Steven Woods executed in Texas

Former drifter and drug dealer Steven Michael Woods has been executed in Texas for a double murder near Dallas more than a decade ago.

He was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms.

The 31-year-old Woods said he was present an isolated road in May 2001 when 21-year-old Ronald Whitehead and 19-year-old Bethena Brosz were fatally shot and had their throats cut. Woods blamed the slayings on friend Marcus Rhodes, who later pleaded guilty and took a life prison term. Woods went to trial and received the death penalty.

Woods’ execution was the 10th this year in Texas and the first of two scheduled this week.

His execution came about eight hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Former drifter and drug dealer Steven Michael Woods was headed to the Texas death chamber Tuesday evening for a double killing more than a decade ago north of Dallas.

Woods, 31, acknowledged he was present in May 2001 when Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19, were fatally shot and had their throats slashed near a golf course in Denton County but insisted the murders were committed by another man, Marcus Rhodes.

Woods was tried first for the slayings, was convicted and sentenced to die. Rhodes then pleaded guilty and accepted a life prison term, avoiding a possible death sentence.

About eight hours before Woods was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from his attorneys, clearing the way for the 10th execution in the state this year. Another lethal injection is scheduled for Thursday and two more were set for next week.

Woods had argued before the high court his legal help early in the appeals process was deficient and kept him from raising a claim of jury bias from his trial. The justices, without comment, turned him down.

In an interview last week outside death row, Woods told The Associated Press he was terrified of execution, was optimistic it wouldn’t happen but was “fairly realistic as well.”

“I’ve seen a lot of my friends walk to the gurney,” he said.

Brosz and Whitehead, were found by golfers May 2, 2001, along a golf course road near The Colony, a North Dallas suburb midway between Dallas and Denton. Whitehead was shot six times in the head. Brosz was shot twice in the head and once in the knee. Both had their throats cut. Brosz was alive when she was found but died the following day.

Witnesses testified at Woods’ 2002 trial that he lured Whitehead to the isolated road on the pretense of a drug deal and killed him because he knew about another killing involving Woods two months earlier in California. Prosecutors said Brosz merely was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed because she was a witness to Whitehead’s death.

Woods also blamed Rhodes for the California slaying.

“I was completely naïve at the time of the legal proceedings,” Woods said last week. “Besides, I didn’t do anything.”

Woods said he and Rhodes, described by prosecutors as one of his drug customers, were high on LSD the night of the slayings. Asked if he could have committed the murders and not remember, Woods said although he was “under the influence, you know what you’re doing.”

He said as he was lighting a cigarette for Whitehead, Rhodes shot the man in the head, then shot Brosz. Witnesses at his trial said Woods told of planning to kill Whitehead and later bragged about the killings.

“No possible way,” Woods said.

A friend tipped police to his whereabouts in California and when confronted by authorities, Woods gave them a false name. A large tattoo of a red rose on a long green branch extending down his right arm indicated his real identity, Woods said.

He said he was in “complete disbelief” when he was convicted of capital murder and received the death penalty.

“The whole situation is crazy,” Woods said. “It didn’t register. I was more concerned about my cat. It didn’t really hit me.”

He’d been arrested in Garberville, Calif., about 200 miles north of San Francisco, some two months after the Texas killings. Authorities said Woods had been supplying drug dealers with liquid LSD and other drugs sold at clubs and parties in Deep Ellum, a trendy entertainment district near downtown Dallas. When Rhodes turned himself into police three days after the Denton County murders, Woods hit the road.

He was from Livonia, Mich., a Detroit suburb, quit school in the 11th grade and drifted through Chicago, New York and then Dallas in search of drugs and punk rock clubs and living in abandoned buildings.

“My friends were using and I was trying to fit in,” he said. “I was a junkie.”

Court records, which he disputed, described him being involved in Satanism, bomb-making activities, abusive treatment of his brothers and animals, and affiliation with white supremacists.

Authorities recovered backpacks belonging to the slain pair in Rhodes’ car. Guns used in the slayings were recovered from the home of Rhodes’ parents. Prosecutors said a latex glove carrying Woods’ DNA was found in Rhodes’ car after the killings.

On Thursday, a Houston man, Duane Buck, was set to die for a double slaying 16 years ago.

Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 16:36 PDT



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