East Texas man speaks after 30 years on death row

East Texas man speaks after 30 years on death row
(Source: KTRE)
(Source: KTRE)

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - For the past three decades, an East Texas man has been serving his sentence on death row.

David Lee Lewis, 52, was convicted of killing a Lufkin woman when he was burglarizing her home back in 1986. He is appealing his death row sentence on grounds of being intellectually disabled.

Lewis learned his fate, a sentence to death back in 1987 but what was unknown at that time was that he would be serving that sentence for the next 30 years.

"I've been living on this for 30 some years and it's a weight that I don't want anyone to carry," Lewis said.

For many years he said he wanted to forget it all happened.

"I've tried to put it away but it's something you can never forget. It's always with you," Lewis said.

Lewis said the weight he is referring to is the conviction of shooting and killing a 74-year-old Myrtle Ruby. It was in a home near Pollock, off of Old Wells Highway, where Lewis went inside with the idea to steal guns, but what took him by surprise was to find a woman standing in the dark hallway. He said he fired his gun where the bullet landed on her face.

"When I seen it was an old woman I was like oh man. Cuz I couldn't see her," Lewis said. "All I could see was a silhouette of somebody coming through as I was coming out and I just raised the gun and pulled the trigger and hit her in the eye. And she turned towards me and started to fall, screaming and that's when I struck her. I think the blow to the head is what killed her because she was still alive from the shot because she was screaming. And when I turned the light and seen who it was, I was like oh no."

Lewis said he lives with the regret every day in prison, often finding himself in in constant conflict with his own emotions whether if he forgives himself or not.

"It's hard to forgive yourself for something like that, especially when you see the pain in the daughter's face," Lewis said. "That's something you never can forget."

It was late Sunday evening in November of 1986 when Ruby was returning home from church. Evidence shows she was surprised to see Lewis in the hallway of her home while he was burglarizing the place. Records show Lewis then stole her car, drove to his uncle's home down the road and went on a hunting trip. He was arrested when he returned and confessed.

"I never thought about it really (un)til around 2004. I kept it hidden and didn't want to face what I had done until one day I had to accept it and I actually felt the pain that I caused the family and it's a pain I never want the feel again, taking somebody's loved one like that, it's horrible," Lewis said.

During his first trial he pleaded not guilty, but a jury ultimately convicted him sentencing with the death penalty. However, his capital murder conviction and death sentence were reversed in 1993 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because part of his court records was lost. He was retried the same year, this time pleading guilty where a jury convicted and again sentenced him to death.

He appealed his death penalty conviction on grounds of intellectual disability. As he awaits to learn the final outcome from the courts, he said he'll continue to fight to overturn the death penalty and continue serving a life sentence.

He said his final message is he wants Ruby's family to know he's in deep remorse of his actions.

"I'm sorry I took that life. I didn't understand how precious that life was," Lewis said.

KTRE did reach out Myrtle Ruby's family for an interview. They declined our request, saying it would be too painful.

As of 2007, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit denied Lewis' claim that would prohibit an execution of an intellectual disabled criminal. The court said the filing was made outside the reasonable time period.

No decision on a date has been set yet on his execution.

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