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Friday, April 4, 1997

Texas executes man convicted of Lake Waco murders

MICHAEL GRACZYK

Associated Press Writer

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - David Wayne Spence, who insisted all the way to the death chamber that he was innocent in one of Texas' most notorious murder cases, was executed by lethal injection Thursday evening.

Spence, 40, was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. CST, seven minutes after a lethal dose of drugs began flowing into his arms and about an hour after his final appeals were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He was condemned for his involvement in the crime that became known as the Lake Waco murders.

In a frenzy of rape, torture and knife butchery, three teen-agers were killed the night of July 13, 1982, at Lake Waco's Koehne Park.

Their throats slashed and their bodies pierced with up to 30 stab wounds, the remains of Jill Montgomery and Raylene Rice, both 17, and Kenneth Franks, 18, were found the next day, dumped nearby at another park.

Bite marks on at least one of the victims were linked to Spence.

In a final statement from the death chamber gurney, Spence turned his head to a window where his victims' survivors watched only a few feet away and proclaimed his innocence.

"I want you to understand I speak the truth when I say I didn't kill your kids," Spence said. "I understand your pain. I swear I haven't killed anyone. I wish you could get the rage from your hearts and you could see the truth and get rid of the hatred."

Ms. Montgomery's brother, Brad, muttered, "Just die, just die," as Spence made the plea.

The condemned man then turned to an adjacent room where his son, a brother, his ex-wife and two friends stood.

"I'm going to miss you all," he said.

Then he took a deep breath and, with a tear streaming from his right eye, stopped breathing. The needles carrying the lethal drugs entered both his arms just below tattoos. One read, "EX773," his inmate identification number.

"He's not dying hard, in pain," Brad Montgomery said before the execution. "The best thing about this is we'll get up tomorrow and he won't."

Ms. Montgomery's mother, Nancy Wiser, was at the death house but did not watch Spence killed on the advice of her doctor. She said the family stopped by Jill's grave Thursday on the way to Huntsville and placed fresh flowers there.

Spence's death came six days before what would have been Ms. Montgomery's 31st birthday.

"I talked to Jill today," Ms. Wiser said. "I told her we were on our way to do our part to take care of the person who did this to her. I felt very peaceful."

Ms. Wiser said she wanted to talk with Spence before he died, but he refused.

"I'd like to ask him a question, questions like, 'Can you tell me what Jill's last words were?' " she said. "Did she speak of her mother?"

The grieving mother said she didn't expect Spence to answer because that would be an admission that he was there when Ms. Montgomery died, something he has always denied.

"The truth is if they execute me it's not an execution but a cold-blooded murder," Spence said in a recent death row interview. "I had nothing to do with the crime."

Spence, a biker and self-proclaimed "tough man" who once demanded a girlfriend wear a dog collar, was convicted in separate trials of killing Ms. Montgomery and Franks. He was sentenced to death by injection in each case.

"Justice for my son is finally being served," Richard Franks said. "Let's not forget that two different juries - 24 men and women - believed beyond any reasonable doubt that David Wayne Spence should die for his crimes."

Two accomplices pleaded guilty. Brothers Anthony Melendez, who got 99 years, and Gilbert Melendez, who got a life term, testified against Spence.

Another man, Muneer Mohammad Deeb, a Jordanian immigrant, was convicted of hatching a murder-for-hire scheme that mistakenly resulted in the slayings.

Deeb, who also received a death sentence, won a retrial and was acquitted in 1993.

Testimony at the trials alleged Deeb, a Waco convenience store owner, wanted Spence to kill a former girlfriend and offered proceeds of a life insurance policy he took out on the woman as payment.

That woman bore a remarkable resemblance to Jill Montgomery and investigators believe Spence mistook her for Deeb's girlfriend, then killed the other two teens simply because they were present.

When he was charged with the Lake Waco killings, Spence, who had a history of beating and biting and knifing, already was in jail, serving 90 years for aggravated sexual abuse.

"I was set up," Spence complained to The Associated Press. "I made a perfect patsy. I was in jail for using a knife on someone."

The execution was the second in Texas this week.

On Wednesday, convicted killer David Lee Herman was put to death for a robbery-murder in Arlington in 1989. Three more executions are scheduled in the state in the next couple of weeks. Send a Letter to the Editor about This Story | Start or Join A Discussion about This Story
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