death penalty news—TEXAS

Feb. 8

TEXAS—-impending execution

Man guilty of 1996 Arlington 'bathtub murders' to be executed

Police Detective Tommy Le Noir remembers the alarm that gripped this city
in 1996 after 2 young women were found strangled in the bathtubs of their
east Arlington apartment complex.

"There was a lot of fear in the community and in the Police Department,"
Le Noir said. "The fear is that you don't want this to happen again. At
that time there was some incredible panic in those apartment complexes.
People moved out in masses. It was just an incredible time."

Tuesday night, almost 13 years after the crimes, the state plans to
execute 35-year-old Dale Devon Scheanette for the so-called "bathtub
murders" of Wendie Prescott and Christine Vu.

On Friday, the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles voted unanimously against
asking Gov. Rick Perry to commute Scheanette's death sentence.

Fort Worth attorney Richard Alley, who represented Scheanette on appeal,
said he has not been his attorney for more than a year.

"I was withdrawn at his request," Alley said this week, adding that
Scheanette has since handled his own appeals, which thus far have been
unsuccessful. "I was the lawyer on deck. Then he took over from there."

4 years later

It took police 4 years to link Scheanette to the crimes the result, Le
Noir said, of strong criminal science.

A fingerprint was left at Prescott's apartment, but police could not
immediately match it. Using advanced technology, investigators eventually
linked it to Scheanette. They also matched his fingerprints to a print
found in Vu's apartment.

"We strongly suspected it was the same person without the forensics," Le
Noir said. "Eventually we did get a genetic link. We knew we had the same
suspect. We also had, in both cases, some comparable latent fingerprints
at both scenes."

Scheanette was also linked to sexual assaults in Lancaster and at the
University of Texas at Arlington. But it was the macabre slayings that
drew the public's attention and fear.

Prescott, 22, and Vu, 26, were neighbors of Scheanette's at the Peartree
apartments. On Christmas Eve 1996, Prescott had planned a shopping trip
with her sister. When her family didn't hear from her, an uncle went to
her apartment.

There, he found Prescott naked in a partially filled bathtub. Her wrists
and feet were tied with duct tape and she had been strangled and raped,
police said.

Prescott's slaying came three months after Vu, an elementary school
teacher, was found dead inside her apartment. She, too, had been raped and
strangled and left in her bathtub.

Brenda Norwood, Prescott's aunt, said she hopes Scheanette has come to
terms with his crimes and accepted responsibility for his actions.

"I hope he asks God to forgive him to save his soul," said Norwood, of
Mansfield. "I had to forgive because I can't live with that. I can't hate
him for what he did because that would not bring Wendie back. You have to
move on."

Norwood said her niece worked as a teacher's aide at Erma Nash Elementary
in Mansfield, but she also was enrolled in a beauty college. She loved to
dress up and spend time with her family and friends, her aunt said.

"Wendie was a beautiful young lady," Norwood said. "She was always hugging
people. She was very affectionate. She loved people, not things. She
treated people the way she wanted to be treated."

Witnessing execution

Norwood said she and the rest of Prescott's family have no plans to attend
Scheanette's execution.

"I have no desire to go down and witness that because that will not
enhance my life at all," she said. "You have to let the law of the land

But Vu's family said that they will be there. Not for revenge against her
killer, but to honor her life.

"Most of us, we have had closure," said Dr. Kim Kuo, Vu's sister who said
she plans to witness the execution.

"We've accepted [Christine's death], but I will go mainly to bear witness
for her."

Kuo said the family is proud that her sister was able to achieve her
lifetime goal of becoming an educator. Vu was a third-grade teacher at
Moore Elementary in Arlington. As a child, Kuo said, Vu frequently placed
their younger siblings in front of a chalkboard, taking charge of their

"She loved children," Kuo said. "I wished she had had a chance to have her
own kids."

(source: Dallas Monring News)


Raul Cortez on his way to death row

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice takes custody of Cortez and
transfers him to death row to serve out his capital murder conviction.

A capital murder suspect convicted and sentenced to death is now in the
custody of the state.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice took Cortez into custody earlier
this week and are in the process of transferring him to Texas Death Row in
Huntsville where he awaits his sentence as his appeal process continues,
according to county and state prison records.

As of Friday, Cortez, 27, is being held in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston
and will eventually be transferred to Huntsville, according to TDCJ
offender records.

The exact date of his final transfer is not known at this time.

Cortez became the first suspect to be tried and convicted for the March
12, 2004 murders of Rosa Barbosa, Mark Barbosa, Austin York and Matthew
Self. His alleged co-conspirator, Eddie Ray Williams, also faces a capital
murder charge and possibly the death penalty for his role in the crime.
Williams trial date has not been set as of Friday, according to Collin
County court records.

A jury took more than 6 1/2 hours to hand down a death sentence against
Cortez on Tuesday in the Collin County auxiliary courtroom. Judge Webb
Biard officially sentenced Cortez to death by lethal injection and ordered
an immediate appeal of the case as required by the Texas Penal Code.
Douglas Parks of Dallas will serve as Cortez's appellate attorney.

Cortez denied having any involvement with the robbery and murders of Rosa
Barbosa. He took the stand on his own behalf during the punishment phase
of the trial and claimed he was at his home "play Playstation" while the
murders and robbers were being committed. He also claimed the latex glove
found stuck to the duct tape used to bound and gag Rosa Barbosa had been
given to Williams who he hired to clean up his yard the day before the
murders took place, according to his testimony.

Family members expressed a mixture of sadness and relief that someone had
finally been brought to justice for the untimely deaths of their loved
ones following the announcement of the sentence. Chuck York, Austins
father, told reporters on Tuesday that he and his family planned to see
the entire appeal process all the way to the very end, and will be present
in Huntsville when Cortez is executed.

(source: McKinney Courier-Gazette)


Jury Selection In Death Penalty Case Set To Begin On Monday

More than 200 Smith County citizens will begin to report to the courthouse
Monday for individual questioning in jury selection for a death penalty
case.P> James William Cowart Jr., 47, is charged with capital murder for
allegedly beating his mother, 64-year-old Martha Miller, to death on Feb.
3, 2007, and stealing money from the manager of the Airways Motel. If
convicted, Cowart faces lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

About 800 jury summons were originally mailed out but after hundreds were
excused for various reasons and others didn't report for group voir dire
Jan. 29, about 220 remain.

The potential jurors will report one by one to be questioned by attorneys,
who will work for about a month to seat a jury in the case.

Evidence in the trial is expected to begin March 16 in 241st District
Judge Jack Skeen Jr.'s court.

F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. and Lance Larison are representing Cowart while
District Attorney Matt Bingham and First Assistant District Attorney April
Sikes are prosecuting the case.

(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)