Man executed in killing of girlfriend with ax
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � A former crack cocaine user who was on probation for auto theft when he was arrested for capital murder apologized profusely Tuesday before he was executed for the ax slaying of his girlfriend almost 14 years ago.
"There are no words to describe the pain and suffering you went through all the years I've had. All these years, that is something that I cannot take back from you all," Timothy Titsworth said as he was strapped to the death chamber gurney. "Today, I hope you get peace and joy. I'm sorry it's taken 14 years to bring closure."
"If it would have brought closure or brought her back, I would have done this many years ago," he said.
Titsworth said he prayed that his victim "was safe in heaven" and said that his family was praying for the victim's family.
"If these words can ever touch your heart, I am sorry, I am truly sorry.
As the drug began taking effect, Titsworth said, "Here we go." Seven minutes later at 6:20 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Among the people watching were his victim's mother and now 18-year-old daughter.
Titsworth, 34, was the 11th prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation's most active capital punishment state.
Titsworth was convicted of unlawful use of a motor vehicle a month before his 20th birthday in 1992 and sentenced to five years in prison. As a first-time offender, however, he was released on probation after spending more than two months at a boot camp.
Three months later he was arrested driving the car of Christine Marie Sossaman, 26, whose body had been found at the mobile home she was sharing with Titsworth. She had been struck some 16 times with a dull ax.
According to court records, a friend of Sossaman testified the victim told her the day before she was killed that she intended to ask Titsworth to leave because she believed her boyfriend had been stealing from her.
Evidence showed that after the attack, Titsworth took her car along with items from the trailer home that he sold to buy more crack cocaine, then returned repeatedly to the murder scene to take more property to sell for drug money.
"In a nutshell, he was living with her until she came up dead," Randall County District Attorney James Farren said. "Suddenly, he's gone, he's selling her stuff."
When Titsworth was arrested, he was headed back to the mobile home for what a companion said was another trip to collect items to sell. By then, Sossaman's mother, worried when she couldn't reach her daughter by phone, had discovered the body and alerted police.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review his case.
"I'm on death row and have fought a hard battle within the appellate courts, only to reach the final stage ... a better man, a stronger soul," Titsworth said on a Web site that seeks prison pen pals.
He declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his execution date.
Evidence showed Titsworth, who dropped out of school after the eighth grade and worked as a roofer, was high on crack cocaine at the time of the attack.
In his confession, he told authorities he and Sossaman had argued, she went to sleep and he went out to buy crack and a pill he believed was LSD. He told detectives he returned to the trailer, got an ax from a closet and blacked out, although he said he did remember hitting his girlfriend four or five times.
While being held at the Randall County Jail and awaiting trial, Titsworth was among four inmates who escaped by crawling through ductwork. He was captured about 12 hours later.
His mother testified at his 1993 trial she was a bartender with a drinking problem, that her son began drinking beer about the age of 2 and that his father committed suicide when Titsworth was 6. Wyoming authorities took him and an older brother from her custody when Titsworth was 8 and placed the siblings in an orphanage for a year. He had his first run-in with the criminal justice system at 13, she said.
"The neglected wounds of our past are the major source of our misery," Titsworth wrote. "Only now do I see the connection with my own life.
"What I didn't get at home, I would look for in other places, and that led me along a difficult path that is now challenging me today."
Scheduled to die next, on June 20, is 28-year-old Lamont Reese, who authorities say is a former street gang member convicted of gunning down three people outside a Fort Worth convenience store in 1999.
July 20, 2006, 6:12AM
5-year-old's killer looking forward to execution
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
HUNTSVILLE -- Condemned inmate Robert Anderson freely acknowledges a horrific crime in Amarillo that left a 5-year-old girl dead and earned him a trip tonight to the Texas death chamber.
"There was nobody else, just me," Anderson says of the abduction and slaying of Audra Reeves nearly 14 years ago. "She was totally an innocent victim."
Anderson, 40, whose history of sexual offenses involving children began as a teenager, asked that no additional appeals be filed on his behalf to try to halt the 16th execution this year in Texas and the second in as many days in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
On Wednesday, a San Antonio man, Mauriceo Brown, 31, was executed for the 1996 shooting death of a 25-year-old man, Michael LaHood Jr., during a botched robbery on the driveway of Lahood's San Antonio home.
"The only way I want this stopped is if they give a moratorium to the death penalty," Anderson said earlier this month in an interview outside death row at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice near Livingston.
"I'm actually looking forward to dying. I've made peace with the Lord and I'm trying to make peace with my family. And I have tried to make apologies with the victim's family over the years with no responses. I didn't expect them to respond."
I was going to start a new post on this topic. Here is the latest:
With two brothers of his victim watching nearby through a window, Mauriceo Brown told them he was "sorry you lost a brother, a loved one and friend."
How pathetic. Is there some class on Death Row where they teach the inmates how to mouth platitudes without really apologizing and admitting their guilt? Titsworth and Anderson came closer to a real apology than I am used to seeing. Usually it is more along the lines of "I am sorry for your loss" a la Brown.
Or maybe my standards are just too high when it comes to death row inmates....
That was the standard line on NYPD Blue, "Sorry for your loss. So, do you know who did this?"
Aug. 3, 2006, 6:54PM
Wyatt executed for raping, smothering child
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
HUNTSVILLE � Proclaiming his innocence, a former county jail officer described at his capital murder trial as a sexual sadist was put to death today for raping and smothering the 3-year-old son of his girlfriend.
In a brief final statement, William Wyatt Jr. thanked relatives for their support.
``I went home to be with my father, and I went home as a trooper,'' he told them.
Then he addressed his victim's father and grandmother, who watched through a window a few feet from him.
``I did not murder your son,'' Wyatt said. ``I did not do it. I just want you to know that. I did not murder Damien, and I would ask for all of your forgiveness, and I will see all of you soon.''
Eight minutes later, at 6:20 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.
Wyatt, 41, said he might have been irresponsible in leaving little Damien Willis alone to drown in the bathtub of his Texarkana home 9� years ago, but didn't kill the toddler.
Evidence, however, showed the boy did not drown and Wyatt's own confession after the child's Feb. 4, 1997, death, tied him to the slaying. Wyatt contended his statements to police were coerced.
Wyatt, who worked as a jailer in Bowie County, was the 17th prisoner put to death this year in Texas, the nation's most active capital punishment state. Three other condemned Texas prisoners are scheduled to die this month and are among at least nine convicted killers with execution dates through the end of the year.
Or not ...
Remorseless killer executed at Lucasville
By Alan Johnson
The Columbus (OH) Dispatch
Tuesday, August 8, 2006 11:34 AM
LUCASVILLE, Ohio - Remorseless to the end, Darrell Ferguson was executed today for the Christmastime murders of three elderly, disabled Dayton residents in 2001.
Ferguson, 28, died by injection at the 10:21 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.
He did not look at the victim's family, six of whom were observing from behind a glass wall. But he said to his parents, watching from an adjoining room, "Mom and dad, I love you both. I love you a lot. I wish you all the best."
His mother, Donna Davis, was crying and praying as she watched her son die. At one point she said, "I love you baby . . . you're in God's hands now."
Ferguson, who previously said he worshipped Satan, made a sign that some consider to be a symbol of the devil as he died. While he was on the lethal-injection table - with his left arm extended palm up - he extended his index and little fingers to make the sign and held that pose for several minutes before lapsing into unconsciousness.
Afterward, there was as little sympathy for Ferguson as he showed his victims, one of whom was on crutches, another had cancer, and a third was in a wheelchair.
Immediately after the execution, a family friend of one of the victims, Chris Purdue, said, "Goodnight. I hope he stays in hell forever."
Ferguson, a long-time drug user and high-school wrestler - he now weighs 285 pounds - taunted his victims' families at the sentencing phase of his trial two years ago when he said he took satisfaction and pleasure in killing their loved ones.
"I will never show any remorse, even on the day I die."
Ferguson was convicted for stabbing and stomping to death Thomas King, 61, on Christmas Day in 2001. The following day, he killed Arlie Fugate, 68, and his wife, Mae, 69.
Robbery was the motive in all three murders, officials said. Ferguson used the money to buy drugs.
Seeking a speedy execution, Ferguson waived what would have been years of legal appeals to hasten his death.
He was the fourth Ohioan executed this year and the 23rd since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.
East Texas killer executed
Tyler man convicted in case that prompted law.
By Michael Graczyk
Friday, August 25, 2006
HUNTSVILLE � Condemned prisoner Justin Fuller quietly went to his death Thursday evening for the abduction, robbery and fatal shooting of a Tyler man nine years ago.
In a brief statement, Fuller thanked his family and friends for their support.
"Let everyone know that you must stay strong for each other," he said. "Take care of yourselves."
He told the warden standing next to him, "That's it."
As the lethal drugs began to take effect, he looked at his parents watching through a window a few feet away and said, "I love you."
The parents and a sister of his victim watched through an adjacent window, but he didn't acknowledge them.
Eight minutes later, at 6:18 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Fuller acknowledged being nearby when 21-year-old Donald Whittington was killed at Lake Tyler on April 21, 1997, but he said he didn't fire the fatal shots.
Whittington's remains weren't discovered by police until four days after he went missing. Authorities said by then numerous people had seen the body, which was a topic of conversation at Chapel Hill High School near Tyler. A student at the school, which Whittington, Fuller and two others convicted in the slaying had attended, overheard some of the talk and called police.
The case inspired passage of a state law making it a crime to know about a body and remain silent about it.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Fuller's appeals hours before the execution. Fuller's lawyers alleged his attorneys were ineffective and failed to tell him about a proposed plea bargain that would have blocked a death sentence.
Samhermundre Wideman of Tyler and Elaine Hays of Red Springs are serving life sentences for their roles. Brent Chandler accepted 25 years and testified against Fuller.
Prosecutors said the robbery plot was hatched by Hays, Wideman's girlfriend, who believed Whittington had received $15,000 from a trust fund when he turned 21.
Fuller said they went to Whittington's home to retrieve rings Hays gave him in exchange for some cash. Whittington was sprayed with a tear gas, blindfolded and bound, and threatened with death if he didn't give up his ATM card and password. Chandler took clothing and items from the apartment and the other assailants threw Whittington in the back seat of his own car, drove to a bank and withdrew about $300, then went to the lake area where Whittington was killed.
Fuller told police he was urinating in the lake at the time of the shooting. His companions disputed his story.
"They said I was the triggerman," said Fuller, who blamed Wideman for the shooting. Whittington's ATM card was found in Fuller's wallet.
Fuller, whose 28th birthday would have been next week, was the 19th inmate executed this year in Texas, matching the total executions in the state for all of 2005.
Maybe this guy's claim should be in the strange defenses post.
I didn't kill him; I was taking a leak!
Frazier executed for slayings of woman, son
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Aug. 31, 2006, 9:17PM
HUNTSVILLE � Insisting he was innocent, condemned inmate Derrick Frazier was executed this evening for the slayings of a South Texas mother and her teenage son at their home nine years ago.
"I am innocent. An innocent man is being put to death. I've professed my innocence for nine years and I will continue to profess my innocence for another nine years," Frazier said.
He repeatedly told the woman he married by proxy that he loved her.
"Tell my people we must continue on. Do not give up the fight. Do not give up hope. We can make it happen," he said.
After again expressing love to the woman, who was sobbing as she watched through a window a few feet away, he told her: "Stay strong, Baby. I love you forever."
He was urging her to smile as the lethal drugs began taking effect. He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m., seven minutes later.
Frazier, 29, was the second convicted murderer to die for the shooting deaths of Betsy Nutt, 41, and her son, Cody, 15. Three months ago, Frazier's companion, Jermaine Herron, was executed.
He was the 20th Texas prisoner executed this year, one more than all of last year in the nation's most active death penalty state. At least seven other executions are scheduled for the remainder of year.
"He deserved just what he got, only a lot worse," Jerry Nutt, who lost his wife and only child in the killings, said after watching Frazier die. He also witnessed Herron's execution.
"I just wish I could have done it myself," he said. "I'd kind of liked to have been the one to push the button.
"I know that sounds pretty cold, but when you lose someone like I've lost, my wife and son, and you hear animals like that, playing the system, getting a stay, cruel and unusual punishment is us waiting on justice."
Less than an hour before his scheduled execution time, the justices rejected three petitions and requests for reprieves.
Frazier, who was born in Dallas and grew up in Galveston, blamed a coerced confession for convincing a jury to convict him of capital murder and the decision that he should be put to death.
"I wasn't there. I did not commit the crime," Frazier, also known by his Muslim name, Hasan al-Shakur, said last week from death row near Livingston.
But Michael Sheppard, the Refugio County district attorney who prosecuted Frazier and Herron, said Frazier was "cool as a cucumber" as he talked about the June 26, 1997, slayings.
"There are videotapes," Sheppard said of Frazier's discussions with detectives following his arrest. "He's sitting on a couch, drinking a Coke.
"In his confession he talked about details only someone in the house would know, where the bodies were, how many bullets were in them, where they were shot. They both said Herron shot Cody, handed the gun to Frazier, and Frazier shot Betsy Nutt. And bear in mind, they're giving these statements separately."
Evidence showed that when the pair knocked on the door of the Nutt family's mobile home, claiming car trouble and needing to make a phone call, the woman invited them in, gave them iced tea and offered to drive them in her pickup the 10 miles to town.
She was shot twice in the head. Her son was shot four times, including two shots to the head. Jerry Nutt found the bodies of his wife and son when he arrived home from work that day, June 26, 1997.
Frazier was scheduled to die April 27, three weeks before Herron, but won a reprieve from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. When the court lifted its reprieve two months later, the execution was reset for today.
Frazier blamed the slayings on Herron. Herron, testifying at his own trial, blamed them on Frazier.
According to court records, Frazier and Herron showed up at a home near the Nutt residence and inquired about work. Frazier's father once had been a ranch foreman in the area.
During the visit, they spotted guns in the house and decided to return to steal them. Evidence showed they came back the next day when the people who lived there were gone, broke in, sat around drinking in the house and watched as Betsy Nutt drove up to her place. Then they walked over and told her the story about their car breaking down.
After the shooting, they used her truck to carry loot from the neighbor's house, including some clothing Frazier was wearing when he was arrested in Victoria, about 30 miles to the north. The truck was found parked outside Frazier's apartment and items taken from the burglary were recovered from his girlfriend. Frazier's fingerprints were inside the truck.
Frazier had an earlier conviction for aggravated assault for shooting a man and a juvenile conviction for robbery. When he was arrested for the Nutt killings, he had assault charges pending against him.
Scheduled to die next is Farley Matchett, 43, facing lethal injection Sept. 12 for a robbery-slaying in Houston 15 years ago.
This is slightly OT, but that has never stopped me before. If you have ever attended and witnessed an execution, then you know Michael Graczyk, who is the associated press reporter assigned to cover all executions. When the killer of Fort Bend prosecutor Gil Epstein was given the needle a little over 2 years ago, I was contacted by Michael prior to the execution. I also spoke with him at the execution and afterwards. He really treated the Epstein family and friends, including myself, with great respect and dignity.
I suspect the job of reporting on executions might take a psychological if not physical toll on a person after a while. Attending an execution is a very surreal event, and attending the execution of the killer of my friend gave me some much needed closure and I hope that it has helped the wonderful Epstein family as much as it has me. Having a caring media person like Michael made a very difficult time much easier, since we all have seen worse sides of the media. Michael reports the truth, and treats those he interviews with extreme respect.
You make great point. All too often in this forum we are knocking the media for the poor quality reporting and outrageous editorials. I have had several conversations about d/p cases with Michael Graczcyk over the years. After seeing what he wrote on each occasion we spoke I know him for someone we can trust to accurately convey the news. He is the epitome of a responsible journalist. Society would benefit if we had many more like him.
Why are the lying last words of a convicted killer news?
Why indeed? But if someone has to report the last words of the condemned or the events leading to the execution of a sentence, let it be accurate.
And let the reporting of that incident be completely accurate, and let that reporter be VERY RESPECTFUL of the victim, victim's family and the State.
As you may have noticed in these articles, the defendant often denies responsibility for the crime, and often with different story than was presented at trial. Michael takes the time to report the actual facts of the crime, as found by a jury, and does not engage in liberal speculation and insinuations of innocence.
For the same reason that normal everyday people always slow down to look for a dead body at the scene of a horrible auto accident, so does the public want to know what the last words of the killer were.
And as John Stride so artfully stated, let them be accurate if they are to be reported.
Add me to the membership rolls. When I worked on capital cases, he was easy to work with and always seemed to get it right -- and by that, I mean that he actually reported the facts as they were, not as victims or defendants wished them to be.
If only the rest of his brethren could do the same ...
[Where is the news in this article?]
As his execution nears, an inmate opens up
The ex-crack addict asks: How much remorse is enough for crime?
By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Farley Charles Matchett needed another fix.
The crack addict had randomly knocked on doors in a northeast Houston neighborhood before he appeared at Uries Anderson's doorstep to ask for money. Anderson, who was related to Matchett by marriage, lectured him about his drug habit.
Anderson, who was home alone, may not have known how deep Matchett's desperation ran.
A day earlier in Huntsville, Matchett killed 74-year-old Melonee Josey with a meat hammer after she refused to give him money. The day before that, he severely beat 91-year-old Ola Mae Williams for the same reason.
Anderson's body was found two days later, on July 14, 1991. The 52-year-old father of four had been stabbed twice in the back and his head badly beaten with a hammer. Matchett was arrested when he tried to cash one of Anderson's personal checks.
He confessed to Houston police about the three-day crime spree and later pleaded guilty to Anderson's murder. On Tuesday, Matchett is scheduled to become the 21st man in Texas to die by lethal injection this year.
During a recent interview from death row, the 43-year-old spoke about his life before and after drugs, his court case and what he considers an unfair shake at the legal system with his state-appointed counsel. Matchett believes another review of his appellate case can spare his life.
"I live every day with what happened, and I regret what happened," he said. "How much remorse does society want me to show?"
Problems early on
Matchett was raised early on by his paternal grandparents in the East Texas town of Madisonville. His teenage mother lived in nearby Midway, and he rarely saw his father. After his mother, Annie Robinson, married, Matchett went to live with her in Grand Prairie near Dallas.
At 13, Matchett began to hang out on the streets and run errands for drug dealers and prostitutes. The bottom really fell out of his life when his 11-year-old sister was raped. Matchett said he blamed himself for not being around to protect her.
"It was the worst time of my life," Matchett said.
He dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Army, but soon learned that the life of solitude he had sought would not be found in the military. Matchett "lost interest" and was discharged in 1981 for being absent without leave, fighting with a private and possession of marijuana.
After the Army, Matchett worked as a truck driver, school bus driver and landscaper. He could make it through the week, but come Friday his addiction took hold and he "binge smoked."
"You couldn't get me to do nothing on the weekend," he said with a smile.
Matchett had at least two chances to quit his $600-a-day drug habit. In 1990, he was referred to a drug and alcohol program after he was charged with possession of marijuana. He never showed after his first visit, court records indicate. A year later, his mother enrolled him in a drug treatment program, but he was discharged after less than a month ? also just four months before Anderson and Josey were slain.
"He was not willing to listen and was closed minded," court documents state.
Matchett said the program wasn't the right fit. He insists his addiction should've been handled with medication.
"I could've got over my addiction, and I wouldn't be in this situation," he said.
For the sake of his appeal, Matchett was careful not to go into great detail about what landed him on death row 13 years ago. Still, he recalled hardly eating or sleeping in the days leading up to the homicides.
"I didn't realize what I had done," Matchett said.
Those words, conveyed to Anderson's eldest son, offered scant explanation why Matchett took his father's life.
"He's definitely caused pain in my life and throughout the lives of my family members," said Uries Anderson Jr., a Naval officer stationed in Norfolk, Va. "Will death suffice for his punishment? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it's up to the higher being. Let him decide."
Anderson said the last time he saw his father was just a few days before he was murdered. He was off to work, wearing his typical all-white painter's uniform. The younger Anderson was in Hawaii, celebrating his graduation from Kashmere High School, when he received word to return home. His mother, Lonnie, and 13-year-old brother, Lamarcus, were also out of town at the time.
Uries Anderson Jr. said he has lingering questions about what provoked Matchett.
"I want to know what happened in those closing moments," he said.
'Set up' by attorney
Matchett said he is sorry about what happened and has prayed for the ability to accept his fate.
But he won't give up until he gets another review of his case, Matchett said. He insists he was "set up" by his lead trial attorney, the late Donald Davis. He said Davis persuaded him to plead guilty after he assured him the death penalty was off the table as an option. Attorney Robert Morrow, who also represented Matchett during the trial, did not return repeated phone calls.
Roe Wilson, a Harris County assistant district attorney, said court records don't support Matchett's claim of a deal was to spare him from the death penalty. The punishment options should have been clear from the start of jury selection, she said.
By that point it was too late, Matchett said.
"He chose to finance his drug habit by murdering elderly people and stealing from them," Wilson said. "No, there's no sympathy for him."
Roy E. Greenwood, an Austin lawyer appointed to represent Matchett in the Huntsville cases, said he remains puzzled about Matchett's guilty plea. He said Matchett should have been able to argue in court that he killed Anderson in self-defense, but was prohibited by the plea.
"Why he (Davis) pled him guilty and blew off all these legal issues never made sense to me," Greenwood said. "You just don't give up with plea of guilty."
Matchett, whose federal and state appeals all were denied, also faulted his trial attorneys for not presenting mitigating evidence for jurors to consider a lesser punishment. He also claimed that court-appointed appellate attorneys botched his appeals.
No grounds for appeal
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake denied the assertion and wrote in a 2003 dismissal order that inmates' claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in post-conviction appeals is not grounds for court relief. The Supreme Court has recognized, he wrote, that there is no constitutional right to an attorney in state appeals.
Matchett accepted plea deals in the Huntsville cases. He received a life prison sentence for Josey's July 11, 1991, murder and 99 years in prison for attacking Williams.
Anti-death penalty groups and activists, including French actress Bridget Bardot, have latched onto Matchett's case. Matchett said he's touched by the support, but he's ready if he is executed Tuesday.
"I'll finally be free. Death is a bridge we all must cross, and if this is my time it's my time," Matchett said. "If I could turn back the hands of time, I would."
This incredibly slow process for the victim's family was a big factor in my first capital murder case plea to Life without Parole. Is there any way to know how many other such pleas have been heard the first year this new law came in to being? My victim was murdered on 9/11 exactly a year ago.Do you seasoned Capital murder prosecutors find this new law helps? My victims are worried that the Legislature may change the law and he'll parole out. How can I possibly assure them that won't happen?The Defendant was a parolee who had absconded from a half way house.How about building a new prison????
Once again some good reporting in today's article (Issues in Prosecution) on cocaine addict Matchett, who faces execution tonight.
Cocaine addict executed for 1991 Houston slaying
HUNTSVILLE Condemned prisoner Farley Charles Matchett was executed today for killing his uncle 15 years ago as part of a three-day violence spree that also left a woman dead and another seriously injured.
In a brief final statement, Matchett expressed love to his family "for standing with me throughout this situation. Stay strong and know I am in a better place. I ask for forgiveness."
He also asked the victim's family to "find peace in your heart" with his death and to move on.
Matchett said a short prayer and then thanked his friends and pen pals just before the lethal drugs began to take effect. "Don't let this be the end. Keep on going," he said. Seven minutes later at 6:16 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
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