Ex-con from NY executed for soldier's slaying
A New York parolee with an extensive criminal record was executed Thursday
night for robbing, raping and fatally shooting an Army medic at her
apartment near Fort Hood.
"From Allah he came and from Allah he shall return," Denard Manns said
from the death chamber gurney.
He criticized by name his trial attorneys for what he said was an unfair
trial, criticized an appeals lawyer for "purposely bringing up claims that
did not exist," and thanked another lawyer for taking on his appeal after
he was supposed to be off the case.
Manns expressed love to friends and then said, "I'm ready for the
He uttered what appeared to be a brief prayer 3 times and was pronounced
dead at 6:24 p.m. CST, 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.
Manns, 42, who came to Texas after a 2nd prison sentence in New York for
armed robbery, was condemned for the murder 10 years ago of Michelle
Manns' appeals in the courts were exhausted and the Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles, acting Wednesday on a petition filed by his lawyer, refused
to commute his sentence to life in prison.
The former hair stylist and mural painter from Harlem in New York City
insisted he had nothing to do with the 1998, attack on Robson, who lived a
few doors down from where Manns was living with a half brother and a
cousin at an apartment complex in Killeen in Central Texas.
Asked last week if he knew who committed the murder, Manns told The
Associated Press from a tiny visiting cage outside death row: "That's not
for me to discuss. Police get paid to ask those questions and find out. I
would never tell them."
DNA and fingerprint evidence implicated Manns, who also was found with
some of the slain woman's property, Murff Bledsoe, the Bell County
prosecutor who handled the case, said.
"You don't forget death penalty cases," he said. "It was a very bad crime.
… There wasn't any evidence he knew her very well. There was no evidence
they were friends."
Investigators believed Robson, from Newton, Iowa, at least recognized her
killer because there was no indication of a break-in at the apartment
where she lived with her husband, also a soldier stationed at Fort Hood.
Clay Wellenstein had gone home for a Thanksgiving visit to his family in
upstate New York when he learned of his wife's slaying.
He said he knew Manns only enough to say hello if they passed each other.
"I would like to know: Why?" Wellenstein, who had been married to Robson
for less than a year, said this week. "And there's never going to be an
answer to it."
Manns, he said, "should be strung out to hang and suffer."
Manns said DNA evidence tying him to the crime was wrong.
"I know for a fact they weren't going to give me a fair break anyway," he
told the AP.
Robson was found dead in a bathtub, shot 5 times with a .22-caliber
Manns' cousin, Eric Williams, owned such a pistol, found a bullet on the
floor in his room and turned the gun over to police after learning of his
neighbor's death with a similar weapon. Tests showed at least one of the
bullets recovered from the woman had been fired from the gun. Tests also
showed Manns' fingerprint on the weapon. Other evidence showed Manns left
a jacket belonging to Robson at the home of a friend the day her body was
discovered and that he had a ring of Robson's.
Manns said he got the jacket from a friend and the jewelry belonging to
the victim from a drug addict. He said he took the gun from some friends
who were trying to shoot it, accounting for his prints.
Manns was arrested the following month and tried in 2002.
"He was a very unusual person," one of his trial lawyers, Frank Holbrook,
recalled, noting Manns sometimes refused to go to court during jury
"He was just bored with it," Holbrook said.
Then after his conviction, Manns again refused to appear in court at the
punishment phase of the trial.
"He said he didn't want to," Holbrook said. "He was taking a nap."
Jurors who decided he should die learned he'd been indicted in 1992 for 15
counts of robbery in the Bronx, N.Y., where he was known as a subway
bandit who preyed on commuters traveling alone. He pleaded guilty to two
counts. He also had convictions in New York for disorderly conduct,
criminal mischief, larceny, controlled substance possession and
unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
"I'm not no angel, far from an angel," Manns acknowledged from prison.
Manns was paroled in early 1998 after serving nearly 6 years of a 5- to
10-year term for armed robbery his 2nd prison term for armed robbery,
then came to Texas.
Manns becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas, and the 422nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Manns becomes the 183rd condemned inmate to be put to
death in Texas since Rick Perry became Governor in 2001.
3 more executions are scheduled for consecutive nights next week in Texas,
starting Tuesday with Eric Cathey, 37, condemned for the abduction and
fatal shooting of a Houston woman whose boyfriend was reputed to a drug
Manns becomes the 33rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1132nd overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Nickerson gets life sentence for killing off-duty deputy
Jurors on Thursday convicted Alan Nickerson of capital murder, sentencing
him automatically to life in prison without parole for the shooting death
of an off-duty Precinct 6 reserve deputy constable during a robbery.
Carltrell Lewayne Odom's mother rebuked Nickerson from the witness stand
after the verdict had been read.
"I hope you are haunted by this horrific act and see my son's face for the
rest of your natural born life," Corliss Odom Lewis said.
Lewis said her 22-year-old son wanted to be a doctor, and was 6 months
away from graduating from Texas Southern University.
Jurors deliberated about 3 hours before deciding Nickerson drove 3 friends
to an apartment complex where they robbed and shot Odom who was in the
parking lot with 2 friends.
During the robbery, Odom and Nickerson scuffled for the gun. Nickerson ran
away shooting, killing Odom. Nickerson shook his head after hearing the
Damion Delwon Edwards, 19, and Wallace Henry Hightower III, 18, are
charged with capital murder. A 16-year-old suspect was charged with
capital murder in a juvenile court. Assistant District Attorney Colleen
Barnett said Nickerson's 3 co-defendants have yet to be scheduled for
During the 3 day trial in state District Judge Susan Brown's court,
prosecutors played 4 confessions, in which Nickerson first admitted
minimal involvement then admitting that he gunned down Odom on Dec. 1.
"The result is what we expected," defense attorney Alvin Nunnery said.
"This wasn't a surprise."
Nunnery had argued that Nickerson's confessions were coerced, an issue, he
said, was ripe for appeal.
Because he was under 18 at the time of the crime, Nickerson was not
eligible for the death penalty.
(source: Houston Chronicle)