Texas Execution Information Center

Robert Anderson

Robert James Anderson, 40, was executed by lethal injection on 20 July 2006 in Huntsville, Texas for the kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of a 5-year-old girl.

On 9 June 1992, Audra Reeves was walking home from an Amarillo park. As she passed in front of Anderson's house, Anderson, then 26, abducted her and took her inside. After attempting to rape her, Anderson choked her, beat her with a stool, and stabbed her with a paring knife and a barbecue fork. Anderson then took the girl into the bathroom and drowned her in the bathtub. He then placed her body in a foam ice chest and, using a grocery cart to transport it, left it in a dumpster behind another residence. The ice chest containing the girl's nude body was found in the dumpster by a homeowner throwing out his trash.

The person who found the body also witnessed Anderson near the dumpster earlier. Other witnesses reported seeing Anderson pushing a grocery cart along the street, carrying a white ice chest. The witnesses gave a description of the suspect to police, and Anderson was arrested as he was walking back home.

Anderson gave a written confession in which he admitted kidnapping and killing Audra. He said he had recently had an argument with his wife.

Anderson had no prior criminal arrests, but ample evidence was presented at his punishment hearing of his previous sexual assaults on young girls and his violent nature.

  • His stepsister, Rebekah Anderson, testified that when she was five years old, Anderson had her sit on his lap, then he unzipped his pants and removed her shorts. Rebekah's sister, Delores Davis, testified that when Rebekah was three, she saw Anderson with his hand beneath Rebekah's skirt as she sat on his lap.
  • Anderson's 11-year-old niece, Charity Anderson, testified that about six months before the murder, Anderson babysat for her and her brother and sister. He frequently invited Charity's 8-year-old sister, Raven, to sit on his lap, and on one occasion, he held her 6-year-old brother, Jeremiah, by the throat for several minutes.
  • Anderson's biological sister, Myra, testified that Anderson sexually assaulted her from age 7 to age 13. He forced her to engage in oral sex and attempted to have intercourse with her. Myra also testified that Anderson pushed her down a hill once, and that he once held her down and hit her repeatedly on her knees with a baseball bat.
  • Another stepsister, Helena Garza, testified that Anderson began fondling her when she was six years old. When she was ten, Anderson forced her to have intercourse and perform oral sex about once a week, for about a year, by striking or threatening her with a baseball bat. Anderson also raped Helena when she was 15 or 16.
  • Myra's friend, Carla Burch, testified that when she was 12, she spent the night at the Anderson home. She was awakened during the night by someone touching her face. Anderson was standing in front of her wearing only a towel. He had pulled the covers off of Carla and raised her nightgown. He asked her to come to his room, but she refused.
  • Anderson's ex-wife, Debbie Kay Anderson, testified that Anderson was physically abusive towards her, and that he often padlocked her in their apartment when he left. Debbie also testified that when she was babysitting a 2-year-old girl, she heard the girl crying and walked into the room to see the girl with her diaper removed and Anderson with his pants down. Anderson then grabbed Debbie and began choking and hitting her, telling her not to tell anyone.

A jury convicted Anderson of capital murder in November 1993 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in September 1996. His subsequent state appeals were denied. In March 2004, a U.S. district court denied his federal writ of habeas corpus. Anderson filed an appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but then he decided to waive all further federal appeals. After a psychological evaluation found him competent to waive his appeals, the Fifth Circuit dismissed his appeal in February 2005.

In the competency hearing before U.S. Magistrate Clinton Averitte, Anderson stated that his victim often appeared to him in nightmares. He said that, in prison, he dedicated himself to a Christian way of life, and that God had forgiven him for the killing. "God has granted me peace that I didn't have before," Anderson told Averitte. "I don't want to hurt anybody any longer, and I want to be executed."

In 1998, Anderson was attacked by a fellow death row inmate who stabbed him 67 times with a shank. Anderson said the attack was due to a race-related prison gang extortion effort and was unrelated to his crime.

"My whole life is a regret," Anderson said in a recent interview from death row. "I made bad choices all the way up and down as far back as age ten ... I should have been in prison when I was 15." He said that the day of the killing was "a messed-up day ... a lot of things went wrong." He said that an argument with his wife of about eight months set him off. "She stormed out of the house and said when she returned, she didn't want to find me." He said that at the time of his arrest, "the whole day had slipped me mind ... for about an hour or so, I didn't understand what the cops were asking me. Then suddenly, it just snapped ... everything came flooding back, all at once."

"I'm actually looking forward to dying," Anderson said in the interview. "I've made peace with the Lord and I'm trying to make peace with my family. And I have tried to make apologies with the victim's family over the years, with no responses. I didn't expect them to respond." As his execution date drew near Anderson did not file any of the appeals that condemned prisoners usually file in an effort to have their execution stayed.

Anderson took full responsibility for his crime. "There was nobody else, just me," he said. "She was a totally innocent victim."

"I am sorry for the pain I have caused you," Anderson told the victim's grandmother, Grace Lawson, at his execution. "I have regretted this for a long time. I am sorry. I only ask that you remember the Lord because He remembers us and He forgives us if we ask Him." Anderson also apologized to his own family for "the pain of all the years and for putting you through all the things we had to go through." The lethal injection was then started. As the drugs began taking effect, Anderson prayed. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m.

By David Carson. Posted on 21 July 2006.
Sources: Texas Attorney General's office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Amarillo Globe-News, Associated Press.