death penalty news—-TEXAS

Jan. 8

TEXAS—-new execution date

Kenneth Morris has been given an execution date for March 4; it should be
considered serious. In addition, Jose Briseno, who was scheduled to be
executed on January 15, has been given a new execution date of April 7;
this remains a serious date.

(sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice & Rick Halperin)

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Brother of victim angered by plea deal for suspected serial killer

A suspected serial killer serving a life sentence for killing a Fort Worth
nurse in 1986 pleaded guilty Wednesday to the kidnapping and killings of 2
other Tarrant County women in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

Curtis Don Brown, who police have called a "person of interest" in several
unsolved killings of Tarrant County women in the mid-1980s, testified
Wednesday and admitted to killing Terece Gregory, 29, and Sharyn Kills
Back, 18, in separate kidnappings in 1985.

In exchange for his plea, Brown will be sentenced to 2 life terms that
will run consecutively.

The plea agreement incensed at least 1 relative of the one of the victims,
who called the deal "a crime in itself."

The agreement came less than a week before jury selection was to begin in
the Terece Gregory case, in which prosecutors intended to seek the death
penalty.

Jim Gregory, Terece Gregory's brother, did not attend the hearing but had
harsh words for the district attorneys office regarding the plea deal,
stating he could not have been more emphatic that the death penalty be
pursued in his sister's case. Gregory, who lives in Arizona, accused
prosecutors of doing "absolutely nothing" in regard to the case, other
than to reschedule it.

"The scum is already serving a life sentence for the murder of Jewel
Woods," Gregory said in an e-mail to the Star-Telegram on Wednesday.
"Another life sentence is the equivalent of his receiving no punishment
for this crime. It is disgusting, and, as far as Im concerned, a crime in
itself."

Meanwhile, Suzanna Kills Back, Sharyn Kills Back's older sister, said her
family is pleased with the plea agreement and grateful that they will not
need to attend Brown's trial. Kills Back said she did not care whether
prosecutors sought the death penalty, "as long as he paid for what hed
done."

"I was kind of getting scared the closer we were getting to the trial,"
Suzanna Kills Back said. "I told my sister I didn't know if I could handle
it."

Prosecutor Christy Jack, who prosecuted the case along with Alan Levy,
defended the plea agreement.

"I can understand Mr. Gregorys anger. There are some wounds that will
never heal even after 20 years, and certainly losing a beloved sister is
one of those wounds," Jack said.

"But he's eligible for parole right now in the Jewel Woods case and so,
with the addition of these 2 capital life sentences, there's no doubt
he'll stay in prison the rest of his life. He'll die in prison, and it's
no longer left up to the Board of Pardons and Parole."

Tim Moore, who, along with attorney Bill Ray, defended Brown, said he
believed that the plea was a "very wise decision" on Brown's part.

"I thought there was a strong possibility if a jury convicted him that . .
. he would get the death penalty," Moore said.

The cases

Brown had served 19 years of a life sentence for killing Jewel Woods, a
51-year-old nurse, outside her east Fort Worth apartment when police
learned in February 2005 that a DNA database had linked his profile to
semen found in the body of Terece Gregory, a waitress.

Her body was found floating in the Trinity River on May 30, 1985, a
gunshot wound to her face. She was last seen alive a day earlier while
driving away from a downtown Fort Worth bar.

Gregory's death had been one in a string of homicides of women in Tarrant
County in the 1980s that sparked fears that a serial killer was on the
loose.

The link prompted Fort Worth police to re-examine 25 unsolved homicides
that occurred while Brown lived in Tarrant County, and determined that
more than a dozen required a closer look.

Arlington detectives also re-examined their cold cases for possible links
to Brown. In September 2005, they received confirmation that Browns DNA
matched semen recovered from the body and clothing of Kills Back, an
Arlington resident and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe. She was found
strangled with a rope around her neck in a south Arlington storm drain on
March 23, 1985. She had disappeared a week earlier while walking to a
friends house.

Dressed in a green Tarrant County Jail jumpsuit and wearing glasses, Brown
offered little insight Wednesday into the murders of the 2 women when he
twice took the stand. He answered "yes sir" as Levy asked him whether he
was responsible for shooting Gregory in the face and strangling Kills
Back.

When asked where he had met Terece Gregory, Brown paused several seconds
before replying, "I don't remember the name, but the area was Woodhaven."
Brown was not asked for, nor did he offer, any additional details about
how he encountered Kills Back in Arlington.

Other homicides

Though police had called Brown a "person of interest" in the other
unsolved slayings, prosecutors say Brown had not been scientifically
linked to them.

Homicide Sgt. J.D. Thornton declined to discuss the status of evidence in
those homicides but said Brown has not been eliminated as a suspect.

"The proximity and time and details surrounding the death of Ms. Gregory
and Ms. Kills Back indicate a possible connection to the other cases,"
Thornton said. "We certainly will not rule out such a relationship and
will continue to pursue those investigations for the benefit of the
victims and their families."

Moore would not comment on the other unsolved cases.

"My gut feeling is, they've had 3 1/2 years to investigate those other
homicides and if they haven't linked him to them yet, I doubt they will,"
Moore said.

Gregg Woods, Jewel Woods' son, is among those who believe that Brown may
have had more victims.

"For the past 3 years my heart has gone out to both the Gregory family and
the Kills Back family," Woods said Wednesday. "Today it is being extended
to the surviving family members of his other unknown victims. Those
families will always be held in my prayers."

Woods said he was disappointed in 1986 when prosecutors in his mothers
case struck a deal with Brown, allowing him to plead guilty to murder and
burglary of a habitation in exchange for 2 life sentences to run
concurrently. Brown snuck into Jewel Woods' apartment, ambushed the woman
and then dragged her to a weed-filled lot where she was raped and beaten
to death with a rock.

Still, Gregg Woods said he believes that the plea agreement reached
Wednesday is positive because Brown will never be released from prison.

"This result is a big improvement over what was accomplished in 1986 with
2 concurrent life terms and eligibility for parole after 7 years," Woods
said.

Levy said prosecutors had offered the plea agreement to Brown, which he
had initially rejected, with the top priority of keeping him off the
streets.

"Here's what you have to ask yourself: 'What's in the public's interest?'
" Levy said. "Is it better to make sure this guy never, ever gets out and
you have a sure thing, or is it better to the roll the dice? Because if
you miss, you're done."

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)