Texas "Bathtub Killer" set to die
After nearly a quarter-century as a homicide detective in Arlington, Tommy
LeNoir acknowledges there's not much that shocks him.
Then there's the carnage of Dale Devon Scheanette, who over a more than
three-year period was tied to at least 5 rapes and 2 capital murders that
left him known in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the "Bathtub Killer."
"The crime scenes were absolutely horrific brutal and violent, the worst
nightmare for anyone confronted with that kind of attack," LeNoir recalls.
"I don't like to think what the ladies went through."
Scheanette, 35, was set to die Tuesday evening for the Christmas Eve 1996
slaying of 22-year-old Wendie Prescott at her Arlington apartment.
He would be the seventh condemned killer executed this year in Texas and
the 1st of 2 set to die this week in the nation's most active death
Scheanette, who declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding
his execution date, flooded the courts with late appeals, raising at least
14 claims he contended were violations of his rights or contributed to an
unfair trial. Over the past year, he has filed at least a half-dozen
unsuccessful appeals in the federal courts.
Prosecutors insisted his pending appeals were meritless and improper, that
his claims were raised in previous appeals and that the evidence,
according to their court filings, "credibly connects Scheanette to two
murders and 5 brutal sexual assaults."
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday. The New Orleans-based
court denied his request to move forward with an appeal, dismissed his
appeal and refused to stop Tuesday's scheduled punishment.
Prescott's aunt and uncle, concerned when she failed to show up for a
shopping appointment with her sister, went to her apartment and found her
dead in a partially filled bathtub. Her neck, wrists and ankles were
wrapped in duct tape and she'd been raped and strangled.
Detectives found a fingerprint on the TV stand in her apartment but
couldn't identify it until almost 4 years later as databases expanded and
technology improved. Scheanette's prints first became available after he
was arrested in 1999 for a burglary of a car audio shop in DeSoto, just
south of Dallas.
"We got a search warrant, blood samples and made a DNA hit on two
murders," LeNoir said. "From that point, we started getting hits on other
cases, the sexual assaults. It just snowballed."
The DNA and a fingerprint match tied Scheanette to the slaying of
Christine Vu, 25, who was killed three months before Prescott and lived in
the same apartment complex. They also tied him to 5 rapes in 1998 and
1999. He was charged but not tried for Vu's slaying.
Authorities had long known from the similarities Vu was strangled and
found in a bathtub that the offenses were connected. Without evidence,
however, they were unable to find the attacker.
"We put on our defense that the evidence was insufficient," J.R. Molina,
Scheanette's lead trial attorney, said. "But we were fighting that science
… fingerprints in the apartment, and they had DNA.
"That's some pretty strong stuff."
After jurors convicted him of capital murder for the Prescott slaying,
prosecutors in the punishment phase of the trial called to the witness
stand 5 women evidence showed Scheanette had raped. One of them was a
Dallas police officer attacked in her home.
"Without question, courageous ladies," LeNoir said. "They're heroes."
They told of severe beatings, of being forced to perform repeated sex acts
and of threats to them and their families if they went to police.
Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes before deciding he should die.
"To hear and see these women talk about these events, quite honestly, I
hope I never get exposed to something like this again," said Greg Miller,
the Tarrant County district attorney who prosecuted Scheanette. "I will
never forget him. But most importantly, I will never forget the seven
Miller believes there may be more victims.
"I guess that's just an opinion," he said. "The only unknowns are how many
did he rape, or kill. This guy is just wheels off."
Miller and Molina said it was uncertain what set off Scheanette, who did
not testify at his trial. Investigators for both the defense and
prosecution found the native of Ouachita Parish in northern Louisiana
graduated from high school and had no mitigating family issues.
"He was very studious," Molina said. "He would either call me or send me
notes during the trial and would say he wanted to read cases. He'd have a
3-inch stack of case printed off for him.
"He was a good student in the law."
"I think serial killer and serial rapist," Miller said. "He personifies
On Thursday, another inmate linked to multiple slayings and rapes was set
to die. Johnny Ray Johnson, 51, was convicted of the 1995 rape-slaying of
Leah Joette Smith, whose head was slammed repeatedly into a cement street
curb in Houston after she refused to have sex with him.
(source: Associated Press)