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Bizarre case ends in first death penalty in 13 years - Odessa American: Home

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Mark Sterkel

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    Odessa American
  • E-mail: msterkel@oaoa.com
  • Phone: 432-333-7774
  • Mark Sterkel is the managing editor at the OA. Follow him @OAPhotoEditor.

Courtney Sacco

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    Odessa American
  • E-mail: csacco@oaoa.com
  • Phone: 432-333-7716
  • Courtney Sacco is a photojournalist at the OA. Follow him @OASaccoPhoto.

Edyta Blaszczyk

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    Odessa American
  • E-mail: eblaszczyk@oaoa.com
  • Phone: 432-333-7716
  • Edyta Blaszczyk is a photojournalist for the OA. Follow her @OAPhotoEdyta.

Bizarre case ends in first death penalty in 13 years

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Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 1996 12:00 am

The Ector County district attorney's office ended the year with two rather bizarre capital murder trials, one resulting in the death penalty -- the first in 13 years.

In November, an astonishing description of a murder-for-hire scheme concocted by six teen-agers emerged during Lincoln Keith's capital murder trial. Keith, 19, was convicted of the October 1994 shooting of Rachel Juanita Green.

Prosecutors dumbfounded jurors with their outline of an elaborate plot in which Keith was the ringleader.

Following opening statements, the jury listened to several days of testimony -- including that of one teen who said Green's 15-year-old granddaughter, Melanie Green, orchestrated the murder because the elderly woman had forbidden her to date 19-year-old Josh Humphries.

Jurors decided that Keith did agree to kill the elderly woman in exchange for $400. It took them 21 hours to sentence Keith.

Only a few weeks later, District Attorney John Smith stood before another jury in a death penalty case. He described the gruesome murders of Manuel and Merced Aguirre, an elderly couple found stabbed to death in their home on April 22, 1994.

A medical examiner testified that Manuel Aguirre had been stabbed 11 times and had died in his easy chair. The witness couldn't say how many times Merced Aguirre was stabbed. But she fought hard for her life before she was “butchered,'' he testified.

It took jurors three hours to sentence Michael “Spider'' Gonzales to death.

The last person sentenced to death in Ector County was John Skelton, who killed Joe Neal in 1982 by placing a bomb in the victim's truck.

But Skelton was released in 1990 after an appeals court decided that jurors received incorrect instructions during his trial.

Two other men who received the death penalty during the 1970s also saw their cases overturned, according to Smith. Not since the 1950s has a death sentence been carried out, he added.

Other memorable events within the local courts during 1995 include:

In September, Ernesto Rayos, 16, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The teen-ager beat and choked Otilia Muro and then set her trailer on fire to hide any evidence he might have left behind.

Seventeen-year-old Levy Lee Edmondson Jr. was sentenced to life in prison in August for the 1994 roadside killing of highway patrolman Troy Merle Hogue after a Howard County jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of the death penalty.

In August, Ronald Martin, 50, was given probation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and photographing a 12-year-old girl. The girl was taken to Martin's home on four different occasions, according to testimony. During three of those visits, she was forced to perform sexual acts and then pose while Martin took pictures of her with a Polaroid camera, the girl told jurors. She also testified that she was taken to Martin's house by a family friend, Patsy Kuhse, who accepted money from Martin at least twice.

Two months after Martin's trial, Kuhse, 26, was sentenced to two 60-year prison terms for aggravated sexual assault of a child and two 20-year terms for sexual performance of a child.

Kuhse was convicted of selling the 12-year-old into prostitution and forcing her to pose while Martin took lewd pictures.

A 23-year-old Lubbock man was sentenced in July to 45 years in prison after he was convicted of aiding and encouraging the murder of a teen-ager.

Greg Hall gave 15-year-old Dominique Johnson a gun and ordered him to shoot Marcuz Tiwaun White.

White was shot four times in February with a semi-automatic pistol.

A teen-age gang member was sentenced in February to 18 years in prison for the 1994 murder of an Odessa man who was beaten and stabbed as he begged for help.

Ronnie Cullon, 17, was one of four teens charged in the death of Waylon “Joey'' Bradley who was attacked after he reportedly made a negative comment about a gang. Police have said Bradley was not a gang member.

Crispin Martinez was sentenced to life in prison in December 1994 for his part in the slaying. Robert John Brazeal, 18, pleaded guilty in July to a charge of aggravated assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Murder charges are pending against Gary Brewer.

In March, an Ector County jury ruled in favor of an Odessa attorney accused of legal malpractice by the former owner of Odessa's Hilton hotel.

Jurors found that Fred M. “Mickey'' Jones properly advised Alyson Allison of Midland when she signed an $8.4 million loan to purchase the hotel with her brother in 1986.

Allison claimed she had to pay the FDIC $3.4 million because Jones failed to tell her she was personally liable for the loan. The 11-person jury ruled Allison was negligent and failed to exercise care when conducting her financial transactions.

A 38-year-old Midland man was sentenced in March to 50 years in prison for aggravated assault in connection with the 1994 death of a former professional football player.

Don Jackson was prosecuted in Midland on the aggravated assault charge because prosecutors believed he played a contributing role in the death of James Zachary. One pathologist testified in the trial that Zachary died of blunt force trauma, but another pathologist testified he died from a cocaine overdose.

A co-defendant, Duann Dewayne Stewart, 18, had earlier been sentenced to 20 years in prison on a charge of manslaughter. A third defendant, Mable Stewart, has not been tried.

Also in March, a 29-year-old Odessa woman was sentenced to 99 years in prison forthe murder of her 3-month-old daughter, Elizabeth Shires.

Evelyn Shires was also convicted of four counts of causing serious bodily injury to the baby's twin, Victoria Shires. Defense attorneys argued that Shires was under extreme stress and the babies were injured when she tried to stop them from crying.

Earlier, Court Appointed Special Advocates initiated Project Elizabeth, a program to monitor new mothers who test positive for illicit drugs. Officials said the program was named after Elizabeth Shires.

City Editor Patricia Gordon contributed to this report.

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