Donnie Roberts, 41, was executed by lethal injection on 31 October 2012 in Huntsville, Texas for the robbery and murder of his girlfriend.
On 15 October 2003, Roberts, then 32, shot his live-in girlfriend, Vicki Bowen, twice in the head with a .22-caliber rifle in her home on Lake Livingston in Polk County. He then took the rifle, a .22-caliber pistol, some jewelry, a television, some NFL football tickets, and a money order from the house. He drove away in Bowen's son's truck.
The next day, Bowen's co-worker, Brenda Bland, became concerned when Bowen did not show up for work and did not call. Bland went to Bowen's house to check up on her. She found the front door open. After knocking and receiving no answer, she went inside. She found Bowen dead, lying face down in a pool of blood and covered with a blanket. She was still wearing the scrubs she wore the previous day at her job as a dental assistant. There were blood spatters on the coffee table, the couch, and the living room walls.
Later that day, police found Roberts at a reputed crack house in Livingston after tracking down the stolen truck. He was arrested and confessed. He began the videotaped statement with the words, "I want the death penalty."
Roberts stated that he had "a crack cocaine problem" and needed money. "I pointed the gun at her, and I said, 'if you'd just give me some money," and she said 'No.' And then I said, 'Look, it doesn't have to be this way.' That's all I remember saying to her. And the next thing I know, I shot her."
At the time of the murder, Roberts was in violation of parole for an armed robbery conviction in Louisiana.
Roberts also confessed to killing a Natchitoches Parish man in 1992. He said he burglarized a man's recreational vehicle near Baton Rouge, shot the occupant with a shotgun, and then burned the RV down. Authorities originally believed the victim, Al Crow, had died of asphyxiation, but after reopening the case based on Roberts' statement, they found shotgun pellets and determined it was a homicide.
The rifle used in Bowen's murder was found a few blocks from where Roberts was apprehended. He bought cocaine three times that day from a dealer named Edwin Gary. The third purchase involved trading the pistol. He sold the football tickets for $100. The money order was found in his residence, where the truck was parked. The jewelry and television were never recovered.
Roberts' trial testimony differed from his confession. At the trial, Roberts testified that he picked up the rifle because it was out of place, near the door. He said he saw the pistol in Bowen's pocket and that she moved her hand to her pocket to reach for it. He then said that he "must have chambered a round into the .22 rifle at that time," but he did not remember if he disengaged the safety. He claimed that he did not remember firing the gun, although he knew that he did.
For a murder to qualify as capital murder, one or more aggravating factors must be present. In Roberts' case, the aggravating factor was robbery. To try to avoid the death penalty, Roberts disputed whether a robbery took place. He claimed that he and Bowen shared living expenses and that the money he was requesting from Bowen was the same twenty dollars she typically left for him every morning. He admitted taking some of Bowen's property after the killing to buy cocaine, but claimed that he did not intend to rob her at the time he shot her, and that the removal of her property was an afterthought. He characterized any conflict there may have been over money as a domestic dispute, not robbery.
Roberts' previous conviction in Louisiana was for holding up a Baton Rouge convenience store in 2001 and threatening to slice the clerk's throat with a knife. He was sentenced to a drug treatment program, but he fled to Polk County, Texas, where he had relatives.
Roberts also had a battery charge against him, from beating up one of his jail cellmates in Fulton County, Georgia. While in jail in Polk County, he warned officers there would be another killing if he didn't get a single-person cell.
Roberts was not tried for Al Crow's murder.
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