Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive



Tuesday, May 23, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

RICHARD DONALD FOSTER SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Richard Donald Foster who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 24th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

At approximately 4:00 a.m., April 5, 1984, Tarrant County Sheriff's Deputy H.L. Rice was on patrol east of Azle on the Jacksboro Highway, also known as State Highway 199. He observed a "white over red" Chevrolet two-door, Texas license plate # GPW-857, parked on the southern service road, east of the Hob Nob Bar and about 15 miles from Springtown. There were two people in the car, the driver and a woman. Rice identified the driver as Richard D. Foster by Foster's Texas driver's license. Rice did not obtain identification of the woman at that time, but she was later identified as Vicki Easterwood. Rice spoke with Foster for about three minutes, then continued his patrol.

At 7:15 a.m. on April 5, Gary Cox woke up, showered, and got a cup of coffee. He left his wife and nine-day-old daughter at home and went to work at his combination feed store, convenience store, and gas station. Zack Leatherwood had leased the feed store to Gary Cox on April 1, 1984. The store was located on the same property as Leatherwood's home and was a mile from Cox's home and two miles west of Springtown. Mrs. Cox said that her husband had taken $300 in cash with him to open his store that morning.

Kenneth Davis had driven to Gary Cox's feed store at around 7:30 a.m. When he arrived at the store and got out of his truck, he saw a "real clean" older model General Motors car parked at the feed store. Davis described the car as red with a white half-vinyl top. Just as Davis entered the store, he heard an explosion. Suddenly across the store, a man with a shotgun pointed at Davis said, "Man, you better get the hell out of here." Davis replied, "'I'm leaving," and turned around and ran. When Davis got out of the store, he ran towards Leatherwood's house. Seeing Leatherwood, Davis yelled to warn him of what happened at the store. When Davis got to the Leatherwood's fence gate, he turned to look back at the store. He observed the red and white car leaving the store going west on Highway 199. At trial he identified a photograph of the car. In that photo, the car bears Texas license plate # GPW-857.

Leatherwood testified that as he was walking down to the feed store and got close to the rear of the store, he heard a gunshot and saw Gary Cox fall after he had been shot. Leatherwood then ran back to his house to get his shotgun. When he returned to the store, Leatherwood checked Cox's vital signs and determined that he was dead. Leatherwood then entered the feed store. He saw the cash drawer was open, change scattered on the counter, and a $5 bill laying on the counter. The cash drawer was empty.

At about 7:40 a.m., Linda Morgan arrived at Gary Cox's store to buy some milk. As she was leaving the parking lot, she passed a General Motors automobile with a "cream colored" vinyl top. Morgan later identified Foster as the driver of that car.

On April 28 and 29, 1984, Donald Teague, the chief deputy of the Parker County Sheriff's Office interviewed Vicki Easterwood, the woman in car with Richard Donald Foster. Easterwood led authorities to a stock tank located in a rural area. A scuba diver searching the tank found a satchel which contained items of clothing, a .12 gauge shotgun shell, and a sawed-off shotgun.

During a hearing in federal court in March 2000, Foster admitted, for the first time, the commission of the instant offense, claiming that it was an accident.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In July 1984, Foster was charged by indictment in the 43rd District Court of Parker County, Texas, with the capital murder of Gary Cox, committed during the course of a robbery or attempted robbery. Foster was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty. The jury found him guilty of the capital offense on November 9, 1985. Following a separate punishment hearing, the jury sentenced Foster to death.

Foster appealed his conviction and sentence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed the conviction and sentence on June 28, 1989, and denied rehearing on September 20, 1989. The United States Supreme Court denied Foster's petition for writ of certiorari on March 19, 1990. Foster then filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the convicting court on June 25, 1990. On October 25, 1991, the trial court recommended that relief be denied and, on June 17, 1992, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. In August 1992, Foster filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. The district court denied relief on May 21, 1999, and denied Foster permission to appeal. After filing a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Foster expressed a desire to withdraw his appeal. An evidentiary was held by the federal district court, after which the district court found that Foster's waiver of appeal was informed, voluntary, and intentional. On April 14, 2000, the Fifth Circuit granted Foster permission to withdraw his appeal.

PRIOR AND RELATED CRIMINAL HISTORY

At the punishment phase of trial, the State introduced evidence reflecting Foster's prior convictions for credit card abuse, an aggravated robbery committed on June 16, 1976, an aggravated robbery committed on June 21, 1976, and an aggravated robbery committed on June 22, 1976.

After the instant conviction and sentence of death, Foster was transported to the custody of the Texas Department of Corrections. In July 1986, Foster was transported to the Stephens County Jail in Breckenridge, Texas, to stand trial on kidnapping charges stemming from the bank-hostage situation. On August 3, 1986, Foster, accompanied by a female inmate, managed to escape from the jail with the use of a knife. The female inmate surrendered the following day, while Foster eluded an intensive manhunt for him. On August 7th, Foster carjacked a pickup truck from a teenager at gunpoint. While driving through a roadblock authorities had set up, the rear tires of the pickup truck were shot out. Authorities pursued Foster for several miles, then were able to apprehend him. On August 25, 1986, Foster pled no contest to four aggravated kidnapping charges relating to the bank-hostage situation and received four life sentences.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

Although evidence was presented at the punishment phase of trial reflecting that Foster had sought treatment for a drug problem upon his return from serving in Vietnam, no evidence was presented demonstrating that the instant offense was directly attributable to drug or alcohol use.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS 05/25/2000 James Edward Clayton (Taylor County)
05/31/2000 Robert Earl Carter (Burleson County)
06/01/2000 Ricky Nolen McGinn (Brown County)
06/12/2000 Thomas Wayne Mason (Smith County)
06/14/2000 Leonard Uresti Rojas (Johnson County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 216th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 52nd since Attorney General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Tommy Skaggs of the Capital Litigation Division.

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