JASPER, TX (KTRE) - One of three suspects in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history has himself been put to death.
Appeals to the courts for 44-year-old Lawrence Russell Brewer were exhausted and no last-day attempts were filed to keep him from execution after 6 Wednesday evening in Huntsville.
Brewer requested an extensive last meal that included two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, and a pint of ice cream.
It has been 13 years since the nation learned of the brutal dragging death of James Byrd Jr., a black man chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged along Huff Creek Road in Jasper to his death.
Brewer, a purported white supremacist, was condemned for fastening 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. to the truck on June 7, 1998. Byrd's decapitated body, first thought to be animal road kill, was found the next day. Witnesses told investigators they saw Byrd walking on a road not far from his home in Jasper during the early morning hours of June 7. Byrd lived off disability checks. He did not have a car and walked where he needed to go. Another witness saw Byrd in the bed of a pickup truck.
Testimony during the trial indicated Brewer, John King and Sean Berry drove out into the county about 10 miles and stopped along the rural road. A fight started, ending with Byrd being tied to the truck bumper with a 24 ½ foot logging chain. Evidence indicated Byrd was dragged for three miles, then dumped near a church and cemetery, his remains leaving a bloody trail. Investigators identified Byrd's body from fingerprints taken from the headless torso.
Prior to Byrd's murder, Brewer had served a prison sentence for drug possession and burglary.
"Today is a good day as well as a sad day and what I mean by that is that I'm okay because I have gotten peace with everything and the sad thing about it is that he says he has no remorse and that saddens me," said Betty Boatner, Byrd's sister.
Boatner still lives in Jasper and says she often visits her brother's grave. She says even though their parents taught them about forgiveness it was a still a process for them to forgive their brother's killer. "We forgave him. We didn't convict him."
"I don't want him to die because it's easy. All he's going to do is go to sleep. My father didn't have that choice to go to sleep," said Renee Mullins, Byrd's daughter. Byrd's son also spoke out against the execution. Two of Byrd's sisters planned to attend Wednesday's execution. Byrd's mother, Stella, died last year.
The horrific murder of Byrd set into motion a call for special hate crime laws in Texas. It later led to the Federal October 22, 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.
There were two others convicted in Byrd's murder. John King is serving a death row sentence in Polk County. His case is still under appeal and no execution date has been set. Sean Berry is serving a life sentence in Brazoria County.