A paroled burglar who claimed he wanted to be a serial killer of minorities was executed in Huntsville, Texas, for the torture-murder eight years ago of a 19-year-old mentally impaired woman who once worked with him.
Robert Neville, apologising profusely before his execution last night, addressed his victim’s mother by name as she and her two daughters stood close to the glass with their arms around each other.
He expressed love to them.
“I hope you can find it in yourselves to forgive me and I hope all this here will kind of settle your pain and I hope the Lord will give you comfort and peace. I just want you to know I am very sorry for what I have done,” he said.
Referring to his victim, Amy Robinson, 19, Neville said: “If I see Amy on the other side, I will tell her how much you love and miss her and we will have a lot to talk about.”
Neville then turned toward his parents, who watched through an adjacent window.
“I am sorry for putting you through all this pain and stuff,” he said. “I love you all and I will see you on the other side.”
Seven minutes later, he was pronounced dead.
Neville, 31, was the third prisoner executed this year and the first of three over the next 15 days in the most active capital punishment state in the US. Next week, another inmate, Clyde Smith, 32, faces injection for the robbery and murder of a Houston taxi driver in 1992.
Neville and a companion, Michael Wayne Hall, were condemned for the fatal shooting of Robinson, who was abducted as she rode her bicycle to work at a Dallas supermarket.
She was taken to a remote area of Tarrant County where she was shot repeatedly with a pellet gun, then killed with shots from a .22-calibre rifle as she begged for her life.
Hall, 26, remains on death row. He does not have an execution date.
“I think they just thought of her as you would think of a cat or dog or something,” said Alan Levy, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the pair.
At the time of the 1998 murder, Neville had been on parole about eight months after serving two years of a 10-year prison term for burglary.
“He did mention Amy. We’re really glad we came,” Tina Robinson, the victim’s mother, said, flanked by two other daughters. “I feel like this is a victory for Amy. We’re really relieved.
“I think he really felt bad for what he did, even though it’s not going to bring Amy back.”
About an hour before his scheduled execution time, the US Supreme Court rejected his final appeals.
His lawyers had hoped to block the execution with appeals in the federal courts that questioned whether the lethal drugs used in the punishment were humane and that Neville suffered a mental illness brought on by lupus that should disqualify him from the death penalty.
Neville and Hall were arrested about two weeks after Robinson was reported missing. They were stopped at a customs checkpoint near Eagle Pass as they were trying to cross into Mexico.
They told authorities they could find Robinson’s body in a grassy field in the Trinity River bottoms just north of Arlington.
Robinson suffered from a genetic disorder, Turner’s Syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder found only in women and characterised by a short stature and a lack of sexual development at puberty.
She also was described as mentally challenged. Prosecutors said she was “easy prey”, which is how Neville and Hall, days after their arrest, characterised their victim as they spoke with reporters and laughed about how Robinson died as she pleaded to live.
The pair had worked with her at an Arlington Kroger store before they were fired and knew the route she took as she rode her bike to work. When they offered her a ride, she accepted.
“We had a bet going to see who could shoot and kill the most people between the two of us,” Neville told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram two weeks after his arrest, explaining that he and Hall wanted to become serial killers whose victims were racial minorities.
“No matter if it was blacks or Mexicans, anybody as long as they weren’t our colour.”
Robinson was part-Native American.
Neville declined to speak with reporters in the weeks before his scheduled execution.