Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Friday, January 21, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

BILLY GEORGE HUGHES SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Billy George Hughes who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Monday, January 24th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On the evening of April 4, 1976, Billy George Hughes checked into the Days Inn Motel in Brookshire (west of Houston), Texas, using a stolen credit card. When the clerk confronted Hughes in his room about the stolen card, she noticed a gun on his bed. The clerk then left Hughes's room to notify the motel security guard of the problem. After the clerk left his room, Hughes got into his car and sped away on Interstate 10 heading west.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)Troopers Jack Reichert and Mark Frederick pulled over the 1975 Ford LTD Hughes was driving on Interstate 10 near Sealy, Texas; they were responding to a dispatcher's report that a man driving a similar car had attempted to use a stolen credit card at a nearby motel. The troopers followed Hughes's car on Interstate 10 until it exited the highway. At this point, Trooper Frederick, who was driving, turned on the overhead lights, and Hughes pulled over to the shoulder of the exit ramp. Trooper Frederick exited the police car and walked up to the driver's side door of Hughes's car. Trooper Reichert got out of the patrol car almost immediately after Frederick did. Approaching the Ford behind Frederick, Reichert heard a muffled shot and observed Frederick grunt and lurch to the side. Hughes immediately sped away from the scene as Trooper Reichert fired six times at the fleeing vehicle. Trooper Reichert then called for assistance and tended to Trooper Frederick; however, Reichert could find no pulse. Trooper Mark Frederick was later declared dead in the ambulance en route to the Sealy Medical Center.

Upon hearing of the shooting, DPS Troopers Randall Baisch and Rodney Green were proceeding toward the scene when they discovered Hughes's abandoned car approximately three miles from the scene of the shooting. The troopers observed that the car had been struck by several bullets, and inside the car was a holster and a room key from the Days Inn Motel in Brookshire.

Soon thereafter, a massive manhunt began for Hughes, involving as many as five hundred law enforcement officers. Approximately two-and-a-half days after the shooting, Texas Ranger Ray Scholton, who was in charge of the investigation, received a report that a possible suspect had been sighted six miles south of Sealy. Ranger Scholton went to the location by helicopter, where he spotted Hughes hiding under a mesquite tree in a pasture. As the helicopter hovered a few feet above the ground, Hughes pointed a gun at the helicopter. As soon as Ranger Scholton pointed his gun out the helicopter at Hughes, Hughes dropped his weapon and was taken into custody.

A check of Hughes's car revealed that it had been reported stolen. A search of the car revealed the following items: one holster for an automatic handgun on the front seat, one holster for a revolver in the glove compartment, and the following items in the trunk of the car: a fully loaded .30 caliber carbine; a loaded, sawed-off short barrel twelve-gauge shotgun; a .300 Magnum rifle; extra .38 caliber shotgun ammunition; and a Halloween mask. Additionally, Hughes had a 9 millimeter handgun loaded with thirteen or fourteen rounds on him when he was captured.

Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk, who performed the autopsy on Trooper Mark Frederick, testified that the bullet that killed Frederick struck him on the upper left arm, exited on the inside of the arm, entered his chest on the left, and finally exited from his back upper-right mid-back. Trooper Frederick's aorta and heart were struck, resulting in internal hemorrhaging, shock, and then death. Dr. Jachimczyk found that the wounds that Trooper Frederick received were consistent with being shot with a 9 millimeter handgun, with Frederick's left side turned down toward the driver, and that the gun fired at Frederick was at least two feet away from him.

Ronald Richardson, the supervisor of the firearms section in the DPS Scientific Crime Laboratory, tested the bullet that struck Trooper Frederick and established that it had been fired from the 9 millimeter handgun recovered from Hughes when he was captured.

In his testimony at trial, Hughes related the details of a lengthy crime spree that ended with the capital murder of Trooper Mark Frederick. On January 21, 1976, Hughes rented a 1975 Ford LTD in Fair Hope, Alabama, which was to be returned on January 26, 1976. Hughes then drove to Pensacola, Florida, where he passed a worthless one hundred fifty dollar check. Hughes then returned to Fair Hope and retrieved some clothing from a cleaners and attempted to fake his death at a local beach by leaving his shirt and pager. Hughes then decided to head back to Pensacola, but he first bought gas and food with another worthless check.

Hughes only stayed in Pensacola for a day or two before leaving for Orlando. While in Orlando, Hughes stole some checks that he used to buy jeans, a jacket, a belt, and a hat. He then left Orlando for Daytona Beach, where he was robbed after leaving a nightclub. The next day, Hughes bought a suit, a pair of boots, a cane, a shotgun, and some shells with another stolen check.

Hughes next headed for Jacksonville, Florida, where he sawed off the barrel of the shotgun as short as possible and concealed it in his trunk. Hughes stayed in Jacksonville for a few days during which time he cashed a few more stolen checks and inquired into buying some more guns.

Hughes then went to Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville. While in Nashville, Hughes purchased a .45 automatic handgun with another stolen check and stole an Alabama license plate from another car. A few days later, Hughes returned to Chattanooga where he bought ten-dollar traveler's checks, cashed two, reported all ten stolen and received a one-hundred dollar refund.

Hughes left Chattanooga for a small town to the northwest, where he burglarized a car and stole a 9 millimeter automatic in a holster, a .45 pistol in a holster, a .300 Magnum rifle with a scope, a .30 caliber carbine, .38 caliber shells, and an empty holster. This theft occurred sometime during the second or third week of February. Hughes continued his trek throughout the southeast during the early spring of 1976. Hughes stopped in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore, Maryland. Hughes then headed into the Carolinas where he repeated his traveler's check scheme. Hughes returned to Nashville, Tennessee, where his car was broken into and two .45's were stolen. Hughes then left Nashville and headed for Montgomery, Alabama.

While in Alabama, Hughes stole Harold Martin's credit card, a diamond ring from Sam Caldwell, and some checks from Caldwell. Hughes used one of the stolen checks to buy a CB radio from Radio Shack. On March 30, 1976, Hughes left Montgomery for Louisiana, where he used Martin's credit card for food, motels, and gasoline. Hughes left behind some papers in Kenner, Louisiana, which detailed plans to continue the traveler's check scam, to rob a small-town bank, and to set up apartments in New Orleans, Daytona Beach, and Atlanta, and rob banks in the various cities.

Hughes left Louisiana for Texas, staying in Beaumont, Texas, on the night of April 2, 1976. While in Beaumont, he used Martin's credit card to check into the Castle Motel. Hughes continued heading west until he attempted to use Martin's credit card at the Days Inn in Brookshire on April 4, 1976. Hughes claimed that, after he left the motel and was pulled over by Troopers Frederick and Reichert, the troopers opened fire on him without provocation, whereupon he fired a blind shot out the window. Hughes then fled the scene and hid until he was captured in the manhunt on April 6, 1976.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In April 1976, a grand jury in Austin County, Texas, indicted Hughes for the capital murder of Mark A. Frederick, a peace officer acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty. The case was tried on a change of venue in Matagorda County, Texas, and Hughes entered a plea of "not guilty." On September 16, 1976, a jury found Hughes guilty of capital murder. Following a punishment hearing, Hughes was sentenced to death.

Hughes's conviction was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and was affirmed in a published opinion. On March 18, 1987, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted Hughes's application for state post-conviction relief and reversed his conviction because a prospective juror had been improperly excluded.

In June 1988, Hughes was retried for Mark Frederick's capital murder in the the 23rd District Court of Matagorda County, Texas. On June 9, 1988, a jury found Hughes guilty of the charged capital offense. Following a punishment hearing, Hughes was sentenced to death. Hughes' second conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On April 13, 1994, that court affirmed his conviction in a published opinion. Hughes' petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States on May 15, 1995.

On October 14, 1996, Hughes filed an application for state habeas corpus relief. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Hughes's request for relief on February 26, 1997. Hughes then filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court which was denied on October 14, 1997. On June 17, 1997, the trial court scheduled Hughes's execution for September 19, 1997.

On September 10, 1997, Hughes filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a motion to stay his September 19, 1997, execution in federal district court. On January 15, 1998, the federal district court denied Hughes's petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated the previously issued stay of execution. The court also denied permission to appeal. Hughes filed a notice of appeal on February 11, 1998, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 5, 1999, also denied permission to appeal. A petition for writ of certiorari is pending in the Supreme Court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Retired Agent Gene Owens of the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated a series of extortion attempts and bomb threats of three banks in Mobile, Alabama, from October 1973 until early 1975. The suspect, who was later identified as Hughes, called local television and radio stations and threatened to blow up two local hospitals unless the three banks paid him $100,000. Hughes also claimed to have kidnapped two small children. Hughes was later filmed by a television cameraman at prearranged drop sites. Hughes was indicted for extortion and pled guilty, receiving probation. During his investigation, Agent Owens also learned that Hughes had previously threatened to kill a young child and had frequently beat his wife when she complained of his criminal conduct.

Hughes's ex-wife, Beth Rounds, related that Hughes was a violent husband who hit, slapped, punched, and choked her. Both Rounds and Hughes were members of the Jehovah's Witnesses until Hughes was expelled from the group for incessant lying and bad-check writing. Rounds also corroborated Agent Owens's version of Hughes's extortion attempts, and she described Hughes as a methodical, deliberate person. Rounds further testified that Hughes liked guns and was a good shot, and that he once choked her until her mother intervened. Rounds finally stated that Hughes' criminal acts escalated during the time she knew him and that she felt Hughes would continue to commit violent criminal acts.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

Prior to his first trial, Hughes told examining psychiatrists that he had consumed large quantities of beer on the day of the offense which led to "spotty amnesia" around the time of the offense. However, at a second psychiatric interview prior to his second trial, he denied having any amnesia and stated that he recalled everything about the offense. His initial account of being intoxicated prior to the offense is also contradicted by testimony from other trial witnesses who observed him at that time.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

01/24/2000 Billy George Hughes (Austin County)
01/25/2000 Glen Charles McGinnis (Montgomery County)
01/27/2000 James Walter Moreland (Henderson County)
02/23/2000 Cornelius Goss (Dallas County)
03/01/2000 Odell Barnes, Jr. (Wichita County)
03/15/2000 Timothy Lane Gribble (Galveston County)
03/22/2000 Dennis Bagwell (Atascosa County)
04/12/2000 Orien Cecil Joiner (Lubbock County)
04/26/2000 Robert Earl Carter (Bastrop County)
05/03/2000 Caruthers Alexander (Bexar County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 204th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 40th since General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Gena Bunn, Chief of the Attorney General's Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050