death penalty news—-TEXAS

Sept. 28


Texas trial begins for man accused of killing 6

A man accused of killing 6 people in 2 states called a friend the night of
the first 5 killings and said he had "done something bad and there was no
going back," the friend testified Monday as the man's murder trial began.

Bill Brinlee said that Paul Devoe was upset but calm and in control when
Devoe called him repeatedly the night of Aug. 24, 2007.

"He said that he was on the run, he had done something bad and there was
no going back. … He'd done something he wished he wouldn't have done. It
was hard for me to believe," said Brinlee, whose gun Devoe allegedly stole
and used in the killings.

Devoe, 46, has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the deaths of
Haylie Faulkner, 15, and Danielle Hensley, 17. Prosecutors are seeking the
death penalty.

Travis County prosecutor Gary Cobb told jurors during his opening
statement Monday that they would have no doubt after all the evidence is
presented that Devoe murdered the 2 girls.

Prosecutors say Devoe fatally shot 41-year-old Michael Allred at the bar
he worked at in Marble Falls, then drove to the home of his ex-girlfriend,
Paula Griffith, in Jonestown and shot her, her 48-year-old boyfriend, Jay
Feltner, her daughter, Haylie Faulkner and Haylie's friend, Danielle

Devoe is only on trial for the girls' killings. It's common in Texas for
prosecutors to split multiple charges into separate trials. Prosecutors
can still seek trials for the remaining killings.

Brinlee testified that Devoe told him he'd gone to the bar to kill another
ex-girlfriend, but his gun jammed and the bartender got in his way.

Another witness, Sharon Wilson, said Devoe had been her house guest in the
weeks leading up to the killings, but that he "snapped" when she asked him
to leave. She said he held a gun to her and to his own head, and then
began shooting up her house. She said she fled with her dog and hid in a
cactus patch.

Devoe, became visibly upset in court and dabbed his eyes with a tissue as
Wilson described his relationship with Haylie.

"He cared very much about her," Wilson said.

Prosecutors say after the killings, Devoe fled Texas for Long Island,
N.Y., where he grew up and where his mother lived. They say he had car
trouble near State Line, Pa., shot and killed 81-year-old widow Betty Jane
Dehart and stole her car.

Devoe, who had worked as a handyman on painting and carpentry jobs, was
arrested in Shirley, N.Y., on Aug. 27, 2007.

Defense attorneys declined to make opening statements Monday.

Cobb said he expected to offer up "several dozen witnesses," including
some from New York and Pennsylvania. He said the trial would take at least
2 weeks.

Devoe spent several weeks in a Texas psychiatric hospital before being
declared competent for trial in March.

(source: Associated Press)


If convicted, Devoe could rank among most prolific killers in Central
Texas—-Trial begins today for man accused of killing 6.

A little over 2 years ago, Paul Devoe, whom exes and family have described
as a belligerent drunk with a history of abusing women, embarked on a
killing spree that started in the Hill Country west of Austin, authorities

Today, a jury begins hearing evidence in Devoe's capital murder trial in
Travis County, where, if convicted, the former house painter and handyman
could receive the death penalty in the fatal shootings of 2 teenage girls
in Jonestown. Those killings were part of what authorities have said was a
rampage by Devoe that left 6 people dead in Marble Falls, Jonestown and a
rural county in Pennsylvania.

If all the accusations of murder against Devoe, 46, are proved true, he
will rank among the most prolific killers in Travis County history.


The worst is clearly University of Texas student Charles Whitman, who
after killing his mother and wife climbed the UT Tower on Aug. 1, 1966,
and during an hour and a half of terror fatally shot 13 people. Another
man died of complications from his injuries years later.

A fetus was also killed when Claire Wilson James, who survived, was shot.

The shooting ended when two Austin police officers shot and killed
Whitman, who was 25.


You have to go back to 1884 and 1885 for perhaps Travis County's 2nd-worst
killer, one who was never brought to justice.

Known at the time as the Servant Girl Annihilator, the killer stalked
downtown Austin streets and is believed to be responsible for killing 7
women and 1 man, most of them maids and cooks for the city's wealthiest

The killer, who used knives, axes and even an iron rod to stab and
bludgeon his victims, ceased killing after 2 fatal attacks on New Year's
Eve 1885.


Another serial killer to strike in Travis County was Kenneth McDuff, who
is one of the most notorious killers in Texas history.

McDuff was first convicted of murder in Tarrant County in 1966 for killing
Edna Louise Sullivan, one of 3 teens whom he and an accomplice abducted
from a ballpark near Fort Worth. McDuff shot Robert Brand and Marcus
Dunham in the face and raped Sullivan before strangling her with a

His death sentence in that case was commuted to life in prison in 1972,
when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily abolished the death penalty. He
was paroled from prison in 1989, sent back briefly, and paroled again in

McDuff is thought to have begun killing soon after his release. He first
struck Waco residents Regina Moore and Brenda Thompson in 1991.

Then, on Dec. 29 of that year, Lower Colorado River Authority accountant
Colleen Reed, 28, disappeared from a car wash on Fifth Street in Austin.
Her Miata sports car, streaked with soap suds, was found abandoned with
her purse still inside.

McDuff's accomplice, Alva Hank Worley, told investigators that he and
McDuff sexually assaulted and tortured Reed and killed her in a field near
Lake Belton.

In March 1992, McDuff abducted Melissa Ann Northrup, 22, from a Waco
convenience store where she worked. Her body was later found floating in a
gravel pit.

McDuff received death sentences at separate trials in Reed's and
Northrup's deaths. He was executed in 1998.

"He just didn't seem to have a conscience," said longtime Travis County
prosecutor Buddy Meyer, who helped convict McDuff. "He set out on missions
where his objective was to kill people."


Travis County prosecutors unsuccessfully sought the death penalty in 2000
for Martin Gonzalez Escamilla, who 13 years earlier had been convicted of
murder in Mexico during a robbery near his hometown of Castaos, Coahuila.

He was convicted in Travis County of murdering three women. Sylvia Garcia,
who married Escamilla in their home country and followed him to Austin in
1995, was the 1st to die. She vanished in June 1995. Her body was found
that year, but she was not identified until 4 years later.

Maria Flores was last seen in May 1998. Five months after that, Olivia
Estrada disappeared.

Prosecutors argued to a jury that he lured the women with charm but then
grew possessive and ultimately violent when they tried to escape his
grasp. All of the women were found in fields, their skulls crushed.

A Travis County jury found that Gonzalez posed a continuing threat to
society but gave him a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

4 of Austin's most high-profile killings happened in 1991 at the I Can't
Believe It's Yogurt Shop on West Anderson Lane. Amy Ayers, 13, Sarah
Harbison, 15, her sister Jennifer Harbison, 17, and Eliza Thomas, 17, were
bound and gagged with their own clothing, and each was shot in the back of
the head.

Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott each confessed to a role in the
killings in 1999 and were later convicted at separate jury trials. But
those convictions were overturned on appeal, and recent DNA evidence has
cast doubt on the guilt of the men, both of whom have recanted their
confessions and said they were coerced.

In August, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said she was not prepared
to go to trial against Scott, and he and Springsteen were released from
jail. Both are still under indictment. A hearing is set in the case next


If Devoe is sentenced to death, he will join 5 others from Travis County
on Texas' death row. Among them is Louis Castro Perez, who was convicted
in the 1998 slayings of 3 people in the South Austin neighborhood of
Barton Hills.

At Perez's trial, prosecutors said that he beat to death Michelle
Fulwiler, 30, with whom he had spent the night, and later in the day
strangled Staci Mitchell, 9, when she returned from Barton Hills
Elementary, where she was a 4th-grader. Later, he fatally beat Staci's
mother, Cinda Barz, 38, with an iron tortilla skillet, prosecutors said.

James Carl Lee Davis, who also killed 3 people, all of them children, was
put to death in 1997.

Davis' victims were his neighbors in Northeast Austin. After killing
15-year-old Yvette Johnson, Davis turned his steel pipe on her younger
brothers Tyran, 6, and Tony, 3.

Senior State District Judge Jon Wisser, who has presided over felony
trials in Travis County since 1982, said the 1984 murders were the most
brutal he can recall.

"The photos of the 3 murdered children," he said, "were really horrific."


Devoe is accused of shooting all his victims. The killings began when he
walked into O'Neill's Sports Tavern in Marble Falls on Aug. 24, 2007, a
Friday night, with a .380 caliber handgun he had stolen from a friend,
according to police and witnesses.

He grabbed an ex-girlfriend, jammed a gun to her temple and pulled the
trigger, police and witnesses have said. When it did not go off, bartender
Michael Allred stepped in and was shot in the chest, police and witnesses
have said. Allred, 41, died of his injuries.

Devoe fled the bar, officials say, and drove to the Jonestown house of
another ex-girlfriend 46-year-old Paula Griffith. There, authorities say,
he shot and killed Griffith, her daughter Haylie Faulkner, 15; Haylie's
friend Danielle Hensley, 17; and Jay Feltner, 48.

Authorities said he then drove Griffith's white Saturn station wagon east,
on his way to his native Long Island, N.Y., where he had lived until
shortly before moving to the Texas Hill Country in 2005.

Devoe told investigators that the car began having trouble on the highway
when he spotted 81-year-old Betty Jane DeHart on her porch in Greencastle,
Pa., according to a criminal complaint. Devoe shot her and drove her car
to Long Island, the complaint said. He was arrested 3 days after the
shootings began at a friend's house in Shirley, N.Y.

His trial in state District Judge Brenda Kennedy's court is expected to
last about a month. Kennedy ruled that the jury could hear evidence of all
6 killings because prosecutors charge that they occurred during the same
course of conduct. She also ruled that the jury could hear a series of
potentially incriminating statements that Devoe made, including telling a
former co-worker a day after the Jonestown shootings that he shot 6 people
and killed 2, and that he told his sister in Long Island during his
cross-country drive that he was on the run.

The jury also may hear part of a conversation Devoe had with Sharon
Wilson, whom Devoe once lived with and called from jail shortly after his
arrest while investigators were at her Llano home.

"Maybe it was just too much to handle," Devoe said during the recorded

Kennedy ruled that the jury may not hear the end of that conversation,
when Wilson asked a question fed by an investigator, because he had not
been read his Miranda rights. During that part, which was also recorded,
Wilson asked what she should tell Danielle and Haylie's parents.

"I am sorry," Devoe answered. "I didn't mean to do what I did. I snapped."


Death row con gets 10 years in senator threat

Death row killer Richard Lee Tabler, whose cell phone calls to a state
senator sparked a statewide shakedown of all state prisons nearly a year
ago, pleaded guilty this morning to threatening the lawmaker and
possessing contraband.

During a brief courtroom appearance in Livingston, in East Texas, Tabler
got 10-year sentence stacked atop his death sentence.

"The message here is that we take these possession of contraband cases
seriously especially cell phones on death row and that we will prosecute
them to the fullest extent of the law," said Gina DeBottis, chief
prosecutor with the Special Prosecutions Unit that handles prison cases.

"(Tabler) got the maximum sentence possible."

Both crimes of which Tabler was charged retaliation and possession of
contraband in a state prison were 3rd-degree felonies, punishable by 2-10
years in prison. He could have received 20 years under a special
enhancement provision in state law, but because his death sentence is
still on appeal that was not possible, DeBottis said.

In October 2008, Tabler phoned state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and
this reporter several times to complain about conditions on Texas's death
row. Whitmire, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees prisons,
reported the calls to authorities and Tabler got busted in his cell with
a cell phone. His mother and sister were also arrested for allegedly
assisting him by adding minutes to the phone.

After the arrests, Tabler threatened to kill Whitmire and this reporter in
a letter to prison investigators. He was indicted and had earlier pleaded
not guilty.

About a month ago, prison officials were shocked to learn that Tabler had
smuggled out a 2nd letter threatening Whitmire and ordered 14 prisons
including the one where death row is located locked down and searched for
contraband in a new crackdown.

Tabler's mother and sister are awaiting trial in mid-October. Whitmire
said prosecutors told him both are to receive probation in exchange for
their agreement not to commit any additional crimes.

"I think they were used by him, and I think we're all ready to put this
incident behind us," Whitmire said. "The point here is that Tabler needs
to be secure on death row with no contact with the outside world where he
can threaten me or any other Texan.

"I have been assured those are the conditions under which this plea was
accepted from him this morning."

Tabler, 30, was sentenced to death for the November 2004 slayings of 2 men
in Bell County, outside Killeen. Tabler and a co-defendant drove up next
to a vehicle driven by 2 men, and Tabler shot both men point blank with a
.45 Ruger as his partner videotaped the last shot fired, authorities said.

(source for both: Austin American-Statesman)


Condemned Houston killer of 2 loses appeal

A former Houston mechanic condemned for gunning down his ex-girlfriend and
her male friend more than 14 years ago has lost a federal court appeal of
his sentence, moving him a step closer to execution.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Duane Buck,
46, that a prosecutor's reference to his black race during questioning of
a witness was a violation of his constitutional rights.

A Harris County jury in 1997 took only 17 minutes to convict Buck of the
fatal shootings of Debra Gardner, 32, and Kenneth Butler, 33, then decided
he should be put to death. A 3rd person, Buck's stepsister, also was shot
but survived.

At the time of the July 1995 shootings, Buck was on parole after serving
about a year of a 10-year prison term for delivery of cocaine.

In his appeal, Buck contended a psychologist testifying at the punishment
phase of his trial should not have been asked whether the fact he was a
black man was relevant to his future dangerousness, a factor the jury must
consider when deliberating a death sentence.

Bucks trial lawyers did not object to the question.

The New Orleans-based appeals court, in a ruling late Friday, said Buck's
appeal was procedurally barred because it never was raised in state court
appeals. The court, however, said even if the issue had been raised
properly, it would have been rejected because the race issue first was
brought up by his own trial lawyers, making it "a classic example of the
defense 'opening the door' for the prosecutor to pursue the subject."

"It was Buck, not the prosecution, who introduced … an expert witness
and then solicited testimony from him regarding the use of race as one of
several statistical factors for predicting future dangerousness," the
appeals court wrote in its opinion.

The court said Buck's trial lawyers also argued for a report from the
psychologist to be allowed into evidence "despite language in the report
suggesting the Buck's race is one factor that might argue in favor of a
finding of future dangerousness."

Prosecutors referenced the race issue once in the cross-examination of the
psychologist, then never mentioned it again, the court said.

"Even if we were to consider Buck's petition on the merits, we would
conclude that it fails to demonstrate a substantial showing of the
deprivation of a constitutional right," the 3-judge appeals court panel

Testimony showed Buck, who broke up with Gardner about a week earlier,
came to her home in the middle of the night, kicked in the door, argued
with her and others at the house and then left after retrieving some of
his items. He showed up a few hours later armed, shot his stepsister,
killed Butler and hunted down Gardner, who had fled outside. Gardner tried
to stop a passing motorist but was shot as she begged for her life.

Buck tried to drive away in his car, but it wouldn't start. He was
arrested by police as he was trying to run away from the scene.

He was laughing during and after his arrest, saying that Gardner "deserved
what she got," officers testified.

Buck does not have an execution date. His lawyer, Stanley Schneider, was
not available for comment on Monday, his office said.

(source: Associated Press)


Dad found guilty of not helping his little girl who died from beatings

A Cameron County jury convicted a Harlingen father of failing to provide
medical care to his 2 -year-old daughter who later died from her beating

The jury resumed deliberations this morning in the trial of Roberto
Antonio Alvarez, 39. He was found guilty on charges of causing serious
bodily injury to Mariah Alvarez and failing to seek medical care for her
after she was injured. She later died.

The jury deliberated for about 30 minutes Friday before state District
Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr. dismissed them for the day. They returned at 9
a.m. today and came back with a verdict after lunch. The trial is now in
the punishment phase.

The child died Feb. 17, 2007 from blunt trauma to the head. She also had
bruising, bite marks on her back and injuries to her kidneys and liver.
Doctors said some of the bruises had been there for weeks.

Alvarez maintained he didnt see the bruises on his daughter until he tried
to perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her the night that she

Her mother, Melissa Lucio was convicted of capital murder in the death of
her daughter. She remains on death row and is appealing the conviction.

(source: Brownsville Herald)


Segura found guilty of capital murder

A Travis County jury Monday found a man guilty of capital murder in the
2007 deaths of a mother and her son.

Albert Segura, 37, killed Billy Gene Ferguson and Ferguson's mother,
Patricia Ann Smith, in November 2007.

Witnesses say Segura was angry because someone reported him to police.

They say Segura confronted Ferguson and killed him.

Prosecutors said Ferguson's mother witnessed it, so Segura took her to a
field in San Marcos, shot and killed her.

The sentencing phase of the trial began Monday afternoon. Segura faces the
death penalty.

(source: KVUE News)


Hearing Scheduled for Serial Killer David Leonard Wood

Lawyers for a convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood will meet with a
local judge by phone today.

The hearing is expected to be held in the 171st District Court. The
original hearing was supposed to happen on Friday, but due to what the
court called "circumstances beyond their control," it was delayed.

Wood is on death row for killing several El Paso women nearly 20 years
ago. A trial date to determine if he is mentally fit to be executed, has
yet to be scheduled.

(source: KTSM News)