Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Tuesday, June 12, 2001

MEDIA ADVISORY:

John Wheat Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on John Wheat, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, 2001.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On February 24, 1997, John Wheat was convicted of the July 30, 1995, murder of 19-month-old Lacey Anderson in Fort Worth, Texas. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

Angela Anderson lived in an apartment with her three children, seven-year-old Eddie, six-year-old Ashley, and 19-month-old Lacey. Wheat lived in the same apartment complex. On the evening of July 29, 1995, Wheat babysat Eddie and Ashley while Anderson was at work. Another neighbor took care of Lacey. The next morning, Ashley told her mother that the night before Wheat had kissed her on the lips and touched her in the genital area. Angela Anderson wrote a note, which Eddie delivered to Wheat, repeating Ashley's allegation and indicating that she was going to report it to the police.

Immediately after receiving the note, Wheat left his apartment with a loaded .22 pistol, a loaded .45 semiautomatic and extra clips, and went to Angela's apartment. He started firing the .45 at Angela as she fled upstairs; he also shot security guard Jesse Cranfield, who lived in the apartment above Angela's.

Angela fled to another apartment at the far end of the complex. She had already been shot at least twice by that time, and was trying to hide. Wheat chased her into the apartment and tried to shoot another resident who was blocking the door, but the .45 was out of ammunition. Wheat entered the apartment and found Angela in the closet of a back bedroom, and shot her twice in the head with the .22 pistol. (Angela sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the head, chest, and thigh. At the time of Wheat's trial, she still had bullet fragments lodged within her brain tissue because it would have been too risky to attempt to remove them.)

Wheat left that apartment, reloading his .45 as he went, and walked back to the apartment where Angela's three children remained. He found them in a back bedroom and shot each of them in the head. Wheat then returned to his apartment, retrieved a .30 caliber rifle, and started taking potshots at people standing in the common areas of the apartment complex. He shot a police officer who responded to the police dispatch, causing a life-threatening injury. Shortly after the police arrived, Wheat surrendered his weapons and asked them not to hurt him.

The children's bodies were discovered after a neighbor told to police officers at the scene that they were still in the apartment. Eddie was found kneeling next to a bed, his head lying on the bed in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the head. Police found Ashley in a corner of the same bedroom, curled up and shot in the head. Lacey, the baby, was found on the floor in a back room of the apartment, also shot in the head. Lacey was still breathing when she was found, but subsequently died after efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. Autopsies revealed that all three children died as a result of gunshot wounds to the forehead.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Wheat was indicted on October 29, 1995, in Tarrant County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Lacey Anderson, a child less than six years of age, on or about July 30, 1995. Wheat was tried before a jury following his plea of not guilty, and on February 24, 1997, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. On February 26, 1997, after a jury finding in a separate punishment hearing, Wheat received the death penalty.

Wheat's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's decision on April 21, 1999. The United States Supreme Court denied hearing the case. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Wheat's initial state application for writ of habeas corpus on May 26, 1999, and dismissed his supplemental application as an abuse of the writ on June 23, 1999.

On March 21, 2000, after conducting an evidentiary hearing, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, entered judgment denying Wheat's federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. On January 5, 2001, after hearing oral arguments of the parties, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied Wheat's request for a certificate of appealability to allow the appeal to proceed. The United State's Supreme Court denied Wheat's petition for writ of certiorari and application for stay of execution on June 4, 2001.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

There was no evidence of prior criminal history presented by the State at the punishment phase of Wheat's trial.

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