Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Friday, July 20, 2001

MEDIA ADVISORY

Richard William Kutzner scheduled to be executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Richard William Kutzner, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, 2001.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

Kutzner was convicted and sentenced to death in September 1996 in Montgomery County District Court for the brutal strangling death of Kathryn Harrison. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

Kathryn Harrison owned and operated a real estate business in Spring, Tx. Her body was found by a coworker on Jan. 22, 1996, in her real estate office. Police officers called to the scene found the victim lying face down with her wrists bound with red plastic-coated wire and her ankles locked in a cable tie. A cable tie was also secured tightly around her neck. The victim's purse had been turned inside out, and a computer keyboard and a videocassette recorder were missing from the office.

Just 17 days earlier, on Jan. 5, 1996, Rita Sheron Van Huss was found strangled to death in her living quarters, adjacent to the self-storage business she managed in Houston. Van Huss's wrists, ankles, and neck were tightly bound with cable ties. Missing was Van Huss's purse, containing $300 to $400 in cash; two money orders, one for $300 and one for $10; her jewelry and approximately $40 in petty cash from the self-storage office.

When Harris County detectives learned of Harrison's murder, they immediately recognized the similarities and contacted Montgomery County authorities. Investigators discovered Kutzner had cashed the $300 money order at a Houston check-cashing business. The money order bore the name of Roy Landry, but it was Kutzner who endorsed and cashed it according to the clerk who recognized Kutzner as a repeat customer.

Kutzner and Roy Landry became suspects in the Harrison investigation, and on Feb. 21, 1996, several detectives went to Kutzner's house. Kutzner was not home at the time, but one of the detectives spotted and recovered a 30-inch white plastic cable tie from Kutzner's driveway.

Kutzner's truck had been repossessed and taken to A.W. Enterprises, a Houston used-car dealer. Subsequent investigation revealed that Kutzner had confronted and threatened to unleash his dogs on the employee sent to repossess the truck. Kutzner was offered several opportunities to remove any personal property he had in the truck, but he refused.

A.W. Enterprises received the truck on the next business day. Upon its delivery, all personal items were removed from the truck and secured in a locked storage building at the used-car lot. A day or two later, Kutzner called to inquire about the possibility of retrieving his personal belongings.

On Feb. 22, 1996, a detective went to the car lot to look for Kutzner's truck and inquire if any personal items had been left in the truck. A search warrant was obtained for seizure of the items, which included four plastic cable ties and fourteen gauge red electrical wires. Kutzner's fingerprints were discovered on Van Huss's $10 money order, that was found among the items removed from the truck. Also found was a tenant information sheet from Van Huss's self-storage business and a partially completed lease agreement dated Jan. 5, 1996.

Later that night, officers went to arrest Kutzner at his residence. When officers received no response to their knocks, they entered and searched for Kutzner. They obtained another search warrant in order to seize wire and cable ties found in Kutzner's garage. The wire which was wrapped around the victim's wrists, the wire recovered at the used-car lot and the wire recovered from Kutzner's home all bore the same identification numbers, the last of which was a classification number indicating the pieces of wire were all of the same type and had all been manufactured by the same company. This wire was not common in Montgomery County. Additionally, the cable ties all carried the same manufacturer's name. Kutzner was later arrested at another friend's home.

The videocassette recorder and computer keyboard taken from Harrison's real estate office were later recovered in the homes of Kutzner's friends and were identified by Harrison's coworker. Harrison's notes, found in her office, indicated that Kutzner had posed as a potential customer on Jan. 1, 1996. This matched the mode of operation in the Houston murder, where Kutzner had posed as a potential customer by completing a lease agreement for self-storage.

Roy Landry testified at trial that he had known Kutzner for many years and had worked for him in the air conditioning business. Landry told the jury that four or five months prior to Harrison's murder, Kutzner suggested that Landry should rob an elderly lady who worked alone in an office. Landry asked Kutzner why he did not commit the robbery himself if it was so easy, and Kutzner told him the office was too close to where he lived. Harrison's real estate office was about a mile and a half from where Kutzner lived.

A remodeling contractor that had worked for Kutzner told the jury that on at least three separate occasions Kutzner had commented that there were no serial numbers on items like cable ties and "if you ever wanted to kill anybody, this would be a good thing to use." An FBI forensic physical scientist specializing in tool mark identification examined the cable ties around the victim's neck and ankles and determined they had been cut by the tin snips recovered from among Kutzner's personal belongings at the auto lot.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

March 7, 1996 - A grand jury indicted Kutzner in the 359th Judicial District Court of Montgomery County, for the capital offense of murdering Kathryn Harrison in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery. Kutzner pleaded not guilty.

Sept. 5, 1997 - A jury found him guilty of the capital offense.

Sept. 8, 1997 - Following a separate punishment hearing, the court assessed Kutzner's punishment at death.

Nov. 5, 1998 - Kutzner filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court. The trial court subsequently entered findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that Kutzner's application be denied.

June 9, 1999 - The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas affirmed his conviction and punishment in a published opinion. Kutzner did not petition the Supreme Court of the United States for writ of certiorari.

June 23, 1999 - The Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the findings and conclusions of the trial court and denied the application.

Jan. 13, 2000 - Kutzner filed a federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

July 19, 2000 - The federal district court denied habeas relief and permission to appeal.

Feb. 16, 2001 - The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied permission to appeal. Kutzner did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari review.

July 16, 2001 - Kutzner filed a motion for DNA testing in the trial court.

July 20, 2001 - Kutzner filed a second application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court.

July 20, 2001 - Motion for DNA testing was denied by the trial court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

During trial, the State proved that Kutzner had served several years in a California prison for an armed robbery committed in the late 1960s. The State also showed he had been convicted for theft of stolen property in Johnson County in May 1984 and had four convictions for aggravated robbery from 1985. Finally, the State proved that on Jan. 5, 1996, just two and a half weeks before Kathryn Harrison's murder, Kutzner murdered Rita Sheron Van Huss in Harris County under similar circumstances. Kutzner also received the death penalty for Van Huss's murder.

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