James Lee Beathard, 42, was executed by lethal injection on 9 December 1999 in Huntsville, Texas, for murdering three people for money.
In October 1984, Gene Wilford Hathorn Jr., then 24, resolved to kill his father, stepmother, and half-brother. He was motivated both by animosity and the prospect of an inheritance of around $150,000. He planned to go to the trailer home where his family lived, shoot them, take some valuable items, and plant hairs and cigarette butts from other people, in the hopes of making the crime look like a burglary perpetrated by blacks. He sought the assistance of a few different people, and found an interested party in James Beathard, then 27. Hathorn and Beathard were friends and former co-workers.
On the day of the murders, Hathorn and Beathard went to the library and checked out some books. They then went to Hathorn's parents' trailer. According to Hathorn's account, he had agreed to pay $12,500 from the proceeds of the estate for Beathard's assistance. He took a shotgun to a back window of the trailer, while Beathard took a .380 pistol, a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, and some packets containing the hair and cigarette butts to the back door. Hathorn fired the shotgun into the trailer, through the window. Beathard then entered through the back door, fired more gunshots, planted the evidence, and stole some guns and two VCRs. They put the stolen items into their car, and Beathard drove away. Hathorn drove away in his parents' van.
The two men drove to a black neighborhood and left the van there. Next, they made two stops at bridges and dumped the pistol, the rifle, and all of the stolen items into two different rivers. They then went to the library again and checked out another book. After this, they went home.
Beathard testified that although he did go to the trailer with Hathorn, he thought he was accompanying him on a drug deal, and he knew nothing of his plans to murder his family. He testified that he waited outside the trailer the whole time, and that the only weapon he saw was Hathorn's shotgun. When Hathorn started firing, he threw himself to the ground, then ran and hid in the woods. When the shooting stopped and Hathorn called out for him, he came back and got into the car.
A forensic pathologist testified that all three victims had wounds from a shotgun blast or blasts. Gene Hathorn Sr., 45, and Linda Sue Hathorn, 35, had fragments of glass in their wounds, which would be consistent with a shotgun being fired through a window. The shot patterns on the walls and ceiling of the trailer indicated that the shotgun was fired from the window. However, the pathologist testified that all three victims also had bullet wounds, which were inflicted after the shotgun wounds. The shell casings and projected trajectories of these shots were consistent with a shooter who entered from the trailer's back door. Furthermore, Marcus Hathorn, 14, was shot in the bathroom, which indicated that the shooter entered the trailer, rather than just firing through a window from outside.
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