Jeffrey Dillingham, 27, was executed by lethal injection on 1 November in Huntsville, Texas for the murder-for-hire of a 40-year-old woman.
In March 1992, Dillingham and his friend Brian Dennis Salter, both 19, entered the upscale Fort Worth residence of Jack and Karen Koslow. Using a code provided them by the couple's 17-year-old daughter, Kristi, they disarmed the house's alarm system and came in through a rear entrance. The Koslows were asleep. Following the floor plan given to them by Kristi, the intruders went into the master bedroom and began attacking the Koslows. Mr. Koslow ran to his closet to fetch a shotgun, but he didn't get it loaded in time to defend himself. The man and woman were forced to lie on the floor. Dillingham then beat them with a steel pry bar and Salter slashed their throats with a hunting knife. They stole Mr. Koslow's wallet, $200 in cash and a wrist watch worth $1,600. Karen Koslow, 40, died at the scene. Jack Koslow was beaten into unconsciousness and left for dead, but after awhile, he regained consciousness, staggered to a neighbor's house, and called police.
At first, police suspected Jack Koslow of murdering his wife, but then they received a tip from a friend of Dillingham's, who helped him get rid of the pry bar and bloodstained clothing. Two weeks after the murder, Dillingham was arrested, and in confessing, he implicated Salter and Kristi Koslow, who were dating at the time. Dillingham and Salter told police that Kristi promised to pay them $1 million each for murdering her father and stepmother. Court testimony showed that Kristi wanted them dead because she didn't get along with them after her father remarried, and that she planned to gain a $12 million inheritance.
Jeffrey Dillingham was the first to go to trial. He was offered a life sentence to testify against Kristi Koslow, but turned it down. He was found guilty of capital murder and was given the death sentence. Salter was then offered the same deal as Dillingham. He accepted it. Kristi Koslow was convicted of capital murder but was spared the death sentence by the jury. Jack Koslow testified that his daughter should be condemned, but the jury did not hear that testimony.
While on death row, Dillingham declined interviews with the media. His father, Ray Dillingham, said that Jeffrey did not discuss the crime with him or with his mother in their visits on death row, but that he did express sorrow for Mrs. Koslow's death.
Dillingham's trial and appeals were not characterized by any of the issues that death penalty opponents have frequently raised during Governor Bush's campaign for the presidency. All of the victims and defendants were white. Dillingham was an adult with full mental competence at the time of his crime. Although he was represented by a court-appointed attorney, the quality of his legal counsel was never questioned. His chief appeal strategy was to protest the fact that he received the death penalty while the other defendants did not. Each of his eight appeals to state and federal courts were rejected. The last denial came from the U.S. Supreme Court in October. Two members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to reduce his sentence to life in prison, but they were outvoted by the other 16 members.
In his final statement, Dillingham said, "I would just like to apologize to the victims of the family for what I did. I take full responsibility for that poor woman's death and for the pain and suffering I inflicted on Mr. Koslow." He then offered a prayer in which he thanked the Heavenly Father for his parents, for softening his heart, and for loving him. He then smiled and winked at his parents while the lethal dose was administered. He grunted as gasped as the drugs took effect and was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m.
Brian Salter and Kristi Koslow become eligible for parole in 2027.
Jack Koslow sold the house where his wife was killed. He still bears a scar on his throat from the night he was attacked. He has remarried and still lives in Fort Worth. He did not attend the execution.
Update: As of early 2008, both Salter and Kosklow were sill serving their life sentences in prison.
By David Carson. Posted on 3 November 2000. Updated on 9 January 2008.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.