TX conducts first execution in 9 months

HUNTSVILLE, TX Karl Eugene Chamberlain, with a big smile on his face, addressed relatives of his victim, staring directly at the son, parents and brother of Felecia Prechtl as they stood just a few feet away from, looking through a glass window.

"I want you all to know I love you with all my heart. I want to thank you for being here," he said. Prechtl's son was 5 when he found his mother's body in the bathroom of their apartment.

"We are here to honor the life of Felecia Prechtl, a woman I didn't even know, and celebrate my death," he said. "I am so terribly sorry. I wish I could die more than once."

Chamberlain said he understood if his victim's relatives would like to hurt him, but he wanted them to know it was his memories of her and her life that contributed to his remorse.

"I love you. God have mercy on us all," he said as the drugs began taking effect. Still grinning, he blurted out: "Please do not hate anybody because...." He was unable to finish as he slipped into unconsciousness. Nine minutes later at 6:30 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

"One question I ask myself every day," Ina Prechtl, who lost her daughter, said after watching Chamberlain die. "Why does it take so long for justice to be served?"

Chamberlain lived upstairs in the same apartment complex as his victim but denied any knowledge of the crime when questioned by police the day of the 1991 slaying. He was arrested five years later after his fingerprint was matched to a print on a roll of duct tape used to bind Prechtl. Chamberlain's prints had been entered into a database after he went on probation for an attempted robbery and abduction in Houston.

When he was arrested in Euless in suburban Dallas, he confessed.

"It was just total terrible bad luck," Chamberlain said, describing the slaying in a recent interview on death row. "Not that my actions were luck, but bad luck that I didn't get interrupted and stop.

"I'm not trying to justify my crime," he added.

After 26 executions in Texas last year, far more than any other state, Chamberlain's was the first in the state since September. Executions throughout the country were on hold after the Supreme Court agreed in September to consider a challenge from two Kentucky prisoners who questioned the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures. When the court in April upheld the method, the de facto moratorium was lifted and executions resumed.

Chamberlain was the sixth prisoner executed nationally this year, all in recent weeks. He was among at least 13 Texas inmates with execution dates in the coming months.

The Supreme Court rejected Chamberlain's request for a reprieve and a review of his case about 30 minutes before he was scheduled to die. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also rejected an appeal related to lethal injection procedures within a half hour of his execution time.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, lawyers for Chamberlain contended his initial appeals attorney -- a lawyer paid for by the state -- was inept and Chamberlain was denied due process. The Texas Attorney General's Office argued Chamberlain was not denied a right that other inmates received.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had also refused late Monday to stop Chamberlain's punishment.

The court also lifted a reprieve it gave a week ago to another Texas inmate, Derrick Sonnier, just 90 minutes before he was to be executed for killing a suburban Houston woman and her young son. Sonnier, like Chamberlain, had argued the Texas lethal injection procedures were unconstitutionally cruel.

Lawyers for both condemned inmates had cited unresolved cases before the Court of Criminal Appeals that raised the same issues. The appeals court Monday also rejected those cases, clearing the way for executions in Texas to resume.

Chamberlain's crime began after Prechtl's brother and his girlfriend had taken her son to a store for some food and a video while she got ready to go out with friends.

While they were gone, Chamberlain knocked on Prechtl's door and asked to borrow some sugar. After she filled the request, he returned with a rifle and the roll of duct tape, attacked the single mother and shot her in the head.

Her son found her body.

After his arrest, Chamberlain told police they could find the murder weapon, a .30-caliber M-1 rifle, at his father's house. DNA evidence, plus the fingerprint evidence and confession, tied him to the crime scene.

"Evidence of his guilt was overwhelming," said Toby Shook, one of the prosecutors at his trial. "We were able to develop a good history of what we believed to be a sexual predator and a continuing danger. That's what the jury caught -- the predatory nature of the crime.

"He waited and watched and pounced on the victim."

Another execution is set for next week. Charles Hood faces injection Tuesday for the 1989 slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at Williamson's suburban Dallas home.

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