Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY

Claude Howard Jones Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Claude Howard Jones who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, December 7th.

Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the November 1989 murder of Allen Hilzendager, the owner of a liquor store in Point Blank, Texas.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On November 14, 1989, Jones and two other men, Kerry Dixon and Mark Jordan, gathered at the home of Jordan's father. Between 4 and 4:30 in the afternoon, Jones and Dixon left and drove to Zell's liquor store where Allen Hilzaendager was. Before they left, Jordan gave the men his Taurus .357 magnum revolver, which had been purchased by Jordan's girlfriend, Terry Hardin. Jordan stayed behind at the mobile home.

That same day, Leon Goodson and his 14-year-old daughter Wendy were busy working on their family vehicle at a friend's house located across the highway from Zell's liquor store. While assisting her father, Wendy saw a pickup truck pull into the front of the liquor store. The passenger, who was wearing a light-colored shirt with long sleeves and had a "pot" belly, got out of the truck and greeted Hilzendager. Hilzendager placed his arm around the man and they went into the store. The driver of the truck then turned the truck around on a nearby road, turned his lights off, and pulled up beside the store. Through a window in the front of the store, Wendy could see Hilzendager walk around the side of the counter. Two minutes later, Wendy heard two gun shots in rapid succession, and after a short pause, she heard another. She then asked her father, "Do you think they shot him?" Mr. Goodson, who was on the ground fixing the car at the time, heard the three bangs, but dismissed them thinking that Hilzendager might be banging on some metal doors.

After hearing his daughter's words, however, Mr. Goodson stopped working on the car, stood up, and looked across the street. He and his daughter observed the man walk from the front of the counter to behind the counter, then out from behind the counter again. The door to the store was then pulled open and the man came out walking very briskly. According to Mr. Goodson, the man appeared to be a white male, in his forties, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 200 to 230 pounds in weight, wearing a tight fitting gray jogging shirt and had a "beer belly." The man got into the passenger side of the vehicle, and the vehicle was driven off toward Oakhurst at a high rate of speed.

Several minutes later, after finishing the repairs, the Goodsons drove across the street to check on Hilzendager. After calling for Hilzendager, Goodson stepped up toward the counter and, through the storeroom door, saw the lower part of Hilzendager's torso and legs lying in a pool of blood. Goodson immediately left the store, got into his car, and went back to his neighbor's house to call the ambulance and police. Goodson then returned to the store and checked to see if Hilzendager was breathing. After determining that Hilzendager was not alive, he waited for the authorities to arrive at the scene.

Law enforcement officials found the body of Allen Hilzendager lying on the floor in the doorway of the storeroom. He had received three gunshot wounds. Hilzendager received wounds to his right shoulder area under the collar bone, to his right lower abdomen, and to his back. A crime scene expert believed that the first shot was the one to his upper left back, which resulted in a severed aortic artery and a punctured lung. The second shot, which was fired between 18 to 24 inches from the victim, was made as the victim held up his hands. The third shot struck Hilzendager in the side as he lay on the floor.

Hilzendager's sister, who occasionally worked at the liquor store, estimated that $900 was stolen from the cash register in the store. However, approximately $6,000 was left in the store in a bag pushed up under the counter near the floor. Another $1,000 was left in a bank bag under the cash register.

After the murder, Jones told friends of his that he had killed Hilzendager because he was gay.

EVIDENCE

  • The Goodsons testified at trial.
  • One of Hilzendager's friends, William Johnson, testified that he stopped by the liquor store around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. on the day of the killing and discussed deer-hunting plans with Hilzendager. Johnson talked to Hilzendager for about 30 minutes and apparently everything was normal. Sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., Johnson drove by the store and saw what he believed to be a light blue Ford pickup truck backed up and parked near some trees with its lights off. A luminescent back porch light was shining upon the truck, and he could clearly see the distinctive white brush guard on the front of the truck. The description matched the description of the truck that Jones and Dixon drove to the store.
  • Magee contacted the parole board and the Walker County Sheriff's Department and discovered that the suspect's full name was Kerry Daniel Dixon. Magee went to Dixon's last known residence in Conroe and saw a brown truck with a white "guard rail" resembling that described by William Johnson. Photos were then taken of the truck. Magee immediately contacted Texas Ranger Tommy Walker and Sergeant Linda Hunter, with the San Jacinto Sheriff's Office, and relayed this information.

  • Texas Ranger Tommy Walker collected hair fragment samples from the crime scene. An expert in hair analysis compared hairs collected at the crime scene with hair collected from Jones, Dixon, Hilzendager, and several law enforcement officials who investigated the scene. One of the hairs at the crime scene was distinguishable from everyone's, except Jones'. The expert noted that Hilzendager's hair and Jones' hair were "very close" in appearance; however, there were slight, but consistent differences.
  • Terry Hardin testified that Mark Jordan was at the trailer with her when the murder occurred and that Jones was wearing a gray sweatshirt that night.

CRIMINAL HISTORY

  • Evidence was admitted that Jones had been convicted of burglary of a habitation at night, theft, and three counts of robbery by assault in 1959, and was sentenced to concurrent nine-year terms of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Corrections.
  • Pen packets were admitted showing that Jones was also convicted of theft in 1963 and received a sentence of five years incarceration. Additionally, after moving to Kansas, Jones was convicted in April 1968 of first-degree robbery and possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment on the robbery charge and five years on the firearm charge.
  • On May 30, 1968, while in the Kansas penitentiary, Jones was convicted of first-degree murder "by throwing a combustible liquid on . . . James Tarr and igniting the liquid, causing . . . James Tarr's, death."
  • Further, Jones was also convicted of aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer. Jones was given a life sentence for the murder offense and 20 years for the battery.

PUNISHMENT PHASE TESTIMONY

At the punishment phase of Jones' trial, Mark Jordan testified that on November 13, 1989, Jordan, Dixon, and Jones all traveled to Oklahoma City. On Friday, November 17, 1989, the men then traveled to Humble, Texas. Jones was going to show Jordan "how to make fast money" by robbing a bank. Dixon pulled into the parking lot in his white Nissan truck, and Jones got out of the truck, taking the weapon used to kill Hilzendager and a white plastic bag with him. Once inside, Jones walked up to one of the tellers, handed her the plastic bag, and told her to fill up the bag and to remain quiet and calm or he would kill her. She began filling up the bag, but at some point hesitated. Jones then showed her the butt of the gun and again told her to put it all in the bag or he would kill her. The teller then put the rest of the money into the bag. Jones exited the bank and returned to the truck. Dixon then drove the men back to his mobile home in Conroe and the three men divided up between $14,000 and $16,000 in three ways. Some of the money was used to purchase airline tickets to Las Vegas that weekend. While in Las Vegas, Jones admitted to Jordan that he "killed that queer son-of-a-b---- in that liquor store."

APPEALS

To date, Jones' case has been reviewed by seven courts, state and federal. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has previously granted Jones a stay of execution. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Jones' in October.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

01/09/2001 Jack Wade Clark (Lubbock County)
01/18/2001 Alvin Goodwin (Montgomery County)
01/22/2001 Steven Anthony Butler (Harris County)
02/08/2001 Adolph Gil Hernandez (Lubbock County)
04/03/2001 Jason Eric Massey (Ellis County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out it will be the 240th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the74th since General Cornyn took office.

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