Beunka Adams, 29, was executed by lethal injection on 26 April 2012 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a man in the course of abduction, rape, and robbery.
On 2 September 2002, Adams, then 19, and Richard Cobb, 18, entered a convenience store in Rusk in east Texas. Cobb was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun, and both men were wearing masks. Candace Driver and Nikki Dement1 were working in the store. The only other person in the store was Kenneth Vandever, a 24-year-old mentally challenged man who frequented the store as a customer, sometimes helping clean and take out trash. Adams ordered Driver, Dement, and Vandever to the front of the store and demanded the money in the register. After the women complied, Adams demanded the keys to a Cadillac parked in front of the store. Driver, who had borrowed the car to drive to work, retrieved the keys from the back room.
Adams then ordered the three victims into the Cadillac with Cobb and himself. Adams drove south on US Highway 69. As they were driving, Dement, who had gone to school with Adams, said, "I know you, don't I?" Adams answered "Yes" and removed his mask. At some point, Adams turned off the road and drove the vehicle into a pea patch near Alto.
The group exited the car. With Cobb holding the shotgun, Adams ordered Driver and Vandever into the trunk. He then led Dement away from the car and raped her. He then came back to the car with Dement, released Driver and Vandever from the trunk, and told the victims that he and Cobb were waiting for Adams' friends to arrive. He allowed the victims to begin walking away.
A few moments later, Adams reconsidered, saying that he was afraid the victims would reach a house before he and Cobb could get away. He and Cobb made the three victims kneel on the ground. They tied the women's hands behind their backs using their shirts. They left Vandever unrestrained. They then stood behind the victims for several minutes and had a discussion. Adams then returned to the victims and ordered Vandever, who had stood back up, to kneel behind the women. Driver later testified that Vandever said that "it was time for him to take his medicine, and he was ready to go home."
Suddenly, there was a gunshot. Adams asked, "Did we get anybody?" Driver answered, "No." A moment later, there was another shot. Vandever cried out, "They shot me." A third shot struck Dement in the left shoulder. When Dement fell forward, Driver did too, pretending to be hit. Adams, carrying the shotgun, approached Driver and asked if she was bleeding. Driver did not answer, pretending to be dead. Adams then said, "Are you bleeding? You better answer me. I'll shoot you in the face if you don't answer me." Driver answered, "No, no, I'm not bleeding." Adams then fired the shotgun next to her face. The pellets hit her lip. She again pretended to be dead.
Adams and Cobb then turned to Dement and asked her the same questions. Dement also feigned death as both men kicked her for about a minute. Dement was lifted by her ponytail while one of the men shined a lighter on her face to see if she was still alive. Dement continued to feign death. Cobb said, "She's dead. Let's go." The men then left.
After Adams and Cobb left, Candace Driver, who sustained only minor injuries, ran to a nearby house. Nikki Dement was taken to a hospital via helicopter with injuries including a broken shoulder blade, broken ribs, and collapsed lung. When police arrived at the pea patch, Kenneth Vandever was dead from a shotgun wound to his chest.
Adams confessed to raping Dement, but denied firing the gun. Prosecutors argued that while the surviving witnesses could not tell which assailant pulled the trigger on Vandever and Dement, Adams was seen holding the shotgun immediately afterward, and he did fire it at Driver. Furthermore, the state depicted Adams as the leader who gave all of the orders to Cobb as well as to the victims, with Cobb heard speaking only once: "She's dead. Let's go."
Under Texas law, a jury can find a defendant guilty of capital murder for participating in the crime, regardless of whether he personally inflicted the fatal injury.
Adams and Cobb had participated in two other aggravated robberies. In those incidents, Adams remained outside the store, and no one was hurt.
A jury convicted Adams of capital murder in August 2004 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in June 2007.
Richard Aaron Cobb testified at his own trial that he shot Vandever and handed the shotgun to Adams, who shot the women. He was also convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. He remains on death row as of this writing.
In his own account of the crime, written from death row, Adams stated that Cobb came to him asking for his help robbing a store. Adams wrote that he did not expect there to be any violence. "I was suppose [sic] to just follow his lead and be a pair of eyes," he wrote, but "from the moment we entered the store [it] became obvious my friend had not planned anything out." Adams wrote that Cobb froze when one of the cashiers recognized him. "It was decided to take everyone from the store to buy some time to think."
Adams wrote that at the pea patch, they tried to put all three into the trunk of the car and leave it to be found later, but "all three of them would not fit" into the trunk of the Cadillac. He and Dement walked off together and "We wound up having sex."
Adams wrote that he and Cobb decided to let the others out of the trunk and allow them to leave, but "I stopped them because the direction they were headed led deep into the woods and they'd never come to a house, road or anything," so they were told to stay put.
"I turned and started walking toward the car," Adams wrote,"assuming my friend was doing the same but after a few steps I heard the first blast! I stepped to my bro and asked, 'WTF!'2 and then started yelling: 'Is anyone hit, did we hit anyone!' Someone said 'no' or something. I told my bro he is tripping and 'let's bounce', walked away again thinking he is coming, damn near got to the car when a second shot rang and Kenneth gave a loud groan. Moments later two more shots followed. I ran back and snatched the gun from him!"
1Nikki Ansley at the time of the offense. By the time of the trial, she had married and taken the name Nikki Dement. All official documents relating to the case refer to her by her married name.
2As footnoted in Adams' account, "WTF is shortening for 'What the fuck'."
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