Texas executes NY ex-convict for soldier's slaying

By: AP
By: AP

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- Texas executed a former New York City hair stylist with a long criminal record Thursday for the robbery, rape and murder of an Army medic at her apartment near Fort Hood.

"From Allah he came and from Allah he shall return," Denard Manns said from the death chamber gurney.

Manns, 42, criticized or thanked various attorneys who had represented him, expressed love to friends and said, "I'm ready for the transition." He uttered what appeared to be a brief prayer three times and was pronounced dead 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.

Manns' appeals in the courts were exhausted and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, acting Wednesday on a petition filed by his lawyer, refused to commute his sentence to life in prison.

Manns was convicted of raping and murdering 26-year-old Michelle Robson in 1998. The former mural painter from New York City had moved to Texas that year after being paroled after serving nearly six years in prison for armed robbery - his second stint in jail for the crime.

He maintained he had nothing to do with the death of Robson, who lived with her husband a few doors down from where Manns was staying with his half brother and cousin in Killeen, in central Texas.

Asked last week if he knew who committed the murder, Manns told The Associated Press from a tiny visiting cage outside death row: "That's not for me to discuss. Police get paid to ask those questions and find out. I would never tell them."

Prosecutors said DNA and fingerprint evidence implicated Manns, who also was found with some of the slain woman's property.

Investigators believed Robson, from Newton, Iowa, at least recognized her killer because there was no indication of a break-in at the apartment where she lived with her husband, Clay Wellenstein, also a soldier stationed at Fort Hood. He had gone home for a Thanksgiving visit to his family in upstate New York when he learned of his wife's slaying.

Robson was found dead in a bathtub, shot five times with a .22-caliber pistol.

Manns' cousin, Eric Williams, owned such a pistol, found a bullet on the floor in his room and turned the gun over to police after learning of his neighbor's death with a similar weapon. Tests showed at least one of the bullets recovered from the woman had been fired from the gun. Tests also showed Manns' fingerprint on the weapon. Other evidence showed Manns left a jacket belonging to Robson at the home of a friend the day her body was discovered and that he had a ring of Robson's.

Manns was arrested the following month and tried in 2002.

Manns was the 17th convicted killer executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state and the second in as many days. Another three lethal injections are scheduled for next week in Texas.

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