Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Vaughn Ross

Vaughn Ross
Vaughn Ross
Executed on 8 July 2013

Vaugn Ross, 41, was executed by lethal injection on 18 July 2013 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of two people.

On 30 January 2001, Ross, then 29, was in his apartment with his girlfriend, Liza Ross (no relation), and her four-year-old son. That evening, Liza's sister, Viola McVade, 18, called Ross's apartment for Liza numerous times. In one of those conversations, McVade put a former boyfriend of Liza's on the phone. Ross became jealous and upset while Liza spoke with him. Later, Liza called McVade to ask her for a ride home.

While Liza was talking to McVade, Teresa Williams arrived at McVade's house with Douglas Birdsall, 53. Williams told McVade that Birdsall was looking for a young, black female prostitute. To accommodate Birdsall, McVade delayed in going after her sister. She and Birdsall dropped Williams off and then went to Birdsall's apartment. There, McVade called Ross again, but he cursed and threatened her and told her not to call again.

A neighbor at Ross's apartment reported hearing gunshots later that night.

The next morning, a bicyclist found the bodies of Viola McVade and Douglas Birdsall in Birdsall's car in a gully at a park about four miles from Ross's apartment. Both victims had been shot numerous times and had died from gunshots to the head. Shell casings and a fingertip from a latex glove were found inside the car.

Because of the report of gunshots the previous night, police went to Ross's apartment complex to investigate. They found glass shards, two pools of blood, and shell casings in an alley.

Liza, accompanied by Ross, went to the police station to relate what she knew about her sister's death. After describing the phone calls that evening, she said that Ross refused to take her and her son home and also would not allow her to use his phone to call for a ride. Shortly before 10 pm, he began putting on latex gloves and told her to leave so she would not be there "if anything happens." She and her son then left the apartment and walked to her father's house.

Ross admitted that he was angry with McVade on the night of the murders and said that they had argued over the phone when she let Liza speak with her former boyfriend.

On 2 February, in another interview with police, Ross admitted that he had threatened Viola. When police told Ross they were worried that a child might find "the murder weapon" in his apartment, Ross replied that they need not worry, because it was well-secured. Ross also told the police that if they had they evidence they said they did, "you have the truth."

Police then searched Ross's apartment with his consent. They found a sweatshirt with a small bloodstain on it. They also found two latex gloves. Ross stated that he wore latex gloves on the night of the murders because he was going to mop his kitchen floor using bleach. The murder weapon was not found.

After his arrest, Ross spoke to his mother on a recorded telephone from the Lubbock County Jail. When she asked him whether he committed the crime, he responded that he "might have."

Forensic testing showed that the blood on the ground in the alley and on the sweatshirt found in Ross's apartment matched Birdsall's DNA. DNA samples found inside the sweatshirt and the glove tip found in Birdsall's car matched Ross. The shell casings taken from the alley and the car also matched each other.

Ross pleaded not guilty at his trial. The defense attempted to show that the killings were unplanned and that they were carried out by more than one person.

Ross had a 1997 felony conviction in Missouri for stabbing his girlfriend and stealing her car. She received more than 15 knife wounds, including a laceration to the left side of her neck. The victim, Regina Carlisle, testified that during the incident, Ross told her she was going to die. Ross was placed on probation, and had completed his term by the time of the murders in Lubbock. He also completed a required anger management course.

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