TYLER, Texas (KETK) – At a brief hearing Thursday morning, Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman announced that he would be seeking the death penalty for William Davis, the former CHRISTUS nurse that is charged with murdering multiple patients.
The case is bringing back into the spotlight just how many East Texas executions and death penalty cases the Piney Woods is facing in the coming months and years.
After having no one from the area put to death in 2019, East Texas will have three separate offenders executed in just a matter of weeks later this spring. In November of last year, the first Tyler man was handed the death penalty for the first time in nearly five years.
Texas has a long and complicated history with capital punishment. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 1,518 executions carried out in the United States since the death penalty was re-introduced in 1976.
The Lone Star has carried out 576 of them by itself, just under 38 percent of all inmates put to death in America over the last 40 years.
Here is first a quick look at the three East Texans that are scheduled to be executed later this year along with the two of the most recent capital punishments cases.
Tracy Beatty is scheduled to be put to death on March 25, just over a month away. He is from Whitehouse and was convicted of the 2003 murder of his mother by strangulation with Judge Jack Skeen presiding.
His story shifted several times to the police, including telling investigators that her mother’s boyfriend had actually killed her.
Beatty had previously been convicted on charges of injury to a child and theft, both in Dallas.
He has twice received two stays of executions, once in 2009 and another in 2015. The stay from five years ago came just two days before his lethal injection.
If his death sentence is carried out, Beatty would be the first East Texan to be executed in more than 18 months.
Billy Wardlow is unique to this list as he has spent more than half his life on death row awaiting his execution.
He lived a troubled life before he was arrested, facing physical and emotional abuse from his mother.
Wardlow was just 18 years old in 1993 when he and his girlfriend Tony Fulfer robbed 82-year-old Carl Cole for his truck in Morris County. Cole fought back and during the struggle Wardlow fired directly between Cole’s eyes, killing him instantly.
In a confession, Wardlow wrote: “Being younger and stronger, I pushed him off and shot him right between the eyes. Just because he pissed me off.”
His trial attorney offered nearly no defense to argue for life in prison rather than a death sentence. Wardlow has maintained that he did not intend to kill Cole and was rather just trying to scare him because Cole was winning the fight, despite his age.
His current attorneys are arguing for a stay because the death sentence handed down is unconstitutional because “[t]he prediction of future dangerousness called for by the Texas capital sentencing statute cannot reliably be made for a capital defendant under 21 years old.”
Wardlow is set to die on April 29.
The last East Texan scheduled to be executed so far this year has had his case closely examined with many questions being asked about his mental health.
60-year-old Randall Mays was convicted for murdering two Henderson County deputies back in 2008 following a domestic dispute with his wife. Both were shot in the head after they responded to the situation.
Mays’ was first set to die in 2015 before he was given a stay of execution after being deemed mentally unfit. After examinations from doctors, a new death warrant was signed for October 2019.
However, 392nd District Judge Joe Clayton in Athens halted the execution with less than two weeks to go after Mays was diagnosed with schizophrenia. According to a Texas Tribune report, May’s believed that guards were poising the air vents and that he was being put to death because he had a renewable energy idea and that oil companies wanted him dead.
After months of examining his medical records, Clayton signed a third death warrant for Mays. He is scheduled for execution on May 13.
Dameon Mosley is one of Texas’ newest members to death row after being convicted in November 2019 of the murder of gas station clerk Billy Stacks.
Mosley had gone on a string of several gas station robberies before Stacks’ death. Most had gone off without a hitch.
However, Stacks fought back and there was a brief struggle. Mosley put one bullet in Stacks’ shoulder and another in his left temple.
At trial, District Attorney Jacob Putman called Stacks a hero, saying “…who knows how many lives he saved?”
Mosley argued that he had not intended for the gun to go off and instead tried to say that the gun went off by accident.
During sentencing, Mosley’s lawyers said that he presented no threat to others in prison and that he would receive the discipline he needed. Putman fired back that unless Mosley committed another murder, there was no legal punishment to tack on to his sentence.
“His one job is to not kill anyone,” Putman exclaimed to the jury.
The jury sentenced Mosley to death after just 45 minutes of deliberations.
William Davis could become the latest East Texan to join death row later this year when he faces trial on charges that he murdered multiple patients while he was a nurse at CHRISTUS Heart Hospital.
On March 16, 2018, the Texas Board of Nursing issued a Temporary Suspension Order against Davis, citing cases in which the board determined Davis was a “continuing and imminent threat to the public welfare.”
The arrest affidavit details the deaths and injuries of seven patients:
- 1) John Doe 1, 61 – injured June 22, 2017
- 2) John Doe 2, 58 – injured July 14, 2017
- 3) Christopher Greenaway, 47 – injured August 4, 2017, died August 8, 2017
- 4) John Doe 3, 54, – injured August 7, 2017
- 5) John Doe 4, 56 – injured October 26, 2017
- 6) Pamela Henderson, 63 – injured November 30, 2017
- 7) Joseph Kalina, 58 – injured January 25, 2018
All were identified as patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery and were recovering in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, “when they suddenly experienced a profound incident,” according to the affidavit.
The warrant also alleges that Davis intentionally introduced air into the patients’ arterial lines. The document claims that this action caused Greenway’s death, the death of another patient, and “permanent and debilitating” injuries to the others listed.
In February 2018, hospital staff and counsel attended a meeting with police investigators. While they were not sure at the time that a crime had occurred, they were concerned at “the significance of the statistical ‘anomaly’.”
The affidavit says that security footage showed Davis entering the patients’ rooms and leaving. Almost immediately after, they would suffer a “profound incident” despite being considered stable after surgery.