HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A man convicted of murdering three people during a night of robberies more than 13 years ago in Fort Worth was headed to the Texas death chamber Wednesday evening in what would be the nation's first execution of the year.
Curtis Moore, 40, exhausted his appeals in the courts and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles earlier this week refused a clemency petition that said he could be mentally retarded and ineligible for the death penalty. Courts earlier rejected similar mental retardation claims.
Moore was the first of six prisoners scheduled to die this month in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state.
He already made one trip to the Huntsville death house, in 2002, but was returned less than three hours before he could have received lethal injection when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed his mental retardation claims could be reviewed. Last October, the high court refused his appeal, clearing the way for Wednesday's punishment date.
Moore was condemned for the fatal shootings of Roderick Moore, 24, who was not related to him, and LaTanya Boone, 21, both of Fort Worth. The two were found shot to death in a roadside ditch across from a Fort Worth elementary school in November 1995.
That same night, firefighters summoned to put out a car fire found Darrel Hoyle, 21, of Fort Worth, and Henry Truevillian Jr., 20, of Forest Hill, shot and burned.
Truevillian, robbed of $5, was dead. Hoyle, robbed of $150, survived and helped lead police to the arrest of Moore and his nephew, Anthony Moore, then 17.
The three men were abducted after agreeing to meet Curtis Moore and his nephew at a stable where Roderick Moore boarded and trained horses. Boone was abducted from the apartment she shared with Roderick Moore, her boyfriend.
Testimony at Curtis Moore's trial showed the shootings culminated a drug ripoff, that he doused Hoyle and Truevillian with gasoline and ignited them as they were bound and in the trunk of a car.
Hoyle, who regained consciousness six days after he was attacked, gave information that led authorities to Moore's nephew, who also was known as "Kojak." Hoyle also told authorities he didn't know the name of Kojak's partner but that he drove a pink truck.
Curtis Moore had such a vehicle and he and his nephew were both arrested about two weeks later.
Moore's hands and arms still showed burns he suffered when authorities said he tried to keep Hoyle from fleeing the flames.
At the punishment phase, prosecutors showed jurors Moore's violent past, including prison time for theft, robbery and weapon and drug possession. Testimony showed he was responsible for a stabbing while in jail awaiting trial.
"He kept giving us more evidence," Joetta Keene, who prosecuted Moore, recalled.
Moore blamed his nephew, who pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in exchange for two life prison terms, for the slayings and contended he tried to rescue the victims from the burning car. But he acknowledged holding them at gunpoint and ordering them hogtied and stuffed into the trunk of the car.
Moore's trial lawyer, George Gallagher, said once jurors convicted Moore, there was little he could to prevent them from deciding on the death penalty because Moore wouldn't allow him to put on an aggressive case during punishment.
"When he was found guilty, he said if they want to kill me, let them kill me," Gallagher, now a state district judge, said. "He told us: Don't put on any mitigating stuff."
He also didn't want family members put on the stand for him or any kind of psychiatric testimony that might be favorable to him.
"Do you disregard the client's instructions?" Gallagher asked. "It's his case. It was an interesting, tough, ethical position he put us in."
Keene, who described Moore as a mean cold-blooded killer, said it was nonetheless sad "when citizens say there's absolutely nothing redeeming about a person to save his life."