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Crime & Courts

Louisiana parolee set to be executed in Texas

When Vicki Bowen failed to show up at her job as a dental assistant in October 2003, a worried coworker went to her East Texas home to check on the normally punctual 44-year-old woman.

She knocked, but got no answer. The front door was unlocked, so she entered to find Bowen covered with a blanket, face down in a pool of blood. A medical examiner determined Bowen had been shot twice in the head.

Detectives found that a truck was missing from Bowen's home. Later that day, Bowen's live-in boyfriend, Donnie Lee Roberts, was spotted driving the vehicle. It was found outside a suspected crack house where Roberts was apprehended.

"When arrested, the first thing out of his mouth was: `I want the death penalty,' " attorney Stephen Taylor recalled.

Roberts, 41, is scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday for the murder.

Besides making his preferred punishment known in a videotaped statement, the parole violator from Louisiana also confessed that he was responsible for an unsolved killing in that state 12 years earlier.

"I just remember it was very, very bad to try to overcome his own mouth from the beginning," said Taylor, one of Roberts' lawyers at his 2004 capital murder trial in Polk County, Texas. "It's very difficult when he's expressed himself on videotape to the jury that `I want the death penalty' and that he confesses to this unsolved homicide."

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to review Roberts' case, rejecting arguments that the trial judge improperly barred some testimony from a psychologist and that testimony from a victim of the robbery Roberts committed should not have been allowed.

The Texas Attorney General's office said they were not anticipating any late appeals from Roberts' lawyer, Douglas Barlow, who did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press.

District Attorney Lee Hon said Roberts quickly was a suspect in Bowen's death after Roberts' family told authorities they suspected he was using crack cocaine. Roberts had relatives in Polk County, where he went after fleeing a drug treatment program in Louisiana and apparently met Bowen in a bar.

It appeared their relationship had been deteriorating, Hon said, as Roberts wasn't working and Bowen was about ready to toss him out.

"He admitted that he had threatened her and robbed her and demanded money from her after she had gotten home from work the preceding afternoon and she had told him she wasn't going to give him any money," Hon said. "It all just kind of came to a dramatic and tragic conclusion.

"He picked up a .22 rifle by the door of the home and shot her a couple of times."

His previous conviction in Louisiana was for a holdup at a convenience store. Based on Roberts' disclosure, authorities reopened the case in a more than decade-old death of an area man whose body was found in his burned-out RV and determined the victim also had been shot. Roberts was not tried in the case.

"He made it almost impossible from the get-go," said Taylor, who described Roberts as "doing stupid things."

Roberts declined to speak with reporters as his execution date neared. During his trial, he tried changing his story, saying he shot Bowen in self-defense after he believed she was reaching into a couch to grab a pistol.

"He already had given three or four confessions and never once indicated she had done a threatening thing," Hon said. "He very early on had acted like he didn't want to live but by the time of the trial he'd changed his mind a bit."

Roberts would be the 12th Texas inmate executed this year. Three more are set for lethal injection next month, including one next week.

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