HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Donnie Lee Roberts, convicted in his girlfriend’s 2003 slaying, was taken from his death row cell Wednesday and moved to the Texas prison where executions are carried out, one of the final steps before his scheduled lethal injection.
After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Roberts’ case earlier this week, no additional appeals were filed to try to block his execution, which will be the 12th this year in the nation’s most active capital punishment state.
Roberts, now 41, is being put to death for fatally shooting Vicki Bowen and taking items from her East Texas home to sell or trade to support his drug habit. At the time of his arrest for the October 2003 killing, Roberts had violated his probation for a robbery conviction in Louisiana by fleeing to Texas after dropping out of a drug treatment program.
Authorities said he apparently met Bowen, 44, a dental assistant, at a bar and moved in with her at her home on Lake Livingston, about 75 miles northeast of Houston. Their relationship soured because Roberts wasn’t working and was abusing drugs and alcohol, investigators said, and he shot Bowen after she refused his demand for money.
Roberts was arrested at a suspected crack house in Livingston when a truck missing from Bowen’s home was spotted there the same day Bowen’s body was discovered.
“He was cooperative and confessed several times,” District Attorney Lee Hon said. “He was saying he wanted the death penalty.”
Roberts told authorities he made several trips from the house where Bowen was shot, collecting property that he took into town to sell and trade for crack.
He also surprised detectives by confessing to the shotgun death of a man a decade earlier in Natchitoches Parish, La. Louisiana authorities initially believed the victim, Al Crow, had died of asphyxiation in a fire at the camper trailer where he was living but reopened the case following Roberts’ disclosure, found shotgun pellets and determined it was a homicide.
Roberts was charged with murder but not tried for Crow’s death.
Stephen Taylor, one of Roberts’ lawyers at his Texas capital murder trial, said the confessions complicated his trial defense.
“It’s almost like somebody saying he was a serial killer, that he’s killed before and he killed again,” Taylor said. “It’s one thing to say you have the right to remain silent. Use it!
“It’s always sad for someone to lose his life, especially for something so stupid.”
Bowen didn’t show up for work on Oct. 16, 2003, and a co-worker who went to check on her found her body wrapped in a blanket and lying in a pool of blood. A medical examiner determined Bowen was killed with two gunshots to her head.
Roberts took the witness stand and tried to blame Bowen for the gunfire, saying he was acting in self-defense by grabbing a .22-caliber rifle after seeing her reach down inside a couch to locate a pistol that was kept there.
“The jury obviously disagreed,” Hon said.
Evidence at trial showed Roberts had a record for battery while being held in jail in Fulton County, Ga., that he’d threatened his wife to give him money for drugs, and that he demanded a single-person cell in Polk County when he was jailed for Bowen’s murder or there would be another killing.
His robbery conviction in Louisiana was for a Mother’s Day 2001 convenience store holdup in Baton Rouge, La., where the knife-wielding Roberts threatened to slice the throat of the female clerk.
“He was a bad dude, pretty violent,” Hon said.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, where the state’s male death row is housed, has been Roberts’ home since his capital murder conviction in 2004. The unit is just outside Livingston and not far from where Bowen was killed.
On Wednesday, Roberts was moved about 45 miles west to the Huntsville Unit prison, where he is to be executed.
Three more Texas prisoners are set to die in November, including one next week.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)