Inmate set to die for slaying mom, child

HUNTSVILLE, TX Sonnier, 40, was scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday evening for the slayings of a suburban Houston woman and her 2-year-old son almost 17 years ago.

Melody Flowers, 27, was stabbed, strangled and beaten with a hammer until the handle of the tool snapped. Her young son, Patrick, was stabbed eight times. Their bodies were dumped in a bathtub.

Sonnier would be the third Texas inmate to die this year and the 13th nationally. Executions were on hold around the country for more than seven months until the U.S. Supreme Court in April rejected an appeal from two Kentucky prisoners who argued lethal injection was unconstitutionally cruel.

Now Sonnier is among at least 16 prisoners with execution dates -- including six in August -- in the nation's most active death penalty state.

On June 3, Sonnier was waiting in a small holding cell a few steps from the death chamber when he received word the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had stopped his punishment about 90 minutes before he could have been put to death. Attorneys with the Texas Defender Service, a legal group that represents death row prisoners, had raised questions whether the state's lethal injection procedures were legal.

The following week, the same court rejected the appeal and a judge in Harris County set his new death date for Wednesday.

"We are not going to be filing anything on his behalf at this point," Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor who works with the Texas Defender Service, said.

Sonnier, who described himself as a "moorish American" on a Web site where death row inmates seek pen pals, declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding each of his execution dates.

Sonnier lived two apartments away from the victims. Police knocking on doors found him with his hand wrapped in a bloody towel. Inside his place they found other bloodstained towels and a blouse identified as belonging to Flowers. DNA evidence also tied him to the slayings although Sonnier maintained his innocence during his trial.

Testimony showed the Sulphur, La., native grew up in Houston, had been obsessed with Flowers and had stalked her. Witnesses testified how they repeatedly chased him away from her place where he was known to peek through her windows and even hide inside her apartment.

Sonnier initially was scheduled to die in February. That execution date, however, was withdrawn by prosecutors pending the outcome of the Kentucky case before the Supreme Court.

Next week, condemned inmate Larry Davis, 40, is set to die for the gang initiation robbery-slaying of Michael Barrow, 26, at Barrow's home in Amarillo13 years ago.

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