Lonnie Wayne Pursley, 43, was executed by lethal injection on 3 May 2005 in Huntsville, Texas for the robbery and murder of a 47-year-old man.
Robert Cook had plans to spend time with his mother on 29 March 1997, but he failed to show up. When Cook failed to come home from work the next two nights, his mother called the police. Cook's niece and next-door neighbor, Sheila Dupree, told police in their investigation that on the night of 28 March, she observed a large man smoking a cigarette in the doorway of Cook's Livingston trailer home. She saw Cook sitting inside with an emotionless expression on his face. Dupree also observed that the following day, the gate on Cook's property was not closed properly, and his car was gone.
Other witnesses reported seeing Pursley, then 35, driving a turquoise car matching the description of Cook's vehicle on 29 and 30 March. Several of these witnesses observed that the vehicle had blood on the inside and outside of it, and that Pursley had blood on his clothing.
On 6 April, a passer-by discovered Cook's body in a wooded area at the dead end of a dirt road, approximately 2½ miles from Cook's home. Cook had been beaten to death by blows to the chest and abdomen. Cook's car was discovered in a wooded area on 15 April. There was a large amount of blood spattered throughout it. Pursley was arrested on 20 April.
At the trial, witnesses testified that on the night of 28 March, Pursley and his family were visiting his in-laws' house in Shepherd. Pursley got into an argument with his wife and left the house on foot. Prosecutors surmised that Cook, who was driving home from work on US Highway 59, saw Pursley walking on the road and stopped to offer him a ride. Pursley's cousin, Richard Winfrey, testified that Pursley told him he had beaten someone to death in his car and had hidden the car in the woods off of a dirt road. Winfrey further testified that Pursley asked him for fake identification so he could leave the country. Prosecutors said that Pursley used some rings he took from the victim to buy drugs. The prosecution also presented evidence that Pursley's DNA was found on a cigarette butt from the ashtray of Cook's car.
Pursley had numerous prior convictions for burglary and theft. He had been sent to prison three times from 1987 to 1992, each time being released on parole and committing new crimes while on parole. (At the time, early release was common in Texas due to strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.) At the time of the murder, he was on parole after having served 3 years of a 20-year sentence for burglary.
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