HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas convict with a lengthy criminal history was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a man and raping the slain man’s fiancee during a home break-in more than 22 years ago.
Rickey Lynn Lewis already had been in and out of prison five times in less than seven years when he was arrested three days after the killing of 45-year-old George Newman and attack on Newman’s fiancee in 1990 at their home in a rural area of Smith County, about 90 miles east of Dallas.
Lewis, 50, acknowledged the rape, but not the killing.
“If I hadn’t raped you, you wouldn’t have lived,” he told Newman’s fiancee, Connie Hilton, in the moments before the single lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered. “I didn’t kill Mr. Newman and I didn’t rob your house.
“I was just there. … I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through. It wasn’t me that harmed and stole all of your stuff,” he said to Hilton, who stood behind a glass window a few feet away. The Associated Press normally does not name rape victims, but Hilton, 63, agreed to be identified.
Lewis said the two people responsible for Newman’s killing are still alive. He didn’t identify them.
He told Hilton he watched her flee the house to get help. “When I saw you in the truck driving away, I could have killed you, but I didn’t,” he said. “I’m not a killer.”
Lewis thanked his friends who watched through a nearby window “for the love you gave me.”
“I thank the Lord for the man I am today. I have done all I can to better myself, to learn to read and write,” he said, appearing to choke back tears. “Take me to my king.”
As the drug began taking effect, he said he could feel it “burning my arm.”
“I feel it in my throat. I’m getting dizzy,” Lewis said before he started to snore and, seconds later, lost consciousness.
He was pronounced dead 14 minutes after the lethal dose began.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review Lewis’ case and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted against a clemency request.
No last-day appeals were filed by his attorneys to try to halt the execution, the second this year in Texas.
Earlier appeals focused on whether Lewis, a ninth-grade dropout who worked as a laborer, was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty under Supreme Court rulings. The claims included a suggestion from Lewis’ attorneys that the court reconsider a denial it made in his case in 2005. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused that recommendation on Monday.
Hilton declined to speak with reporters after the execution. In a first-person account she wrote of the attack, she said she got out of bed the night of Sept. 17, 1990, after her barking dog woke her and saw a man in the hallway with a shotgun.
She screamed, and Newman responded and was shot in the face. A dog in the home was also killed.
Hilton tried hiding in a bathroom, was struck at least twice in the head and then assaulted for over an hour by Lewis while the other two people Lewis claims were there stole items from the house.
She testified she was ordered to “quit whimpering,” felt a gun barrel on her and was told someone would find her in the morning.
According to court documents, she was left in the kitchen with her hands and feet bound. As Lewis and his partners fled in her truck, she managed to free herself, crawled to Newman to find him dead and then climbed out a window to seek help.
Lewis was arrested three days later after he was seen with some of the items stolen from the house. DNA evidence linked him to the attack.
“There’s still a lot of fear in the back of my mind because the other two men never were caught,” Hilton told the AP last week. “You never know if there’s going to be retaliation.
“He’s never told anyone and as far as I’m aware of, nobody knows. On the other hand, if he were to tell who was with him, that would confirm his guilt, and he’s not going to do that.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1996 upheld Lewis’ conviction but reversed his death sentence, finding jurors had faulty instructions when considering his sentence. At a new punishment trial the following year, Lewis again was sentenced to die.
Lewis’ mother, who has since died, testified a 10-year-old Lewis shot his father to protect her. Testimony indicated Lewis’ father had abused him as a child.
Records showed Lewis first went to prison in 1983 for burglary, was paroled and returned to prison as a parole violator. He continued to be a repeat offender and parole violator. His arrest on capital murder charges for Newman’s slaying came six months after his most recent release.
Evidence showed two months before the Newman shooting he stole a truck and led police on a chase. Then four days before the attack, Lewis used a sawed-off shotgun during a store robbery in Tyler.
At least 11 other Texas inmates have executions scheduled through July, including three more this month.