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.
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.