houston for a concert. Upon learning of the drug dealing allegations, police wanted to speak with them immediately. Pearl gave them the Stanfield’s cell number. Over the phone, the brothers denied being involved with drugs or having anyone who might be after them. A neighbor had reported a gold Cadillac being parked outside the apartment, so police asked the brothers if they knew anyone with a car like that. Again, the brothers denied knowing anything.

Later that same night, the brothers called the police back. They claimed that after driving back from Houston, they just happened to go to Irving instead of going home and just happened to drive around and just happened to see a gold Cadillac exactly like the one described outside their house. They gave police an address.

Police went and knocked on the door. A woman answered and allowed police to look around. It was Demetrious and Orlando Hall’s sister. She told them she didn’t know anything about a kidnapping and that the Cadillac was hers. Her husband told police that he was suspicious one of her brothers might have taken it out because they had attended a barbecue there just a day before and could easily have taken one of the spare keys. They had just arrived home after being out that night.  They wouldn’t know if it had been moved. Police took a look around, but didn’t have a search warrant. They couldn’t do the sort of thorough search they would have liked.

One officer noted a bat in a child’s bedroom. The little boy sat up and was reassured that everything was okay. Another officer peeked up into the attic area. It was dark and he looked around with his flashlight but didn’t see anything.

The police ran the criminal histories of the Hall brothers and learned they had drug arrests and lived in El Dorado, Arkansas, near Pine Bluff. When they called Arkansas, local police knew all about the Hall brothers. They were big trouble. Orlando had a warrant out for violating his parole.

Nick and Stanfield finally broke down and told police about their drug buy gone wrong. They never had any intention of returning with the marijuana and had used the cash to pay for their current legal troubles. They denied knowing who the men were, but did give up Steven Beckley. Investigators were focusing in on their suspects. Demetrious Hall was found at his father’s house and Steven Beckley was found at a friend’s house. Both men were arrested, but neither one was talking–at first.

Gradually Beckley began to speak, offering bits of information at a time,  and a horrifying story emerged. The men had dragged the terrified 16 year old out of the apartment and forced her into the car at gunpoint. As they sped down the road, they passed police responding to the call. Lisa was on the floorboard. They drove to the Irving location and changed from the borrowed Cadillac to Beckley’s car. They drove around looking for a spot to hide out for a while. During this time, Orlando Hall forced Lisa to perform oral sex on him.

They changed their mind about staying in Arlington, so they dropped Hall back at his sister’s house. He hid in the attic while police searched the location. Webster, Beckley, and Demetrious drove back to Pine Bluff. They took turns raping Lisa. Once in Pine Bluff, they rented a motel room, tied her to a chair, and again took turns raping her. Hall flew in the next day to join them. They put Lisa in the bathroom to keep her out of sight and kept a hood over her head.

Beckley told the police that was the last place he had seen Lisa and that she was probably still at the motel with “B-Love”. Hopeful of still finding Lisa alive, the police and FBI moved in on the Arkansas motel, only to find no one there. Lisa had now been gone for four days. The manager remembered the men and remembered they had a girl with them. She heard “B-Love” instruct the others to “get the bitch back in the car” when Lisa tried to get out. The manager didn’t call police at the time. It wasn’t that kind of motel. Instead, she asked the security guard to check them out. The guard knocked on the door. When it was opened, he didn’t see a woman or anything unusual and had no reason to do anything but leave. He was, however, able to confirm that “B-Love” was Bruce Webster and he had been at the motel with the Hall brothers. He also gave a description of Webster’s car.

Although the room had been cleaned, investigators found Lisa’s finger and palm prints behind the toilet in the bathroom where she had been kept.

Beckley hadn’t been honest with the officers. The men had decided the security guard was too nosy and moved to another motel. Demetrious stayed behind to clean up. Orlando Hall decided Lisa knew too much and they were done with her anyway. On the morning of September 26th, Webster and Hall went to Byrd Lake Park and dug a grave.

It was dark when they returned with Lisa and the idiots couldn’t find the grave, so they took the poor girl back to the motel. The next day Orlando Hall, Bruce Webster, and Stephen Beckley took Lisa back to the park. They again put a hood over her head and took her to the grave site, guiding her by her shoulders. They positioned her with her back to the grave and threw a sheet over her. Then Hall hit her over the head with a shovel.

Lisa screamed and ran. Beckley caught her and tackled her. He hit her in the head with the shovel once, before handing it back to Hall. Hall and Webster took turns hitting her in the head with the shovel. They left marks against one of the trees from their swings. She was gagged, dragged back to the grave, stripped, and doused in gasoline. The autopsy would show that she was still alive when they buried her.

Investigators had tracked the Webster and Hall to the second motel after finding the first one abandoned. When Webster drove up to the motel, he was arrested. Police found guns and marijuana, but no Lisa. Hall later surrendered, and the rest of the story unraveled. They were too late. Webster agreed to take them to Lisa’s grave.

On October 3rd, Lisa’s body was recovered. She had defensive wounds to her hands from trying to shield her head and deep lacerations from where the shovel had struck her, but the cause of death was suffocation. She had been buried alive.

Byrd Lake beauty.png
Byrd Lake

Because the kidnapping happened in Arlington, Texas and the murder happened in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office picked up the charges against the men.

Demetrius Hall pled guilty to kidnapping and provided evidence against his brother and Webster. He received 25 years in federal prison.

Steven Beckley also pled guilty to kidnapping and received 30 years in prison. He testified against the others.

Marvin Holloway, who had assisted in the planning and provided the funding received 15 years for his role. He is no longer in prison.

Orlando Hall was tried and sentenced to death. He was the first person to be sentenced under the new Federal Death Penalty. He still sits on death row.

Bruce Webster was also sentenced to death. He has continually appealed his case claiming to be intellectually disabled with a low IQ. He likewise still sits on death row. The Federal Government hasn’t executed anyone since 2003. For those interested in the process, I’ve included links to the appeals in Source Notes. I think this appeal highlights the problems with correlating IQ testing to intellectual disability. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s law which set an IQ of 70 as an absolute dividing line. In the opinion, the Court noted that there is a margin of error and it’s more appropriate to look at other factors to determine if someone fully appreciates the consequences of their actions. IQ tests are geared more towards testing academic functioning.

Webster’s mental capacity was a highly contested issue in his trial. The defense pointed to Webster’s Social Security status. That’s right. He had filed for–and received–disability payments while running a vicious drug ring. The prosecution presented witnesses to talk about his adaptive ability, noting how he was reading up on law and taking notes in preparation for his case.

I’m conflicted about the death penalty. I have never tried a case where the death penalty was on the table and I’m not sure how I would feel if I were asked to do so. It’s irrevocable. I have never walked into court with a case I didn’t believe in with all my heart, but errors can be made. We know this. Then there are cases like this.  Cases like this are why we have the death penalty. If these monsters don’t deserve to die, who does? It’s time for the federal government to begin executions again.

As for Lisa’s brothers, little has changed. They were sent to prison for a very small sentence, just five years, perhaps out of respect for the tragedy the family had suffered, but they learned nothing and have been in and out of prison. Neil Nick Rene was convicted for leading a massive drug trafficking ring funneling drugs from the Virgin Islands to the DFW area. He received 12 and a half years for his role.

No victim ever deserves to be murdered, but Arlington Detective John Stanton would call Lisa Rene “probably the most innocent victim” whose case he ever worked. Lisa’s fate is a reminder that we cannot truly render justice. We can punish. We can remove killers from society to protect future victims. But we cannot make whole. We can’t fix the damage already done.

At Orlando Hall’s sentencing, Pearl Rene was interviewed by reporters. “I thought I would feel better, but I really don’t. The only thing that would feel better is if Lisa was here today. And she’s not coming back.”

Pearl
Pearl Rene

** UPDATE ** This story has been updated. Click the link to read the latest news.

 

 

Source Notes:

The Heat Mag: Remembering Lisa Rene

Neil Nick Rene’s Federal Charges

His sentence

Dallas News

Bruce Webster’s appeal

My Life of Crime Blog

Orlando Hall’s first appeal and second appeal

The FBI Files: The Search for Lisa Rene,  also on YouTube. I highly recommend it. There are interviews with the investigators.

Bad Decisions: Stephen Barbee

Jayden Underwood was a typical first grader. He played soccer and he loved super heros. He wore glasses to help his big, brown eyes because his vision was poor. He was friendly, sweet, outgoing, and very excited about his new baby sister. Lisa Underwood had always been a single mom. Jayden’s father hadn’t been involved in his life and Lisa didn’t expect much more from her unborn child’s father.

Friends describe Lisa as hard-working. Whatever Lisa did, in love, work, or motherhood, she gave it her all. Lisa owned a restaurant, Boopa’s Bagel Deli, along with her best friend Holly Pils. Boopa was her nickname for Jayden so she had named her business after the most important person in her life.

Stephen Barbee and Lisa had dated on and off. They weren’t exclusive, but when she found out she was pregnant with a girl, she was thrilled at the idea of another child. Barbee wasn’t pleased at all.  Sheila Underwood, Lisa’s mother, was also less than thrilled with the situation, but she was extremely close to her only child and grandchild. Jayden spent almost every Friday night with his “Tita.”  Sheila decided to build a bigger house in anticipation of adding her granddaughter to those sleepovers.  Lisa tentatively named her  daughter Marleigh, although she told friends she wouldn’t be certain of the name until she met her daughter face to face. She kept the name to herself, refusing to disclose it.

stephen-barbee

Stephen Barbee had a real problem. Barbee had married just two months before and hadn’t told his wife about the baby.  If she found out, she would do the math and realize he was sleeping with Lisa and her at the same time. He just couldn’t allow this to happen. He was certain Lisa Underwood was going to ruin his life.

Barbee grew up in Azle, just north of Fort Worth. His mother worked at the school he attended and his father worked for Bell, the predecessor of Lockheed. Barbee was one of three children and his childhood was fairly normal until tragedy struck. His beloved older sister died at the age of 20. His brother also died when he reached the age 20 and Barbee became fixated on the notion that he wouldn’t live to see 21. He dropped out of sports and cramming in every bit of living that he could. Before, people had described him as fun-loving. Now they said he was just plain wild.  He began to get into trouble, but his mother was always right there for him, doing anything she could to smooth over problems for her only living child.

Barbee dropped out of school but settled on a GED. For a time, he seemed headed for disaster, but things improved for him over the years. He built up his own tree trimming business and was even a reserve police officer for the city of Blue Mound. He drove a Corvette and developed a reputation for splashing his money around and for always having women around him. There were a lot of women.

Barbee married one of his women,  Theresa Barbee. The relationship was volatile and there were allegations of abuse. Theresa could forgive a lot of things from her husband, but she couldn’t take the cheating. Seven years later they divorced, but they continued working together with the tree trimming business that they co-owned. Theresa moved on. She became involved with one of their employees, a man named Ronald Dodd who would become a good friend of Barbees. Dodd and moved in with her. Barbee also moved on.

During their marriage, Theresa and Stephen Barbee employed a whole crew of workers. She would often go into Boopa’s to pick up breakfast. After the divorce, Barbee took over this role and it was there that he met Lisa Underwood, the cute, bubbly blonde owner of this business. After he had been dating Lisa for about a year, he reconnected with an old friend who was also divorced: Trish, the woman he would marry. It seems that Lisa knew about Trish, but Trish did not know about Lisa. One night when Lisa showed up knocking on Barbee’s door, he brushed it off as a crazy ex-girlfriend. Baarbee and Trish were eating dinner that unknown to her had been dropped off by another of Barbee’s girlfriends. He would later laugh that he was juggling three of his “girls” at the same time that night. Lisa and Barbee did stop dating, but then she found out she was pregnant.

Barbee wanted nothing to do with Lisa  or the baby. He told her he wanted a family with Trish. Lisa told him she was certain he was the father and she was going to name him on the birth certificate. At the very least, she wanted her daughter to have a listed father. She also wanted his help with insurance because she was self-employed and her insurance was expensive.

Barbee became desperate to keep his wife from finding out and decided to go see Lisa the night of February 18th, 2005. She was seven and a half months pregnant at the time.

Around 3:00 on morning of the 19th, Denton County Deputy Sheriff David Brawner saw a man walking along the service road of Interstate Highway 35. It was cold outside, and it had been raining.  When he pulled his patrol car in behind him, the Deputy saw the man’s clothes were “very wet” and that he was “covered in mud.” He asked the man for identification, but the man claimed he’d left his wallet at his friend’s house. He gave the Deputy a fake name and date of birth. When the Deputy turned to speak with dispatch, the man bolted and ran. He chased the man, but lost him in the thick woods.

 

Boopa's inside

Holly Pils  and Sheila Underwood had planned a baby shower for February 19th. Lisa never had a shower when she was pregnant with Jayden. Now she would get to have a party with family and friends and open all those packages with little pink girl outfits. Of course the party would be at Boopa’s.

Holly called Lisa at 7:45 pm on the night of the 18th. Lisa and Jayden had both been fighting colds and Holly wanted to be sure they were still  on for the shower. Lisa assured her she was feeling better. Holly teased that if only Lisa would give her the first letter of they baby’s name, she could buy plates with initals on them. Lisa just laughed and told her it was a nice try.

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Lisa was due at Boopa’s around 4 pm. Since it was raining heavily, friends saved her a spot in front so she could park right by the door. They decorated and then waited for Lisa, anxiously staring out the window.

They waited and waited, but Lisa never came.  When she didn’t answer her phone that morning, Holly and Sheila had been worried, but figured she might be sleeping in. When she didn’t appear for the shower, they were frantic. Lisa was never late. Finally Sheila decided to go to Lisa’s house. Holly began calling hospitals, just in case Lisa had been in an accident.

Sheila arrived to find that Lisa’s Dodge Durango was gone, She knew immediately something was wrong. Lisa and Jayden’s little dog was outside in the rain and he always stayed inside the house. Lisa would never have left him outside while she was gone and certainly not in that weather. Sheila had a key and let herself inside. Things didn’t look right. She called the police and waited.

Sheila and Holly re-entered the house with the police. Sheila noticed a strange place on the carpet. When she touched it, it was wet with soap and water. A coffee table had been moved to try and cover a stain. Holly noticed Jayden’s shoes and his glasses were still at the house. He wouldn’t leave without them. He had very poor vision and couldn’t see anything without his glasses. Something was terrible wrong.

The closer the police looked, the more they discovered bits of blood. There was blood everywhere that had been inexpertly cleaned. Traces of blood were on the entertainment center, the livingroom floor and the couch. Inside the garage, there was blood on the floor. Testing would later confirm this was Lisa’s blood. Lisa’s computer was checked. She had logged off around midnight on the 18th. The last site she had visited was birthplan.com.

When police interviewed family and friends after Lisa’s disappearance, they asked the usual questions including Is there anyone who might want to harm Lisa? One name came up over and over. Stephen Barbee

Two days later, Lisa’s  Dodge Durango was found  just a couple hundred yards from where Deputy Brawner had encountered the wet, muddy man. The front end of the car was submerged in a creek with the windows down and the hatchback up. Nearby were Lisa’s keys and her purse. Any hopes of finding Lisa and Jayden alive were rapidly fading.

Fort Worth police were being led by veteran detectives John McCaskill and Mike Carroll. They badly wanted to speak with Barbee. When they learned the Barbee had gone to Tyler on business with his wife, Trish, and his best friend, Ron Dodd, they made arrangements to meet with them there. McCaskill interviewed Dodd while Carroll interviewed Barbee. Trish and her kids cooled their heels out in the lobby of the Tyler police department.

Ron Dodd

Dodd

At first, Dodd played it cool. He told the police he had only seen Barbee with Lisa once and didn’t even realize she was pregnant. He admitted having been with Barbee on the night Lisa and Jayden vanished but he claimed they had spent the time working on a truck. When McCaskill pressed him, Dodd admitted being a little afraid of Barbee. He told the detective about a time Barbee was angry with Theresa and had threatened to put her in the wood chipper. Bit by bit, McCaskill pushed harder until he broke Dodd down. Finally, Dodd told a different story.

Dodd told McCaskill about picking Barbee up on the night of the 18th. Barbee confessed to Dodd that he had a problem. He said he had gotten a girl pregnant and Trish was going to leave him and “take me for everything I got.” Then he told Dodd, “I gotta get rid of the problem.” Dodd said he told Barbee that his choices were simple. Either get back with that girl and raise the kid, or don’t and stay with Trish. Barbee didn’t want to hear it.

Dodd said Barbee gave him directions to get to Lisa’s house, claiming he was going to “do the right thing, and step up to the plate.” Dodd assumed that meant Barbee was going to break up with his wife and be a father to the baby.

Dodd dropped Barbee off,at Lisa’s house. Just an hour later Barbee called him to say that ‘they’ were out riding around and ran out of gas. Dodd agreed to bring him gas.  He met Barbee up north of town, along the border of Tarrant and Denton counties. Barbee poured the gas into a blue, Dodge SUV.  When he lifted the gate to the hatchback and Dodd saw the bodies. He said nothing. Then Dodd took the can and drove off.

Barbee called Dodd again saying he had broken down and for asking Dodd  to come and pick him up. Dodd told the police that he drove to where Barbee said he was what he saw stopped him cold. He saw Barbee standing beside the rode, illuminated in the lights of Denton County Sheriff patrol vehicle talking to Deputy Brawner. Dodd was still on parole at the time and wanted nothing to do with any trouble. He drove on by. He pulled into a store and waited until he was called by Barbee who had seen him drive by earlier.

Dodd again picked Barbee up. Dodd says Barbee told him what he had done and apologized for bringing him into the mess. He said he had dumped the bodies just off the road from where Dodd had brought him the gas. Dodd claims Barbee threatened him and his family if he spoke to anyone, so Dodd just took him home and kept his mouth shut.

Meanwhile, Detective Mike Carroll was in a separate interview room with Barbee and he wasn’t talking. His version of events had him and Dodd working on his truck and driving it around in the rain and dark. When confronted about the incident with the Deputy, Barbee admitted getting out and walking. He said he gave the name of a friend he was mad at, and then he ran because the officer had no reason to hold him. His story didn’t make sense.

At one point, Carroll took a break to go to the restroom. Barbee asked to be allowed to go to the restroom as well. On the way, he saw Trish and her kids sleeping in the lobby and he began to cry. Carroll and Barbee had a conversation in the bathroom. Barbee broke down and told Carroll a completely different version of events. This version is far closer to the truth, although strongly colored by Barbee’s narcissism. They went back into the interview room to record this story.

Barbee admitted going to see Lisa. He said that after Dodd dropped him off, Lisa let him in. He said they were sitting down and talking about the baby. “She kept throwing up everything about insurance and child support and telling Trish.” Barbee claimed that he wanted to leave, but Lisa wouldn’t let him. She got mad and kicked him in the leg. He said he then punched her in the nose and they were “fist fighting.”

“What killed her?” Carroll asked.

“I don’t know.”

“The whole thing took place in the livingroom?”

Barbee confirmed that it did. “We was wrestling and I was holding her down.” He paused. “And she stopped moving. Then I knew I done something wrong.”

“Then you knew you did something wrong?” Carroll prompted him.

“I knew I had done something wrong ’cause she wasn’t moving. I guess I held her down too long. I just didn’t want her kicking me and stuff. I was trying to hold her.”

Lisa’s body told a different story. She fought for her life, fought for  Marleigh’s life. This was no mutual combat situation. Barbee had a bruise to his leg and scratches from his run through the woods after dumping her car. Lisa’s face was horribly bruised and battered. Her nose was broken. One eye was swollen shut. She had a broken rib and wrist. Her back had massive bruises that could have been caused by being forcibly held down for a long period of time, such as if someone were kneeling on her back and pressing her face down. She’d suffered a sever beating. Remember that she had been sick from  a cold and was extremely pregnant and awkward. This was no attempt to calm her down. This was rage, pure and simple.

Lisa died from “traumatic asphyxiation” due to a combination of congestion, pregnancy, and the covering of her face and mouth. With her mother dead, Marleigh slowly asphyxiated in her mother’s body.

Missing from Barbee’s story was Jayden. Carroll had to remind Barbee about the little boy. Then Barbee told him about how Jayden heard the murder of his mother. He came into the room screaming and “emotional.” Barbee insisted he just meant to make the boy quiet when he put his hand over Jayden’s mouth and nose. Again, he just held on too long. That murder was also accidental, according to Barbee. He had managed to “accidentally” suffocate three people in the space of a few minutes: Lisa, Marleigh, and Jayden.

Like Lisa’s body, Jayden’s showed signs of a beating. His face was bruised, an eye swollen shut and a large contusion against his head as if it had been struck against something. His lips and mouth were bloody from his face being pressed so hard.

Barbee claimed that he tried calling Dodd for help cleaning up, but he didn’t answer. Dodd was out to dinner with Theresa. Barbee had no transportation. He had to take Lisa’s car. He cleaned up as best he could, but there was so much blood. The carpet remained pinkish, so he moved a coffee table to cover things up. He dragged Lisa and Jayden out to her Dodge Durango and put them in the cargo area.

He headed north up I-35. Finally Dodd answered his phone and agreed to meet him, although according to Barbee, Dodd brought him not gas, but a shovel. Barbee described the location he had taken Lisa and Jayden’s bodies. He put them in a single hole together.

“I put them together because they needed to be together,” he said. “I dug ’em a little hole. Said a prayer.” He drove the car down a muddy track and abandoned it. He walked back along the rode, after calling Dodd to retrieve him. That’s where he had the incident with Deputy Brawner.

Barbee reminded Carroll that he didn’t want to hurt Lisa. She forced his hand. She was going to ruin him. He had to protect his family. All he wanted to do now was talk to Trish. Carroll agreed and the two were left alone together in the room, but the recording kept running.

His first words were about himself and what was going to happen to him. “I’m going to jail for a long time. My life is over,” Barbee said.

Trish asked him repeatedly what he had done. Did he get that woman pregnant? Did he kill her?

He responded that he didn’t know. Then he told s her that he didn’t mean to, that Lisa had been calling and threatening him for months. He had just gone to talk to her and she attacked him. He only held her down, but it had been for a little too long.  He told the story like was a tragedy and he was the victim.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.

“I was afraid you would leave me.”

“God Steve, was it worth it? Was it?”

He had no answer for that.

Trish answered for him. “It was not worth that. It wasn’t worth it, Steve.”

He hung his head. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“And then you got rid of her body. ”

“I didn’t want to lose you all.”

She still couldn’t accept that. “What did you think was going to happen?”

Unable to answer, he fell back on justifying his actions. “And then she started fighting me. She said she would ruin me. I didn’t mean for her to stop breathing. I just held her too long.”

She continued questioning him about Dodd’s involvement and what he had done, so Barbee turned the focus back on him, back to his plight.

“My life is over,” he said. “I’m going to die in prison. They’re going to kill me. They’re going to kill me in prison. I’m going to die…I made a bad decision to go talk to her…All I’m asking is to have somebody who loves me.”

He went on to make her promise she believed him and would keep loving him. He said he was suicidal and couldn’t live if she left him.

Trish couldn’t let go of his reasoning. “Why couldn’t you just talk to me?” She had done the math. She knew he had been sleeping with her and Lisa at the same time, but she loved him. If he had come and admitted the truth to her, they could have worked it out.

He blamed her. He told her it was his deep love for her that prompted him to action. That’s right. Love made him kill Lisa, Marleigh, and Jayden.

Trish struggled with the magnitude of what her husband had done. She wondered aloud what she would tell her children, what she would tell his parents. Ever the narcissist, Barbee asked “Does this mean we’re breaking up?”

At that time, she promised him she wasn’t leaving. She sat down with Detective Carroll and recalled what Barbee had done the day after he murdered an entire family. He was completely normal. They went to the stables and played with the horses. They hung out with Trish’s children and watched movies. They went to some appointments they had scheduled. They had a great day. He didn’t seem the least bit worried or troubled, even though the news had begun reporting his ex-girlfriend was missing.

Police had their man and soon they would have the bodies of his victims. The day after those interviews, Barbee led them to a shallow grave in Denton.

Barbee may have confessed, but he would change his story several times. Sometimes he was innocent. Sometimes it was a version of the accident. Theresa Barbee, visited her ex-husband while he was in jail and he held up a piece of paper asking her to tell the police Dodd did it. She left crying and he removed her from his visitors list.

Theresa testified against Barbee, describing physical violence in the relationship. There was a time he beat her unconscious. She woke bleeding and dizzy from a concussion. Barbee was eating ice cream and watching TV. He made her drive herself to the hospital.  She wasn’t the only woman with a story about Barbee and his temper.

A woman named Marie Mendoza testified that Barbee would often come in to her business and flirt. He told her he was single and owned a tree trimming business. He surprised her by trimming her trees and then wanted a date. She told him she wasn’t interested in a relationship and offered to pay. Instead, Barbee was furious and screamed and cursed at her. She cut off all contact with him after that.

Barbee was convicted based on the overwhelming evidence and he was sentenced to death for killing multiple people in a single incident.  Although he was convicted in 2006, this was just the start of legal wrangling that would keep him still on death row today. His initial appeal was denied in 2008. In 2012, Barbee filed a writ of habeas corpus alleging secret deals between his defense attorney and the judge. That matter is a story in itself. This fight continued into Federal Court.  I included all of those links if you want to read the details. Multiple hearings were held until finally in 2017, the death penalty sentence was upheld, clearing the way for an execution date to be set for Barbee.

A sweet memorial exists at Boopa’s. Jayden’s bedroom door now stands in Boopa’s bearing his hand-written admonition “Do Not Enter” and decorated with super hero and cartoon stickers. A friend of Sheila Underwood’s was so moved that she wrote a book about a child name Jayden and his magical door. The book is still available on Amazon.

Jayden's door.jpg

We will never know the truth of what was in Stephen Barbee’s heart. Why did he really go there to Lisa’s house that night? Why did he go there so late? Why didn’t he call or drive over himself? Perhaps he went there intending to solve his problem permanently. He could have planned to have Dodd drop him off and then meet him with the shovel. It would be reasonable to think Jayden was with his grandmother and he would have had Lisa alone. Pregnant. Helpless. He might not have expected her to put up a fight. Or maybe he really did just intend to talk and didn’t form his intent to kill until he was there.

In an ironic twist, DNA testing revealed Barbee wasn’t the father of Marleigh. If only he had been honest with his wife, three people would be alive today and Sheila’s world would be whole.  Instead, memories are all Sheila Underwood has left. Her only child and her grandchildren are gone because one man couldn’t handle the consequences of his bad decisions.

**UPDATE** This story has been updated. Click the link to read the latest news.

Source Notes: In researching this case, I relied on the original reports, transcripts, court documents, appellate opinions, and the following sources:

 Lethal Charmer by Patricia Springer, from Pinnacle Books, 2010.

The Lubbock Avalanche Journal

The StandDown Texas Project

The Fort Worth Star Telegram

My Life of Crime

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