Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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Media Advisory: Elroy Chester scheduled for execution

HOUSTON – Pursuant to a court order of the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, Elroy Chester is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on June 12, 2013.

Elroy Chester pled guilty to capital murder – the killing of Willie “Billy” Ryman III during the course of committing a burglary – and was sentenced to death following a jury trial on punishment.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, taking largely from the Court of Criminal Appeals, described the events preceding Ryman’s murder, and the murder itself, as follows:

On the night of February 6, 1998, Erin DeLeon, age seventeen at the time, was home alone with her one-year-old son Tony. Erin and Tony lived in the home of Erin’s mother, Kim Ryman DeLeon, along with Erin’s sisters Claire and Sasha. After putting Tony to bed, Erin spoke briefly on the phone with her boyfriend, and then began watching a movie in the living room.

Unbeknownst to Erin, [Chester] was outside the house, watching her. He had been walking through her neighborhood, searching for a place to burglarize. He had with him a pair of gloves, a knitted hat in which he had cut two holes to make a ski mask, and a gun which he had stolen in a previous burglary. He had scratched the serial numbers off of the gun. Upon reaching the Ryman home, he recognized it as one he had burglarized previously. He watched Erin through the open window blinds and, when it appeared that she was home alone, he went around the side of the house and cut the phone lines, which he later said was his normal practice when committing a burglary. He checked the side door to the house and found it unlocked. [He] put on his mask and gloves, and entered the house through the side door. That door opened into the kitchen, which he entered, and then came into the living room where Erin was.

[Chester] grabbed Erin by the hair, held the gun to her head, and demanded money or jewelry. Erin replied that she had a little jewelry, but no money, in the house. [Chester] then took her through the house, still holding her by the hair, searching her mother’s and sisters’ bedrooms to confirm that no one else was at home. He asked Erin where her mother was and if she was coming home. Erin said her mother would be home in the morning. He then asked Erin who she had been on the phone with earlier. Erin replied that she had spoken with her boyfriend.

[Chester] then took Erin into her mother’s bedroom, from which he took some jewelry. He then did the same in her sisters’ and in Erin’s own bedroom. He took her to the dining room, and then had her turn off all remaining lights in the home. He then took her into the garage, still pulling her by the hair.

Once in the garage, Erin offered to turn on the lights but [Chester] refused. Instead, he began feeling around in the dark until he found a roll of duct tape. Erin later testified that she believed by the way he was feeling around that he knew exactly what he was looking for in the dark garage.

As they re-entered the house, Erin’s sister Claire was arriving at the side door with her boyfriend Tim. They attempted to enter through the side door but [Chester] had made Erin lock it, so Claire knocked on the door. [Chester] pulled Erin by her hair toward the door and, while hiding behind her with his gun pointed at her head, ordered Erin to unlock the door and let her sister into the house. When Claire entered the house, [Chester] pushed Erin forward and yelled at Claire not to say anything. Claire began to babble incoherently and Erin tried to quiet her.

Tim, still unaware of what was happening, was still outside on the porch and asked Claire what was wrong. [Chester] ordered Claire to tell Tim that nothing was wrong and that he should leave. Claire complied, but Tim persisted, and [Chester] then told him directly to come into the house. Tim’s car was still running, so he asked [Chester] if he could turn it off first, and Chester said yes, but if Tim attempted to leave that he would kill both girls. Tim went to turn off his car ignition, and then entered the house.

Once inside, [Chester], still holding Erin by her ponytail and with the gun pointed at her head, demanded jewelry or money from Claire and Tim. They said they had none—Tim showed [Chester] his empty wallet, and Claire went to her mother’s bedroom to confirm that there was no more jewelry in the house. When Claire returned, [Chester] asked Tim what kind of car he had, and specifically whether it was an automatic or a stick shift. Erin later testified that she presumed from those questions that [Chester] was thinking of using Tim’s car to escape. [Chester] then ordered Tim and Claire into the bathroom.

Alone with Erin in the dining room, [Chester] ordered her to remove her clothes. Erin began to do so. [Chester] used the duct tape to blindfold her. [Chester] then called for Tim to come out of the bathroom. He ordered Tim to strip, and Tim removed all of his clothes except for his underwear and socks. [Chester] then used the duct tape to blindfold Tim, and to bind his wrists and ankles. After that, [Chester] dragged Tim into Erin’s bedroom.

[Chester] returned to the living room and ordered Claire to come out of the bathroom. He ordered Claire to remove her clothes, and she complied. He then blindfolded Claire with the duct tape, and seated her on the floor next to Erin. Erin then removed the tape over her eyes enough to see [Chester] unzipping his pants and removing his mask, but he came over to push the tape back down over her eyes.

[Chester] then raped Erin, on the floor, next to her sister. When he was done and had removed himself from on top of her, Erin tried to get up, but [Chester] pulled her over to where he was now sitting in a chair, and forced her to perform oral sex on him. [Chester] kept the gun next to Erin’s forehead and threatened to shoot her if she tried to bite him. After the oral sex, Erin moved to the floor area at one side of the room, and [Chester] ordered Claire to perform oral sex on him, which she did. He repeated the same threat that he would shoot her if she bit him.

At this point, a car approached the house. [Chester] heard the car, ran into the kitchen to dress himself, and went to stand by the side door to wait for the person approaching, who turned out to be Willie (“Billy”) Ryman, Kim Ryman’s brother and the girls’ uncle. Billy would often come to the house to check on the girls, when he knew their mother was at work. Billy opened the door and turned on the light. [Chester] yelled at him to come inside, and, upon entering, he shot him. Billy fell to the ground immediately, and [Chester] dragged his body into the kitchen, where Billy eventually died. [Chester] then ran out of the house. Claire got up and locked the side door, locking him out of the house.

Billy’s girlfriend Marcia Sharp had been waiting outside in Billy’s truck in the driveway while he went up to the house. Marcia heard the gunshot fired at Billy but thought perhaps it was a car backfiring. Moments later, she saw [Chester] run out of the house and then try to go back in, after realizing that he had been locked out by Claire. [Chester] then approached the truck on the passenger side, where Marcia was sitting. The door was unlocked but, just as he reached for the handle, Marcia locked it. [Chester] was now wearing his mask again. He pulled out his gun and shot once at the lock on the car door. He then noticed that the driver’s door was unlocked, so he ran around to the driver’s side of the truck, but Marcia quickly reached over and locked that door, too. [Chester] shot twice at the lock on the driver’s door, but it did not open. He then stepped back, looked at Marcia, and shot twice more at the driver’s door window. None of the gunshots hit Marcia. He then ran down the street, away from the house..

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On Feb. 12, 1998, Chester was indicted in Jefferson County, Texas for the capital murder of Willie “Billy” Ryman.

Chester pled guilty to the capital murder of Ryman and on Aug. 24, 1998, a Jefferson County jury answered the submitted “special issues” in such a way that a death sentence was imposed by the trial court.

On Jan. 26, 2000, Chester’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Chester filed an initial state habeas application on Nov. 17, 1999, which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied on May 31, 2000.

On May 22, 2001, Chester filed an initial federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. That court granted relief on July 2, 2002.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the grant of habeas relief and dismissed Chester’s initial federal habeas petition on Feb. 26, 2003.

Chester, on June 19, 2003, filed a second state habeas application, which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on Feb. 28, 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Chester’s petition for writ of certiorari from this decision on Oct. 9, 2007.

On March 1, 2007, Chester filed a second federal habeas petition that was amended on June 5, 2007, and which was denied by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on April 28, 2008.

On Dec. 30, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Chester’s second federal habeas petition. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Chester’s petition for writ of certiorari from this decision on Oct. 29, 2012.

On Dec. 11, 2012, the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, set Chester’s execution for April 24, 2013.

On April 15, 2013, the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, withdrew Chester’s initial execution date and re-set it for June 12, 2013.

On June 4, 2013, Elroy Chester filed three motions in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit: (1) motion to recall mandate; (2) motion to recuse Judge Edith Jones; and (3) motion for stay of execution.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.

Following his release from prison in March 1997, where Chester was serving time for burglary, Chester engaged in a nearly year-long crime spree leaving five people dead, five others shot, three girls 17 or younger sexually assaulted, and 25 homes burglarized.

On Aug. 9, 1997, Chester broke into the home of Desire Johnson and sexually assaulted her 10-year old daughter. One week later, Chester shot two individuals, including a 16-year-old boy, while attempting to burglarize their houses. The victims of these crimes lived.

On Sept. 20, 1997, Chester broke into the home of John Henry Sepeda, who was asleep in a room with his wife and grandson. As Chester was rummaging through the house, Sepeda awoke and Chester shot and killed him as he was getting up from his bed. About a month later, Chester shot and killed Etta Stallings, an 87-year-old woman living with her bedridden husband, during the burglary of her home. Chester took the pistol Stallings used in an attempt to defend herself and, that evening, shot two more women – who lived – and a dog.

On Nov. 20, 1997, Chester attempted to rob his former co-worker, Cheryl DeLeon, and shot and killed her during a struggle for her belongings. On Dec. 7, 1997, Chester shot Lorenzo Coronado in the head as he lay sleeping on the ground and then took his wallet. Coronado lived.

Chester also killed Albert Bolden, the common-law husband of his sister in late December 1997 in revenge. Bolden approached Chester to burglarize a home together and during the course of the burglary, Chester shot Bolden in the back of the head and left him in the residence.

Chester’s crime spree culminated on Feb. 6, 1998, when Chester broke into Kim Ryman’s home, sexually assaulted her 17 and 14-year-old daughters, bound one of the daughters’ boyfriends, killed her brother, Billy Ryman, and tried to kill Billy Ryman’s girlfriend.

On top of these crimes, Chester testified at trial that he wanted to kill “white folks” and stated that, had he not been arrested, he would still be killing them. Chester also testified that his 10-year-old rape victim was lucky to be alive and expressed regret that he did not kill Erin and Claire DeLeon, and Erin’s one-year-old son. Additionally, Chester stated that he wanted to torture law enforcement officers involved in bringing him to trial and that, if given a death sentence, he would have his “homeboys” kill a law enforcement officer or, if given a life sentence, he would kill a correctional officer. Chester ended his testimony by saying that burglarizing homes was “a whole lot of fun.”.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.