Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Joseph Ries

Joseph Ries
Joseph Ries
Executed on 21 October 2008

Joseph Ray Ries, 29, was executed by lethal injection on 21 October 2008 in Huntsville, Texas for murdering a man while burglarizing his home.

Ries met Robert Ratliff in the fall of 1998. They became friends, and eventually Ries moved in to live with Ratliff in his home in Cumby, in northeast Texas. After a dispute over some missing property, however, Ratliff evicted Ries from his house.

On 18 February 1999, Ries and some associates stole Ratliff's pickup truck from his residence. Ries, then 19, and Christopher White, also 19, drove the truck to San Antonio, but because it got poor gas milage, they decided to return to Ratliff's residence and steal his Lincoln Continental.

They arrived on the evening of the 21st. Neither Ratliff nor his Continental were present. Ries and White broke into Ratliff's house and gathered some items, including two .22-caliber rifles, then went back outside. They then drove the pickup into a pond, completely submerging it. They then hid behind a barn and waited for Ratliff to come home.

After Ratliff came home with the Lincoln, Ries and White waited another thirty minutes until the lights in the house were turned off. By this time, it was the morning of 22 February. Ries and White then entered the house again. Ries snuck into Ratliff's bedroom, where he was sleeping, and took his wallet and car keys. He then shot Ratliff once in the back. Ratliff awoke, and Ries shot him in the back of the neck. At this point, White came in and asked Ries what was happening. Ries sent White out of the room and fired one last, fatal shot behind the victim's ear. Ries and White then drove away in Ratliff's Lincoln. They were arrested in Lawton, Oklahoma on 26 February, in the victim's car. Ries, who was also wearing Ratliff's hat, confessed to the robbery and murder on videotape.

Ries had no prior criminal convictions. At his punishment hearing, however, several witnesses testified about incidents of aggressive and destructive behavior and threats of violence, including breaking down the door of his ex-girlfriend's residence and damaging property in one of his foster homes. A U.S. Marine Corps recruiter testified that when he interviewed Ries about why he wanted to be a Marine, Ries answered that he wanted to be able to kill somebody and get away with it.

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