Former Jasper Sheriff Looks Back At James Byrd Jr. Dragging
TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – He’s one of three men convicted in one of the most notorious murders in modern Texas history and he’s set to die.
Lawrence Russell Brewer is scheduled to get a lethal injection Wednesday night for his part in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., in Jasper.
Brewer and two co-defendants, all white men, were convicted of torturing and killing the 49-year-old handicapped black man.
Documents from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) detail how the three drove Byrd to an isolated spot in Jasper County, beat him, took a logging chain, that was hooked on a pickup, and tied it to his body. The men then dragged Byrd to his death, leaving parts of his decapitated and dismembered body strewn about the roadway.
Billy Rowles was the sheriff in Jasper when James Byrd Jr. was killed. He spoke with KRLD NewsRadio 1080’s Chuck Schechner and said he won’t be going to the execution, but has no problem with it happening.
“One down, one to go,” Rowles said of the executions set for the murderers of Byrd. “That’s cold, but that’s kind of the way I feel about it.”
While conducting the murder investigation Rowles found himself at the center of intense national media attention.
“You know, everybody came out here expecting to find a racist community and a redneck sheriff, a pot-bellied, snuff dipping, beer drinking sheriff, that was a bigot. Most of that was all right, but I wasn’t a bigot,” Rowles said matter-of-factly.
Many people give Rowles credit for keeping the calm in the east Texas town, after the murder and during the trials. Speaking in the third-person the former sheriff said, “You know, Billy Rowles got a lot of credit for a lot things during that time, but really to be honest with you, we had a good bunch of guys and gals working for us.”
In the 13 years since the dragging murder, Rowles thinks the town has gotten stronger. “Jasper, Texas got portrayed really bad, but I think we shoed ‘em that, that wasn’t necessarily true.”
Of watching one put to death, Rowles said, “I’ve seen people die before, and that ain’t cool.”
In July, Brewer granted KFDM television an interview. He stood by his claims of not participating in Byrd’s murder, only the assault. But the now 44-year-old was unrepentant saying, “I have no regrets. I would do it all over again.”
Dallas defense attorney George Milner said he fully expects Brewer’s execution to be carried out as scheduled. “He will fade quietly into the night. There won’t be much fanfare and he won’t be with us by dinner time.”
Brewer’s execution is set for some time after 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Another man convicted for Byrd’s murder, John William King, is on Texas death row, but is appealing. The third part of the murderous trio, Shawn Berry, received a life sentence.