death penalty news—-TEXAS

March 3


Killer of woman, 85, executed

An Oklahoma man convicted of shooting an 85-year-old woman to death during
a burglary in far northeast Texas in 1993 was executed Tuesday night.

From the death chamber gurney, Willie Pondexter said he didn't murder
anyone, but expressed remorse and apologized for his involvement in the

"I am not mad. I'm a little upset and disappointed in the courts. I feel
I've been let down," he said. Pondexter said that was all right. "I just
played the hand that life dealt me," he said.

Pondexter said he hoped that people who read about him would "look at my
life and learn from it."

He looked toward the district attorney who prosecuted him and a distant
cousin of his victim and said, "I know I'm wrong asking you to forgive
me." Before he could say anything else, the lethal drugs took effect. At
6:18 p.m., 9 minutes after the lethal drugs began, he was pronounced dead.

Pondexter, 34, was 1 of 2 men condemned for the murder of Martha Lennox at
her home in Clarksville.

Pondexter was a high school dropout from Idabel, Okla., with an extensive
criminal record that began as a juvenile. At the time of the slaying he
was a 19-year-old unmarried father of 2.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the execution in a ruling that came
less than 30 minutes before he was scheduled to die.

Pondexter said he was in Lennox's elegant Victorian home near the
courthouse square the night of Oct. 28, 1993, and acknowledged shooting
her but said he didn't fire the fatal shot.

"I wasn't the guy who killed her," he told The Associated Press recently
from death row. "For the part I played in it, I apologize."

Lennox was shot twice once in the jaw and once in the head. A medical
examiner testified either shot could have been fatal.

Pondexter said a companion, James Leon Henderson, 35, shot Lennox first
and then gave the gun to him to fire the 2nd shot.

"At 19, I was like, a follower," he said. "If I didn't go along, you're a
punk. At 19, that's my thought process."

Lennox's family was worth millions and a foundation in the family name
continues its work although neither she, nor her 2 older brothers, ever
married and now have died. Pondexter, Henderson and 3 others involved in
the burglary and slaying fled with less than $20 from her purse and the
woman's Cadillac. They were arrested hours later in Dallas after trying to
rob a man walking along a street.

Pondexter and Henderson received the death penalty. The 3 others received
prison terms.

"I didn't know Texas had the death penalty," Pondexter said. "I didn't
read the papers. They didn't tell us that in school."

Jack Herrington, the Red River County district attorney at the time who
prosecuted Pondexter, said the slaying of one of the Clarksville's
prominent residents "shook the whole community."

"She was the sweetest lady, lived in the big house all by herself," he

Her home was given to the local historical society and is used for social
functions. The house had attracted the interest of the burglars who
watched it during the day and determined Lennox was living there alone,
Herrington said.

Lennox's great-great grandfather was a signer of the Texas Declaration of
Independence and she had donated a forest preserve north of town to the
Nature Conservancy of Texas. The family foundation had assets topping $16
million as of a year ago and continues to make charitable donations.

"As tragic as the death of Martha Lennox was, her legacy does live on
through the charitable giving that benefits primarily Red River County,"
Sam Hocker, a distant relative of the slain woman, said after watching
Pondexter die.

"This has been a long process," Herrington said. "It wasn't a pleasant
thing to do but I think justice has been served. I think there is, I
guess, some relief because of this.

"It's not something anybody enjoys, certainly, attending an execution. But
I felt like since I requested the death penalty that I should be here."

Pondexter's record in Oklahoma included assault, battery and trespassing.
As a juvenile, he was considered a delinquent. As an adult, he was
arrested in Clarksville for unlawfully carrying a weapon. He was arrested
again in Oklahoma for assault and battery, received 12 years probation and
violated the terms of the probation.

Less than 3 weeks before the Lennox shooting, records showed he robbed and
stabbed an Oklahoma woman. She testified against him at his murder trial.

When he was arrested, Henderson was on probation for an auto theft
conviction in Oklahoma and was carrying the murder weapon.

In 1997, some 3 years after arriving on death row, Pondexter nearly
escaped with another condemned inmate by cutting through a recreation yard
fence with a hacksaw blade.

Pondexter becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 432nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. He becomes the 193rd condemned inmate to be put to death
since Rick Perry was elected governor in 2001.

Another condemned inmate, Kenneth Wayne Morris, was set to die Wednesday
for the slaying of a Houston man, James Adams, who was gunned down during
a burglary of his home in 1991. 2 more executions are set for next week.

Pondexter becomes the16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1152nd overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press)


Olsen Gets Death Penalty in Westbrook Murder Trial

Convicted murderer Christian Olsen will be put to death for the murder of
his elderly neighbor.

It took the jury of eight women and four men just over five hours to
arrive at a unanimous verdict of death by lethal injection. This followed
eight days of testimony and three hours of closing arguments Tuesday

The verdict prompts an automatic appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Olsen, 21, was found guilty on February 18 of killing Etta Jean Westbrook,
68, then stealing and using her credit card, all in early June 2007.
Because the murder happened during the commission of another crime, Olsen
was eligible for the death penalty.

For a review of the most comprehensive coverage of the Olsen murder trial,
including extended video clips from testimony in the case, check out the
live blog section here at

During the closing arguments Tuesday morning, the defense asked the jury
to consider Olsen's relationship with Kelly Sifuentez, a woman more than
20 years his elder. They argued that Sifuentez, now 42, manipulated him
into a life of crime which including a 2nd murder he has yet to stand
trial for: Sifuentez's mother, Geraldine Lloyd.

Sifuentez and Olsen met when she was 36 and he was 14, according to

The prosecution's arguments focused on Olsen's past criminal history
including theft and lying at the age of 10, years prior to Sifuentez
coming into his life. They also claimed he would present a danger to
others if he is allowed to live in prison.

The jury decided that Olsen would, indeed, be a future danger to others he
would come in contact with, and that there were no mitigating
circumstances to warrant his life being spared.

"The bottom line to this whole thing is just that there's no winners
here," said defense attorney Billy Carter after the punishment was
reached. "It's a sad, tragic case for everybody concerned. It's a case
that we'll take with us forever."

When the judge adjourned the court, Olsen began crying as Carter held him.
Olsen only bowed his head as the jury's decision was read.

Afterwards, Olsen's adoptive parents followed him into a side room. Crying
could be heard through the door.

"You never feel good when this becomes necessary," First Assistant
District Attorney Shane Phelps said, "but we do know that the verdict is
going to keep our community safe, and that's the most important thing."

The Westbrook children, all of whom testified during the proceedings, said
afterwards that they thought the jury had rendered a fair verdict, and
thanked the Bryan Police Department and the District Attorney's office for
their work.

"My mother was a Christian lady," said Debra Kette, Westbrook's daughter.
"Justice was done, and she would want us to move on and enjoy life."

Jury foreman Michael Irwin discussed the task he and his fellow jurors
were faced with over the three weeks of the trial.

It's been heck, to say it nicely," Michael Irwin said. "A lot of us have
had trouble dealing with it. I know I've had problems with it. It's kept
me up at night. Now that it's over, I'm glad, but it's still going to be
in the back of my mind, especially the pictures I had to look at and
everything else that we had to see and do."

Olsen and Kelly Sifuentez are also charged with killing Sifuentez's
mother, Geraldine Lloyd. The state has yet to determine if they will try
Olsen for that crime.

(source: KBTX News)