By Michael Gracyk
HUNTSVILLE— A Texas man condemned for a robbery in which three people were shot, one fatally, apologized to a woman who survived the 2002 attack and family members of the slain man before receiving a lethal injection Thursday.
Beunka Adams said he was a stupid kid in a man’s body at the time of the crime, which started at a convenience store southeast of Dallas and ended in a remote area several miles away.
“Everything that happened that night was wrong,” Adams, 29, said, as he stared at the death chamber ceiling, never looking at the people who gathered to watch his final moments. “If I could take it back, I would. … I messed up and can’t take that back.”
His death was carried out less than three hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal to postpone the execution, the fifth this year in Texas.
Adams’ attorneys had asked the nation’s highest court to halt the lethal injection, review his case and let him pursue appeals claiming he had deficient legal help at his trial and during earlier stages of his appeals.
He won a reprieve from a federal district judge earlier this week, but the Texas attorney general’s office appealed the ruling, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the death warrant Wednesday.
Adams expressed love to his family Thursday and asked those witnessing his execution to avoid letting any hate they had for him consume them.
“I really hate things turned out the way they did,” he said. “For everybody involved, I don’t think any good came out of it.”
He took about a dozen breaths, then started to wheeze and snore. Eventually, he became still. He was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. CDT, nine minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow into his body.
Adams and another man were sent to death row for the slaying of Kenneth Vandever, 37, who was in a convenience store on Sept. 2, 2002, in Rusk, about 115 miles southeast of Dallas, when two men wearing masks walked in. The men announced a holdup; one of them was carrying a shotgun.
After robbing the store, Adams and Richard Cobb, both from East Texas, drove off with the two female clerks and Vandever in a car belonging to one of the women.
Testimony at Adams’ trial showed he gave the orders during the holdup and initiated the abductions. They drove to a remote area about 10 miles away in Cherokee County, where Adams ordered Vandever and one woman to get inside the car trunk and then raped the other woman. Testimony also showed he forced all three to kneel as they were shot.
Vandever was fatally wounded. The women were kicked and shot again before Cobb and Adams, believing they were dead, fled. Both women were alive, however, and one was able to run to a house to summon help.
“He asked for forgiveness and I forgive him, but he had to pay the consequences,” said one of the women, Nikki Ansley, referring to Adams after witnessing his execution. She survived being raped and shot but continues to suffer painful injuries from the gun blast.
The Associated Press usually does not identify victims of rape, but Ansley has publicly acknowledged it and agreed to be interviewed.
Now a nurse, she said standing a few feet from Adams and watching the drugs take his life was contrary to her instincts to want to aid others.
“I help people in surgery,” she said. “Standing in there, it was a feeling that I didn’t want to help him.” Her mother, Melinda Ansley, said Adams’ apology could never erase the damage he caused.
“It’s not going to fix the hole in her back,” she said, referring to her daughter’s wound from the shooting.
Donald Vandever, the father of the slain man, said Adams’ execution “doesn’t really change anything.” “As far as I’m concerned, it was way too easy on him,” he said.
Adams and Cobb were arrested several hours after the crime, about 25 miles to the north in Jacksonville.
Adams was identifiable because he had slipped off his mask after one of the women said she thought she knew him.