Wednesday's execution first of five this month - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Wednesday's execution first of five this month

Tony Roach, 1999 Mug shot Tony Roach, 1999 Mug shot

By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A drifter set to die this week for killing an Amarillo woman is the first of five convicted killers scheduled for lethal injection this month in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.

Tony Roach, 30, from Greenville, S.C., faces execution Wednesday for strangling 37-year-old Ronnie Dawn Hewitt after breaking in her apartment nine years ago. His punishment would bring to 24 the number of executions in Texas this year, equaling the total for all of last year.

Four men were executed last month, including two last week. A third set to die last week, Kenneth Foster, received a commutation from Gov. Rick Perry. Foster's supporters and death penalty opponents waged an intense campaign pointing out Foster was not the triggerman in the fatal shooting case in San Antonio that resulted in his death sentence. Perry's unusual commutation sent Foster to a life prison term.

No similar campaign has surfaced for Roach or the four other men headed to the death chamber in September.

Roach's lawyer, Joe Marr Wilson, said last-minute appeals weren't likely and he had no fodder for a commutation request.

"Commutation facts aren't really there," Wilson said. "It's a bad deal, but he's just kind of the middle of the road and kind of hard to do anything with."

Roach had a lengthy juvenile record and had just been paroled from a prison in his home state. He left a trail of offenses from South Carolina to Florida, to Texas and then Oklahoma, where he was arrested about two weeks after Hewitt's body was found. Evidence showed he raped her after she was strangled, then set her apartment on fire. Firefighters discovered her.

"Physically brutal, totally wanton," said Rebecca King, the Potter County district attorney who prosecuted the case.

Joseph Lave, convicted out of Dallas County, is set to die next week, followed by Clifford Kimmel, set for Sept. 20, from Bexar County. A Harris County case, Michael Wayne Richard, is scheduled for Sept. 25. Two days later, it's Carlton Turner, also out of Dallas County.

The record for executions in the state is 40, set in 2000. Only one - Heliberto Chi, from Tarrant County, in October - is scheduled so far over the last three months of the year.

Lave, 42, was condemned for a 1992 robbery at a sporting goods store in the Dallas suburb of Richardson where two 18-year-old employees, Frederick Banzhaf and Justin Marquart, were beaten with a hammer and had their throats slit. A third employee survived a similar attack and information from her led to Lave's arrest. Another participant in the robbery was killed by police, and a third was sentenced to life in prison.

Kimmel, 32, pleaded guilty to the fatal stabbing of three people during a robbery at a San Antonio apartment in 1999. A second man, Derrick Murphy, is serving life in prison. Kimmel said he and Murphy injected the three victims with a household cleaner to try to drug them and rob them before they were stabbed to death.

Richard, 48, was condemned for the rape and robbery of Marguerite Dixon, 53, after breaking in her home in Hockley, northwest of Houston, 21 years ago. An appeals court threw out his first conviction. At his second trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death again.

Turner, 28, was convicted of fatally shooting his adoptive parents at their suburban Dallas home in August 1998. The bodies of Carlton Turner Sr., 43, and his wife, Tonya, 40, were dragged through the house and dumped in the garage where they were allowed to decompose in the summer heat.

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