Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Monday, May 8, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

WILLIAM JOSEPH KITCHENS SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on William Joseph Kitchens, who is scheduled to be executed, after 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 9th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On the evening of May 16, 1986, 11 or 12 female employees of United Cable of Abilene, including 25 year old Patricia Webb, gathered for an office party. The women first went to a restaurant, then some went to a night club, and, later, to a second night club, the Silver Bullet saloon. The women arrived at the Silver Bullet at around 9:30 p.m. William Joseph Kitchens was at the Silver Bullet, having taken a taxi cab there from an Abilene motel where he was staying. Although a stranger to the group of women, Kitchens appeared friendly and danced with several of them, including Patricia Webb. None of the women observed any evidence that Kitchens and Webb had "paired off" during the evening or otherwise appeared to be developing a relationship. When the Silver Bullet closed, the women, and Kitchens, returned to the first club to get their cars. During the return trip to the first club, Kitchens was in a different car than Webb. In the parking lot, the group discussed whether the party was going to continue. Webb said that she was going to drive Kitchens home, and at about 12:15 a.m., Webb and Kitchens got in her white Pontiac Fiero. Webb waved good-bye to her friends and co-workers as she drove from the parking lot. One of her good friends testified that there was no indication that Webb, who was happily married, intended to have an affair with Kitchens that night, and that Webb was not the type of person to have an intimate encounter with a stranger. Similarly, James Webb, testified that he and Patti had a happy marriage.

A woman staying at the same motel as Kitchens testified that she had seen a man who resembled Kitchens catch a cab from the room next to hers on the evening of May 16th. Later that evening, at around 12:45 a.m. on May 17th, the woman heard the door of the adjoining motel room slam. About 15 minutes later, she heard a car start then saw a light-colored, two-door, low-profile sports car, occupied by two people, drive away from the motel. Kitchens was next seen at a game room in Blanchard, Oklahoma, at about 11:00 p.m. on May 17th. Later that evening, he was seen at a party in Blanchard driving a white Fiero with Texas license plates.

At about 3 a.m. on the morning of May 18th, a police officer in Blanchard saw a white Fiero speed off from a light. The officer pursued the car at speeds of up to 90 miles an hour for about two miles until the car turned off on a dirt road. The officer lost sight of the car, but soon found it stuck in a ditch and abandoned. Several of Webb's credit cards, her checkbook, and her driver's license were found in the car. Nearby, the officer found a shirt on a barbed-wire fence with dried blood stains on it.

After running from the police, Kitchens returned to the party where he had been earlier in the evening. Kitchens said that he had wrecked his car after being chased by the police. He was not wearing a shirt and had a gun. When people told him to hide the gun from the police, Kitchens said, "I ain't scared of them," and "I'll use the gun on them. I'll use it on you all." Kitchens also said that he had used his shirt to wipe his fingerprints off of the car. When he left the party, Kitchens said he was going to his parents' house. His mother confirmed that he arrived at her house that morning without a shirt and said that he had wrecked his girlfriend's car.

Officers eventually located Kitchens at his parents' house and arrested him. After Kitchens was taken to jail, officers returned to his parents' home and got permission to search for the pistol. Kitchens' mother gave police the gun, a .22 caliber revolver. Kitchens later gave a written statement confessing to killing Webb. Kitchens stated that he met the victim in Abilene, went back to his motel with her and had sexual intercourse, then the two went for a drive, ending up on a dark, wooded road. Though he did not remember everything, he told the officers he remembered shooting the victim in the head in the woods.

Officers in Abilene contacted Kitchens by telephone and asked whether he would agree to come back to Abilene to help them locate the victim, in case she was still alive. Kitchens informed them that he knew she was dead because he had shot her in the head. Nevertheless, Kitchens gave the officers detailed directions that allowed the Abilene officers to locate Webb's body and purse at locations outside of town. Webb was found fully clothed, except for one shoe which was never recovered. Her purse contained no money or credit cards, and the internal compartments of the wallet in the purse had been torn. Officers from Abilene then went to Oklahoma and obtained another statement from Kitchens in which he stated that he had killed the victim and then drove her car from Abilene to Fort Worth and then to Oklahoma.

An autopsy revealed that Webb had been shot in the eye from between six and twelve inches away with a .22 caliber bullet. Though the shot to the eye was a cause of death, an additional cause of death was strangulation. Webb had bruising on both sides of her face, lips, chin, neck, the back of her head, the right side of her chest. There was bleeding from two areas of the scalp. The bruising of the right side of the face was caused by a blunt object with an edge. There was also evidence that Webb had been raped. Tests revealed sperm was found on Webb's body. Additionally, the shirt found near the wrecked Fiero in Oklahoma was found to contain blood that matched Webb's blood type.

Finally, Kitchens testified at the punishment phase of trial and admitted to telling a police officer that he had decided to kill the victim at the motel. He admitted that he "may have" forced the victim to take him out to the secluded wooded area where she was killed. He admitted telling an officer that he had opened her car door and yanked her out of the car by her hair, grabbed her by the throat, and led her into a wooded area where he shot her. Kitchens' explanation was that, at the time, he was drunk and believed that he was doing these things to his wife.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In June 1989, Kitchens was charged by indictment in the 350th District Court of Taylor County, Texas, with the capital murder of Patricia Webb, committed during the course of kidnapping, robbery, and/or aggravated sexual assault. Kitchens was tried before a jury upon a plea of guilty to murder but not guilty to capital murder. The jury found him guilty of the capital offense on August 28, 1986. Following a separate punishment hearing, pursuant to state law, the trial court assessed Kitchens' punishment at death.

Kitchens appealed his conviction and sentence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed the conviction and sentence on October 30, 1991, and denied rehearing on December 4, 1991. The United States Supreme Court denied Kitchens' petition for writ of certiorari on June 1, 1992. Kitchens then filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the convicting court on February 4, 1993.

After a two-day evidentiary hearing and the entry of findings of fact and conclusions of law by the convicting court, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief on November 27, 1996. In September 1997, Kitchens filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Abilene Division. The district court denied relief on November 26, 1997, and later denied Kitchens permission to appeal. On August 10, 1998, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Kitchens permission to appeal two issues. On September 28, 1999, after full briefing and oral argument, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief. Kitchens did not file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

At the punishment phase of trial, the State introduced evidence that Kitchens had previously been convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon, resulting from Kitchens firing a .22 caliber pellet rifle at officers who had surrounded his house in 1982. Kitchens resisted arrest in that incident and possessed two shotguns, a rifle, and the .22 pellet rifle at the time. Kitchens told one of the officers that he would have killed someone if there had not been so many of them. Kitchens also threatened to kill one of the officers in the future.

The State introduced the testimony of a woman whom Kitchens had raped in Oklahoma in 1985. During that offense, Kitchens slapped and strangled the victim to the point of nearly passing out. He also threatened to kill her. The same woman reported that she had seen Kitchens start a fight with someone once and also throw another woman down some stairs. Evidence was introduced reflecting that Kitchens had additional previous convictions for concealing stolen property and driving while intoxicated (two convictions).

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

According to Kitchens, his violent criminal history, including the instant offense, stemmed from alcohol and/or drug use.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS 05/09/2000 William Joseph Kitchens (Taylor County)
05/11/2000 Michael Lee McBride (Lubbock County)
05/23/2000 James Davis Richardson (Navarro County)
05/31/2000 Robert Earl Carter (Burleson County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, the 213th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 49th since General Cornyn took office.

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