Wednesday, June 30, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Charles Daniel Tuttle who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, July 1, 1999.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
In November of 1994, Tuttle and his friend David Landry left the Beaumont area and moved to Tyler. Neither man had employment in Tyler nor had a residence there. Landry contacted his aunt, Catherine Harris, who insisted the two men stay with her in her mobile home. Landry and Tuttle agreed to start giving Harris money when they "got on their feet." Around January of 1995, Landry and Tuttle both found jobs. Landry began giving Harris some money to help out with the bills. However, to Landry's knowledge, Tuttle never gave Harris any money. Landry observed that Tuttle spent his paychecks on "drinking, girls, and impressing people." On Sunday, February 19, 1995, Landry told Tuttle that, if he could not start paying some rent, Harris would ask him to move out on Monday. Tuttle indicated he had no problem with this and would move out on Monday.
Tuttle moved his belongings out on Monday and began sleeping nearby in his truck. He returned to the mobile home Tuesday morning, and every morning that week, after Harris left for work to eat and shower. Landry let Tuttle in before he left for work, instructing him to lock up when he left. Tuttle told Landry he watched the movie, "Natural Born Killers," three times on Thursday. Friday morning, February 24th, Landry reminded Tuttle that Harris normally came home early from work on Fridays and that Tuttle should be out of the house by noon. Although Tuttle normally called Landry when he left the house, he did not call on Friday. Landry suspected Tuttle had left town.
At around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. that Friday evening, Tuttle drove a green Dodge Dakota truck to the house of Jerrell Goodson, a neighbor of Harris. Goodson had met Tuttle before while fishing at a nearby creek. Tuttle asked Goodson if he wanted to buy Tuttle's old truck, a small Chevy S-10, which was parked down by the river. Goodson initially declined but later agreed to purchase the truck for $50. Goodson also bought a ring and a pearl necklace for $50, which Tuttle told him belonged to his ex-wife. Tuttle seemed to be in a hurry and did not appear to be intoxicated.
At 7:09 p.m. that night, Tuttle stopped at a liquor store in Henderson County. He charged $62.74 on Harris's MasterCard and signed David Landry's name to the charge slip. At approximately 8:30 p.m., Tuttle arrived at the house of Katherine Marino, an old friend. Tuttle told Marino that he was driving his boss's pickup truck and he had his boss's credit cards because he was going to pick up a "part" in Galveston. Tuttle said he had beer in the truck and it was "party time." Tuttle was drinking beer but did not seem to be drunk.
Landry, who had two jobs, worked until about 11:30 p.m. on Friday and returned to the mobile home at around 11:45 p.m. Landry did not see Harris, but did not expect to see her because she normally went country and western dancing on Friday nights. Landry noticed some red spots on the living room carpet which he thought were red Kool Aid or wine spilled by Harris. Landry walked back to his bedroom and went to bed. He woke up the next morning at around 8:00 a.m. and immediately went to see if Harris was awake because she had softball practice. Landry could not locate Harris in the home and her truck, a green Dodge Dakota, was not parked outside as it normally was. Landry became concerned as it was uncharacteristic of Harris to stay out all night. He looked for some type of message from Harris and found none. He went to the kitchen to make coffee. When he looked inside the refrigerator, he noticed they had no red Kool Aid, red wine, or red beverages of any kind. He reexamined the red spots on the floor and decided they smelled like blood. Landry then began searching the house and found Harris's body hidden in her closet under a pile of blankets and clothing. He called "911."
Emergency medical workers evaluated Harris's body and determined that rigor mortis had set in, indicating that she had been dead at least four to six hours. Harris had been struck at least ten times about the head and face with a blunt object, including a puncturing blow right between her eyes. Bruising was evident on both hands, indicating Harris probably attempted to defend herself. Investigators noticed two drag marks going down the hall, and discovered a claw hammer and a bloody towel hidden behind the washer and dryer. Family members later found a T-shirt belonging to Tuttle hidden behind the stove and Harris's purse and wallet, emptied of cash, in a cabinet. Tuttle's T- shirt had tiny spatters of blood on it, which were later shown to be consistent with Harris's DNA.
On Tuesday, February 28th, Tuttle knocked on the door of Alvin Savoy's house in Beaumont. Savoy had previously been Tuttle's neighbor. Tuttle was drinking a beer when he arrived. The two men purchased a six pack and Tuttle had another beer, then took one with him. However, Tuttle did not appear drunk. Tuttle was driving a green Dodge Dakota truck. He told Savoy that he had bought the truck from a guy in a bar using money he won gambling on a boat in Louisiana. He also showed Savoy a revolver he said he had bought for $50.
Police arrested Tuttle in his father's hospital room in Beaumont later on Tuesday afternoon. When arrested, Tuttle had Harris's loaded .357-revolver tucked into the waistband of his pants, two of Harris's credit cards in his wallet, and the key to Harris's truck in his pocket. Tuttle took police to Harris's truck which was parked on the second floor of the hospital parking garage. Investigators found Tuttle's clothing and boots in a bag in the cab of the truck. Blood stains on the boots matched Harris's DNA.
Tuttle gave two videotaped statements. In the first one, taken in Beaumont on the day of his arrest, Tuttle denied any memory of the events surrounding the murder, saying he had been drinking continuously since February 17th and had "black out spells." Tuttle said he first realized he was driving Harris's truck when he left the liquor store on Friday night. In the second statement, taken on Wednesday evening, March 1st, in Tyler, Tuttle eventually admitted killing Harris with the hammer. Tuttle said he felt desperate; he wanted to return to Beaumont and he didn't have money or gas or a working vehicle. Tuttle said he planned to hit Harris in the head with the hammer and knock her out, "like you see on T.V.," and then "she started screaming, and I lost it." Tuttle cried and stated that he deserved the death penalty.
On May 25, 1995, Tuttle was indicted in the 114th Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas, in Cause No. 4-95-396, for the capital murder of Catherine Harris. On February 27, 1996, Tuttle was convicted. A separate punishment hearing ensued and, on March 6, 1996, the trial court received the jury's responses to the special issues and assessed punishment at death.
Appeal was automatic to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On November 5, 1997, the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Tuttle's twenty-seven grounds of error, affirming the conviction and sentence of death. Thereafter, Tuttle filed a motion for rehearing. The Court of Criminal Appeals readdressed most of the issues in its opinion on rehearing, and again affirmed the judgment of the trial court on February 17, 1999.
On November 7, 1997, Tuttle filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court. On December 6, 1997, Tuttle wrote the court and requested to waive habeas corpus and have a date set for execution. On December 18, 1997, the state trial court requested a psychiatric examination to determine Tuttle's competency. The psychiatric examination indicated that Tuttle was competent to waive review of his conviction. On January 9, 1998, after an evidentiary hearing, Tuttle executed a "Waiver of Rights to Appellate Review: By 11.071 Writ of Habeas Corpus, Writ of Certiorari, Federal Writ of Habeas Corpus, or Any Other Appellate Vehicle." The state trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and found that Tuttle had freely, knowingly, and voluntarily withdrawn his habeas corpus application. On March 18, 1998, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law were supported by the record and dismissed the writ of habeas corpus.
Although no litigation is pending, the state trial court judge has agreed to enter a stay of execution up until the last minute and reinstate Tuttle's state habeas petition. Tuttle's state habeas attorney will attend the execution, and the state trial court judge will be available for any request to reopen state habeas proceedings.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence of Tuttle's prior felony convictions for forgery and delivery of a controlled substance. The State also presented extensive psychiatric evidence. The State's psychological experts opined that there is a high probability that Tuttle represents a continuing threat of violence.
DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL
There was evidence of possible drug or alcohol use in connection with the instant offense.
07/07/99 Tyrone Fuller (Lamar County)
07/13/99 Spencer Corey Goodman (Fort Bend County)
07/21/99 Reginald Lenard Reeves (Red River County)
08/05/99 Charles Anthony Boyd (Dallas County)
08/17/99 Larry Keith Robison (Tarrant County)
08/18/99 Joe Mario Trevino (Tarrant County)
09/01/99 Raymond James Jones (Jefferson County)
09/10/99 Willis J. Barnes (Harris County)
09/14/99 William Prince Davis (Harris County)
If this execution is carried out, it will be the 179th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 15th since General Cornyn took office. This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Christi Thompson.
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