Richard Aaron Cobb, 29, was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas on 25 April 2013 for the murder of a man in the course of abduction, rape, and robbery.
On 2 September 2002, Cobb, then 18, and Beunka Adams, 19, entered BDJ's convenience store in Rusk in east Texas. Cobb was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun. Both men were wearing masks. Candace Driver, 23, and Nikki Dement1, 19, were working in the store. The only other person there was Kenneth Vandever, a 24-year-old mentally impaired man who frequented the store as a customer, sometimes helping clean and taking out trash. Adams ordered Driver and Dement to stand behind the cash register and open it. Cobb held the shotgun while Adams grabbed the cash register drawer and took all of the money. The robbers didn't spot Vandever, who was sitting in the eating area, until he stood and began to walk out the front door. They stopped him and ordered him to stand with the women.
The robbers then decided to take the three victims as hostages. 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 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 and began walking away with him, intending to let him come back later to untie the women. They soon returned, however, and 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, Cobb fired the shotgun. Adams asked, "Did we get anybody?" Driver answered, "No." Cobb shot again. 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, now 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. She was lifted by her ponytail while one of the men shined a lighter on her face to see if she was still alive. She continued to feign death. Cobb said, "She's dead. Let's go." The men then left and went to Adams' cousin's house.
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.
Driver identified Adams from a photo lineup. Adams' cousin contacted police and gave them the pair's whereabouts. Adams and Cobb were arrested the day after the murder. Cobb confessed to shooting Vandever. Adams confessed to raping Dement and ultimately admitted to shooting Driver. Each accused the other of shooting Dement, and the surviving witnesses could not tell which of them did.
Adams and Cobb had participated in two other aggravated robberies together in August 2002. Both were gas station robberies where the men also used a shotgun. Cobb also had a prior conviction for burglary.
At his trial, Cobb testified that he shot Vandever and handed the shotgun to Adams, who shot the women. He testified that Adams pressured him into committing the murder, threatening to kill him if he refused. Under cross examination, he admitted that he did not mention any coercion by Adams when he confessed at the time of his arrest. Furthermore, while Dement and Driver's testimony did depict Adams as the leader who did most of the talking during the crime, they did not corroborate Cobb's testimony that Adams threatened him.
William Thomsen, who was incarcerated with Cobb at the Cherokee County Jail, testified that Cobb confided in him that he planned to testify that Adams had threatened to kill him if he did not take part in shooting the hostages. Thomsen further testified that Cobb told him he was mad when he learned that the women survived, because if they had died, he probably wouldn't be in jail. Thomsen said Cobb said he got something like a rush when he shot Vandever. At this point during Thomsen's testimony, Cobb stood in the courtroom and said, "You lying son of a bitch, I never said no such thing." After the judge reprimanded Cobb outside of the jury's presence, Thomsen continued his testimony. He stated that Cobb said he would commit the crime again and that armed robberies were "the way to go. It's fast, quick easy money." He said Cobb told him he and Adams had planned to rob a Whataburger restaurant had they not been arrested.
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.
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