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Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Rape - Robberies
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: August 1997 - February 1998
Date of arrest: February 8, 1998
Date of birth: June 14, 1969
Victims profile: John Henry Sepeda, 78 / Willie Ryman III / Albert Bolden,35 (his common-law brother-in-law) / Etta Mae Stallings, 87 / Cheryl DeLeon, 40
Method of murder: Shooting (.380 pistol)
Location: Jefferson County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 26, 1998. Executed by lethal injection in Texas on June 12, 2013
photo gallery

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Fifth Circuit

Elroy Chester v. Rick Thaler

The Supreme Court of the United States

Petition for Writ of Certiorari
Name TDCJ Number Date of Birth
Elroy Chester 999280 6/14/1969
Date Received Age (when Received) Education Level
9/26/1998 29 12
Date of Offense Age (at the Offense) County
2/6/1998 28 Jefferson
Race Gender Hair Color
Black Male Black
Height Weight Eye Color
5 ft 10 in 160 Brown
Native County Native State Prior Occupation
Jefferson Texas laborer

Prior Prison Record

10 year sentence from Jefferson County for 1 count of Burglary of a Building; 13 year sentence from Jefferson County for 1 county of Burglary of a Habitation and 2 counts of Burglary of a Building (served 13 year sentence concurrent with 10 year sentence).  Released on Parole to Jefferson County on 2/13/1990.  Returned as a Parole Violator on 1/11/1994.  Released on Mandatory Supervision to Jefferson County on 3/21/1997.

Summary of incident

On February 6, 1998, in Port Arthur, Chester broke into the residence of Kim Ryman Deleon.  Chester raped her 14 year old and 16 year old daughters. 

Willie Ryman III (uncle to the girls) entered the home and was shot and killed by Chester.  Chester took jewelry from the home and fled the scene. 

While in police custody, Chester confessed to this crime, two other murders, and three attempts to commit capital murder. 

Chester stated that he committed these offenses because he was out his mind "with hate for white people" due to a disagreement with a white staff member over a disciplinary report during a previous TDCJ incarceration.



Race and Gender of Victim

White male

PA man gives last words before execution

By Michael Graczyk - Associated Press

Thursday, June 13, 2013

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A man who confessed to killing five people during a six-month crime spree in southeastern Texas 15 years ago was put to death Wednesday for the fatal shooting of a firefighter.

Elroy Chester, 44, said that he didn't want relatives of his victims to have "hate in your heart for me."

Chester said he confessed to killing firefighter Willie Ryman III because "you should know who killed your loved one."

"Don't hate me. I'm sorry for taking your loved one," Chester said. "Elroy Chester wasn't a bad man, I don't care what anybody says. A lot of people say I didn't commit those murders. I really did it."

Moments later, Chester told the warden to proceed with the execution and began humming what sounded like church hymn. He then took several deep breaths, yawned and began snoring as the lethal drug took effect.

Chester was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. CDT, 27 minutes after the lethal drug was administered.

Ryman, a decorated Port Arthur firefighter, was killed in February 1998 when he interrupted Chester as he sexually assaulted Ryman's two teenage nieces during a break-in at their home. Chester, who was on probation at the time, was arrested soon after and subsequently pleaded guilty to killing the 38-year-old firefighter.

"After 15 years, it's a long time coming," Barry Ryman, brother of the slain firefighter, said after watching Chester die. "It's not complete closure. Our brother's still not here. The other victims are not here."

"Justice has been done. It was carried out today," Ryman's sister, Kim Chiasson said. "His reign of terror is over."

DNA evidence tied Chester to the rapes. Ballistics tests matched his gun to the slayings of Ryman and four others. The gun was stolen in one of 25 burglaries in Port Arthur attributed to Chester.

A jury deliberated 12 minutes before deciding Chester should be put to death.

"In my 37 years as a policeman, I've never met a man so evil in my life," said Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton, who was outside the Huntsville prison with several dozen police and firefighters from the city about 75 miles east of Houston.

He said with Chester's death, "I will know he won't be able to prey on anybody ... or take somebody else's life."

Chester also confessed to killing 78-year-old John Henry Sepeda and Etta Mae Stallings, 87, during burglaries. He told police he stalked Cheryl DeLeon, 40, then fatally beat her with his gun as she arrived home from work. And he admitted to shooting his 35-year-old brother-in-law, Albert Bolden Jr., in the head.

"It was just a horrible time in Port Arthur when these murders and attempted murders were going on," McWilliams said.

The execution was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal from Chester's attorneys that focused on the conduct of a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled earlier in Chester's case.

Judge Edith Jones was in a 2-1 majority two years ago that determined Chester was not mentally impaired and was therefore eligible for execution. Chester's attorneys argued Jones subsequently displayed bias against Chester when she discussed his case during a February lecture on the death penalty at the University of Pennsylvania law school.

Jones' remarks in February were not recorded, but attorneys for Chester obtained affidavits from several people who attended and backed an account from a lawyer who described Jones' "outrage and incredulity" that Chester and others would raise mental impairment claims in their appeals. Attorney Susan Orlansky said the comments "infected" Jones' judgment and called her impartiality into question.

Chester's attorneys requested a reprieve to give new judges on the case time to study it and the allegations against Jones. They did not contest his guilt.

When a new 5th Circuit panel reviewing the arguments Wednesday said it perceived "no injustice, nor any incorrectness," Chester's lawyers took their case to the Supreme Court.

Chester became the seventh convicted killer executed this year in Texas and the 499th since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982 following a nearly two-decade-long hiatus.

A Dallas woman, Kimberly McCarthy, is scheduled June 26 to become the 500th Texas inmate executed in modern times.


Port Arthur murderer Elroy Chester loses appeal

By Jennifer Johnson -

November 1, 2012

On Oct. 29, the United States Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch plea to re-hear evidence related to the conviction of Elroy Chester, who was sentenced to die for the 1998 murder of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III. Chester was alleged to have killed the firefighter when Ryman came to the rescue of his two nieces while Chester was raping the teen girls in their home.

According to criminal records at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, “While in police custody, Chester confessed to this crime, two other murders, and three attempts to commit capital murder. Chester stated that he committed these offenses because he was out his mind ‘with hate for white people’ due to a disagreement with a white staff member over a disciplinary report during a previous TDCJ incarceration.”

Chester’s attorneys have insisted the accused murderer is mentally retarded and should be spared a death sentence.

Although investigators agree that Chester had low-performing scores on some intellectual assessment examinations, Judge J. Womack of the 252nd Judicial District Court of Jefferson County penned an opinion in 2007 that suggested the court take into account whether Chester suffered “significant deficits in adaptive functioning, usually expressed by limited conceptual, social and practical skills.”

Womack argued Chester was in control of his own actions, and “in all of his crimes he acted independently of others instead of being led around.” Additionally, he said, “the court found that the specifics of the various crimes to which (Chester) confessed, including the use of masks and gloves, his practice of cutting exterior phone lines before entering homes to burglarize, and his deliberate targeting of victims ... showed persuasively that the applicant was capable of forethought, planning, and complex execution of purpose.”

Five dead, others scarred for life

According to evidence presented at court, Chester stalked a teenage victim on the night of Feb. 6, 1998. The target, then 17, was home alone with her 1-year-old son.

Unbeknownst to the young mother, Chester was walking through her neighborhood, searching for a place to burglarize. He had with him a pair of gloves, a knitted hat in which he had cut two holes to make a ski mask, and a gun he had stolen in a previous burglary.

Once Chester was confident the girl was alone, he cut the phone lines – a technique he later said was his normal practice when committing a burglary. He checked the door; it was unlocked. After gaining entry, Chester grabbed the victim by the hair, held the gun to her head, and demanded money or jewelry. Forcing his hostage to lead him through her home, Chester acquired duct tape from the home’s garage and jewelry from a bedroom in the residence.

In quick succession, the teen’s younger sister arrived at the home along with her boyfriend. Under the threat of being shot in the head, Chester was able subdue all three teens, stripping them of their clothes and binding them with tape.

Chester proceeded to sexually assault the two girls until a car approached the home. At that time, Chester ran into the kitchen to dress himself, and then went to stand by the side door to wait for the person approaching, who turned out to be Willie Ryman, the girls’ uncle.

Ryman opened the door and turned on the light. Upon entering, Chester shot Ryman and dragged the dying man into the kitchen. Chester ran outside and noticed Ryman’s girlfriend, Marcia Sharp, waiting in the driveway in Ryman’s vehicle. While Ryman lay bleeding inside, Chester unloaded five shots at Sharp through the vehicle’s windows, none striking its target.

Investigators contend that the events surrounding Ryman’s murder were the culmination of a six-month spree of criminal activity in which Chester burglarized at least five residences, sexually assaulted two people, murdered at least five people, and fired shots at no fewer than five others. Among the crimes Chester eventually confessed to committing during this period were the burglary and homicide of John Henry Sepeda, killed as he awoke in bed while Chester was robbing his home; the murder of Albert Bolden, the killer’s common-law brother-in-law, for setting Chester up on a date with a woman who turned out to be a transvestite; the burglary and homicide of Etta Stallings, also shot to death in her bedroom while Chester robbed the home; and the murder of Cheryl DeLeon, a former co-worker Chester was accused of sexually harassing years before he ambushed her outside her home and shot her in the head.

New life

Chester now says he is now a Christian, having turned his life over to Christ inside a Texas prison. In a profile listing for prison pen pals, Chester said his interests now are along the lines of “music from the ’80s (rap and R&B) movies (drama, action and horror), basketball, checkers and dominoes.” He said he was “looking for a friend.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has yet to announce an execution date for Chester.


PA murderer denied appeal for life

March 1, 2007

Associated Press

One of Port Arthur's most notorious convicted murderers will stay on death row after a court denied his appeals Wednesday.

Elroy Chester, 37, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death in 1998 for the fatal shooting of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman. Ryman was killed when he tried to stop Chester from raping his two nieces. Chester also confessed to killing at least 4 other people during a 6-month crime spree in the Pear Ridge area of Port Arthur.

But in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mentally retarded could not be executed, and Chester was one of Texas' death row inmates whose mental capacity had not been determined at the time of the death sentence.

Wednesday the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Chester is not mentally retarded and still faces execution.

"We are very pleased with the result of the hearing and think it is appropriate. Elroy Chester is one of the most dangerous individuals we have ever prosecuted," Wayln Thompson, Jefferson County assistant district attorney on the case said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "If he did not qualify for the death penalty, then I don't know who does."

Thompson said that nothing in Chesters background tests indicated mental retardation.

"By the findings presented in court, it was obvious by his adaptive behavior that he was not mentally retarded. You have to look at more than IQ scores, but at his behavior indicators. He functions normally and was never diagnosed as mentally retarded, but only that he was learning disabled, which is not the same thing at all," Thompson said.

One of Chester's IQ tests when he was a student in Port Arthur public schools did show that he was mildly mentally retarded, but another test also showed him with an IQ above 70, considered the threshold for retardation. When he was 18 and in prison for 3 burglary convictions, a Texas Department of Corrections test put his IQ at 69.

While finding evidence of "subaverage intellectual functioning persuasive," the appeals court noted Chester did not show any deficits in his adaptive behavior, which the judges acknowledged while "inherently subjective (in) nature, is consistently the most problematic issue for factfinders to resolve when dealing with these types of claims," according to an Associated Press story on the hearing.

"The Supreme Court really never gave solid guidelines (on determining mental retardation), and the court of Criminal Appeals has been struggling with that," Thompson said.

The court specifically pointed to Chester's actions when he offered to lead Port Arthur police to the gun used in his crimes. When police, acting on his directions, couldn't find a gun he insisted was unloaded and hidden in a hole in a ceiling, he took his handcuffed and shackled hands in an opposite direction in the hole and attempted to pull out a gun officers found was fully loaded.

Chester also confessed to killing John Henry Sepeda, 78, during a burglary; Etta Mae Stallings, 87, in another burglary; Cheryl DeLeon, 40, whom he stalked and fatally beat with his gun as she arrived home from work; and Albert Bolden Jr., 35, who was his brother-in-law and was shot in the head. According to court documents, Chester told police he killed Bolden for beating his sister or for setting him up with a date with a woman who turned out to be a transvestite.

Chester likely still has federal appeals he can pursue to try to keep him from lethal injection. He does not have an execution date.

Thompson added that he believes Chester had very good legal representation for the appeals hearing.

"An experienced firm from Alaska, Harvard educated, came down to represent him on their own tab. They fought for what they believed in, and made sure he had the best representation possible," Thompson said.

In 2 other similar cases the Austin-based appeals court on Wednesday said condemned inmates Demetrius Lott Simms and Darrell Glenn Carr, convicted in separate Houston slayings, are mentally retarded and may not be executed. The decision upholds findings in each of their trial courts. Their sentences now are reduced to life in prison.


Court says death row inmate is not mentally retarded

A convicted murderer condemned for fatally shooting a Port Arthur fireman 9 years ago lost an attempt to avoid execution when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that he is not mentally retarded.

Elroy Chester, 37, confessed to the slayings of at least four other people during a 6-month crime spree. He pleaded guilty to killing Wilie Ryman III, who was trying to keep Chester from raping his two nieces at their Port Arthur home. Ryman, who frequently checked on the girls when their mother was at work, had interrupted Chester's burglary of the home and the rapes.

A Jefferson County jury in 1998 took just 12 minutes to decide Chester should be executed.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of mentally retarded people, and a federal judge that year ruled that the trial court never determined whether Chester is retarded. A federal appeals court in 2003 refused to rule on Chester's appeal until all state appeals were exhausted.

In 2 other cases, however, the state's highest criminal appeals court Wednesday said condemned inmates Demetrius Lott Simms and Darrell Glenn Carr, convicted in separate Houston slayings, are mentally retarded and cannot be executed. The decision upholds findings in their trial courts. Their sentences now are reduced to life in prison.

Carr, 37, was convicted of killing a 16-year-old pregnant girl, Priscilla Rangel, during a convenience store robbery in Houston in 1991. She was a customer in the store. At the time, Carr was on parole after serving less than 5 years of a 15-year sentence for assault.

Simms, who turned 36 on Tuesday, was convicted of abducting a 3-year-old Houston girl, Monique Miller, raping her and then beating her to death with a tree branch. He was arrested 3 days later while trying to abduct another child. The slaying occurred 3 days after Simms was paroled after serving less than 2 years of a 6-year sentence for theft and indecency with a child.

In Chester's case, his trial court, after an evidentiary hearing, ruled that his mental retardation claims had not been proved. That finding was appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Chester's lawyers argued that an improper standard was used to determine that Chester is not mentally retarded.

Chester was on mandatory supervision, a form of probation, when he went on the crime spree in which he killed 5 people, sexually assaulted two and burglarized at least 5 homes. Court records show he also fired shots at at least 5 other people.


Condemned Port Arthur Killer Waits for Execution Date

Can He Be Killed Painlessly?

Breck Porter
The Police News, 2008

One man on death row in Texas, who is probably happy that executions are suspended, while the U.S. Supreme Court decides how to kill him without hurting him first, is Elroy Chester.

The 39-year old serial killer arrived on death row in September 1998, just seven months after he murdered a man in Port Arthur.  Probably the swiftest death penalty in Jefferson County history, it took a jury only 12 minutes to condemn him to death for killing Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman during a seven-month killing spree between August 1997 and February 1998.

On the evening of February 6, 1998, Chester broke into a home in Port Arthur while seventeen-year-old Erin DeLeon was at home alone with her one-and-a-half year old son, Tony. 

Unbeknownst to Erin, Chester was outside the house, watching her. He had been walking through her neighborhood, searching for a place to burglarize. He had with him a pair of gloves, a knitted hat in which he had cut two holes to make a ski mask, and a gun which he had stolen in a previous burglary. He had scratched the serial numbers off of the gun. Upon reaching the Ryman home, he recognized it as one he had burglarized previously. He watched Erin through the open window blinds and, when it appeared that she was home alone he went around the side of the house and cut the phone lines, which he later said was his normal practice when committing a burglary. He checked the side door to the house and found it unlocked. Chester put on his mask and gloves, and entered the house through the side door. That door opened into the kitchen, which he entered, and then came into the living room where Erin was.

Chester grabbed Erin by the hair, held the gun to her head, and demanded money and jewelry. Erin replied that they had a little jewelry, but no money, in the house. He then took her through the house, still holding her by the hair, searching her mother's and sisters' bedrooms to confirm that no one else was at home. He asked Erin where her mother was and if she was coming home. Erin said her mother would be home in the morning. He then asked Erin who she had been on the phone with earlier. Erin replied that she had spoken with her boyfriend.

After that Chester took Erin into her mother's bedroom, from which he took some jewelry. He then did the same in her sisters' and in Erin's own bedroom. He took her to the dining room, and then had her turn off all remaining lights in the home. He then took her into the garage, still pulling her by her hair.

Once in the garage, Erin offered to turn on the lights but Chester refused. Instead, he began feeling around in the dark until he found a roll of duct tape. Erin later testified that she believed by the way he was feeling around that the he knew exactly what he was looking for in the dark garage.

As they re-entered the house, Erin's sister Claire was arriving at the side door with her boyfriend Tim. They attempted to enter through the side door but Chester had made Erin lock it, so Claire knocked on the door. Chester pulled Erin by her hair toward the door and, while hiding behind her with his gun pointed at her head, ordered Erin to unlock the door and let her sister into the house. When Claire entered the house, he pushed Erin forward and yelled at Claire to not say anything or he would "blow her [Erin's] head off." Claire began to babble incoherently and Erin tried to quiet her.

Tim, still unaware of what was happening, was outside on the porch and asked Claire what was wrong. Chester ordered Claire to tell Tim that nothing was wrong and that he should leave. Claire complied, but Tim persisted, and Chester told him directly to come into the house. Tim's car was still running, so he asked Chester if he could turn it off first, and Chester told him yes, but if Tim attempted to leave that he would kill both girls. Tim went to turn off his car ignition, and then entered the house.

Once inside, Chester was still holding Erin by her ponytail, and with the gun pointed at her head demanded jewelry or money from Claire and Tim. They said they had none.  Tim showed Chester his empty wallet, and Claire went to her mother's bedroom to confirm that there was no more jewelry in the house. When Claire returned, Chester asked Tim what kind of car he had, and specifically whether it was an automatic or a stick shift. Erin later testified that she presumed from those questions that Chester was thinking of using Tim's car to escape. Chester then ordered Claire and Tim into the bathroom.

Alone with Erin in the dining room, the gunman ordered her to remove her clothes. Erin began to do so. Chester tried to remove her bra himself, and did remove her underwear himself. Erin was now kneeling and wearing only her socks, and Chester used the duct tape to blindfold her. He then called for Tim to come out of the bathroom. He ordered Tim to strip, and Tim removed all of his clothes except for his underwear and socks. The applicant then used the duct tape to blindfold Tim, and to bind his wrists and ankles. After that, Chester dragged Tim into Erin's bedroom.

He returned to the dining room and ordered Claire to come out of the bathroom. He ordered Claire to remove her clothes, and she complied. He then blindfolded Claire with the duct tape, and seated her on the floor next to Erin. Erin then removed the tape over her eyes enough to see the applicant unzipping his pants and removing his mask, but Chester came over to push the tape back down over her eyes.

Then Chester raped Erin vaginally, on the floor, next to her sister. When he was done and had removed himself from on top of her, Erin tried to get up, but he pulled her over to where he was now sitting in a chair, and forced her to perform oral sodomy on him. Chester kept the gun next to Erin's forehead and threatened to shoot her if she tried to bite him. After the oral sex, Erin moved to the floor area at one side of the room, and Chester ordered Claire to perform oral sex on him, which she did. The applicant repeated the same threat that he would shoot her if she bit him.

Then a car pulled up outside. Chester heard the car, ran into the kitchen to dress himself, then went to stand by the side door to wait for the person approaching, who turned out to be Willie ("Billy") Ryman, Kim Ryman's brother, the girls' uncle and a local firefighter. Billy would often come to the house to check on the girls, when he knew their mother was at work. Billy opened the door and turned on the light. Chester yelled at him to come inside and, upon entering, he shot him. Billy fell to the ground immediately, and Chester dragged his body into the kitchen, where he eventually died. Chester then ran out of the house. Claire got up and locked the side door, locking him out of the house.

Billy's girlfriend Marcia Sharp had been waiting outside in Billy's truck in the driveway while he went up to the house. Marcia heard the gunshot fired at Billy but thought perhaps it was a car backfiring. Moments later, she saw Chester run out of the house and then try to go back in, after realizing he had been locked out by Claire. Chester then approached the truck on the passenger side, where Marcia was sitting. The door was unlocked but, just as he reached for the handle, Marcia locked it. Chester was now wearing his mask again. He pulled out his gun and shot once at the lock on the car door. He then noticed that the driver's door was unlocked, so he ran around to the driver's side of the truck, but Marcia quickly reached over and locked that door, too. He shot twice at the lock on the driver's door, but it did not open. He then stepped back, looked at Marcia, and shot twice more at the driver's door window. None of the gunshots hit Marcia. Chester then ran down the street, away from the house.

The events at the Ryman, Deleon home were the culmination of a six-month spree of criminal activity by Chester, in which he burglarized at least five residences, sexually assaulted two people, murdered at least five people, and fired shots at no fewer than five others.

On August 3, 1997, six months before the murder of Willie Ryman, Chester burglarized the home of Kenneth Risinger. There, he obtained the .380 semi-automatic pistol he later used to shoot several victims.

Six days later, Chester broke into the home of ten-year-old Rolaycia Mouton while wearing a hockey mask. He forced Rolaycia into a closet, tied her up with tape, and anally raped her.

On the night of August 16, 1997, Chester attempted to burglarize two homes and ended up shooting the residents. First, he awoke sixteen-year-old Oscar Morales by shouting through his bedroom window and demanding money. When Morales tried to leave the room, Chester shot him in the leg. Later that evening, Chester awakened Matthew Horvarich in a similar manner. When Horvatch got up and came to the window, Chester shot him in the shoulder.

Among the crimes that Elroy Chester eventually confessed to committing during this period were the following:

  • The burglary and homicide of John Henry Sepeda. Like the Ryman murder case, he used wire cutters to cut the phone lines to Sepeda's home before entering it, he wore a mask which he had brought with him, and he carried a gun. He also carried a flashlight. He entered the bedroom where Sepeda and his wife were sleeping, and began to burglarize the room while they slept. Sepeda woke up, and approached Chester, who shot and killed him. Before fleeing, he demanded that Sepeda's wife give him a ring that she was wearing.

  • The murder of Albert Bolden, Chester's common-law brother-in-law. He gave two reasons to the police for his motive: Bolden had been beating his sister, and/or Bolden had set him up on a date with a woman who turned out to be a transvestite. Chester invited Bolden to commit a burglary with him, and brought him to a vacant home he knew of in Port Arthur. In fact, he had no intention of burglarizing the home and instead admitted that he just wanted to kill Bolden. After leading Bolden to the vacant home, Chester directed him to walk through the door first, and then shot him in the back of the head. He then fled the scene and hid the gun that he used.

  • The burglary and homicide of Etta Stallings. Again, Chester wore a ski mask, carried a gun and a flashlight, staked out the home beforehand to see who was there, and cut the phone lines outside before breaking into the home. As in the Sepeda case, he attempted to burglarize the home while Stallings and her husband were asleep, but Stallings woke up. She pulled a gun out of her dresser drawer, and he shot her to death. He then took the property he had stolen, as well as Stallings' gun, and stashed it all under a nearby vacant house.

  • The murder of Cheryl DeLeon. Chester knew DeLeon because they had worked together at a local Luby's restaurant for eleven months in 1992. He admitted he would often sexually harass her, and she would complain about it to their boss. Knowing that she still worked at Luby's, he likewise knew that she got off work at 8:00 in the evening. After it had gotten dark outside, he went to DeLeon's home. As in the case at hand, he was wearing a mask, carrying a gun, and wearing gloves. This time, he unscrewed the light bulb illuminating a storage shed near the back door of her house, so that he could lay in wait under cover of darkness. He lied down on the ground by the storage shed, and waited thirty to forty-five minutes in the dark until DeLeon's car pulled into the driveway. As DeLeon got out of her car and walked to her back door, he ran up and grabbed her. They struggled, she screamed, and he hit her in the side of the head with the gun. According to Chester, the gun went off accidentally when he hit her with it, shooting her dead. He then fled to his father's home, where he hid the gun in the attic.

Even before Chester's arrest, Port Arthur police had recognized that the series of recent burglaries, assaults, rapes and murders in the Port Arthur area shared a similar modus operandi.  For instance, at many of the burglarized homes, Chester would cut the telephone lines, unscrew outdoor security lights, and wear a mask to conceal his identity.

The evidence later presented in trial suggested that Chester used the .380 pistol in the shooting deaths of Willie Ryman, John Sepeda, Cheryl DeLeon, Etta Stallings, and Albert Bolden.  Shell casings found at the crime scenes and bullets removed from the victims bodies matched characteristics of the pistol found in Chester's home.

Chester had also attempted to use some object to alter the physical characteristics of the barrel and had filed off the serial number.

The Port Arthur police arrested him. While in custody, and after being asked to provide a blood sample, Chester told investigator Timothy Smith that he would take him to where the gun that was used in the crime was located. Chester knew Smith and seemed to trust him more than he did the other officers. Smith, two other investigators from the District Attorney's office, and two local detectives then accompanied Chester to his father's house. He was wearing a jail jumpsuit, as well as leg restraints attached by a chain to another chain around his waist, which in turn connected to a pair of handcuffs, thereby shackling his wrists to his waist, such that his mobility was extremely limited.

Upon reaching his father's house, Chester attempted to move ahead of the others. Smith had admonished him that he would not be allowed to handle or touch the gun himself, but Chester insisted that he would have to locate the gun personally because it was in a place that was difficult to reach. He assured the detective that the gun was unloaded, and that he himself was the only one who would be able to reach it.

Chester led the others to his bedroom and, despite efforts to prevent him from moving ahead too quickly, walked over near his bed and dragged a small nightstand to a position directly underneath a hole in the ceiling. He began to climb on top of the nightstand, but was quickly told to stop. One of the investigators, Reginald Rose, climbed on top of the nightstand to look in the hole, and Chester directed him to look in a specific direction for the gun. Rose looked and reached around inside the hole as directed by Chester, but could not find the gun. Chester then climbed atop the same nightstand where Rose was standing and, while continuing to direct Rose to look in the same direction he had previously indicated, attempted to reach with his shackled hands in the opposite direction from where he had told Rose to look.

Smith had been watching him the entire time and, when he saw Chester reach with his hands in the other direction, drew his gun and ordered him to stop moving. He was taken down from the nightstand and escorted to sit on a nearby couch. Smith then climbed atop the nightstand himself and looked in the direction where the applicant had attempted to reach. He immediately saw the gun and retrieved it. The gun was fully loaded.

After being sentenced to death, the lawyer's for Chester sought relief from the sentence on the ground that he was mentally retarded and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to put him to death.  The court in which he was convicted found the evidence insufficient to support the claim.

The trial court also found that Chester was capable of hiding facts and lying to protect his own interests, as demonstrated by the episode in which he told the investigators that he would take them to where he had hidden his gun, all the while apparently planning to get to the gun himself before the investigators could. Finally, the court found that the specifics of the various crimes to which he confessed, including the use of masks and gloves, his practice of cutting exterior phone lines before entering homes to burglarize, and his deliberate targeting of victims like Cheryl DeLeon and his brother-in-law Albert Bolden, showed persuasively that he was capable of forethought, planning, and complex execution of purpose.

Chester pleaded guilty to capital murder. Texas law requires that a jury decide punishment in a case in which death is a possible penalty. At the punishment phase, the facts of the offense were undisputed. After hearing evidence of the offense and other evidence relevant to the punishment issues, the jury returned findings that required the trial court to enter a sentence of death.

Prior to Chester's murderous rampage he had already qualified himself as a career criminal.  He had been given a ten year sentence from Jefferson County for one count of Burglary of a Habitation and two counts of Burglary of a Building.  He served a 13 year sentence concurrently with a 10 year sentence and was released on parole on February 13, 1990.  However, he went back to prison on January 11, 1994 when he violated parole.  He was released on Mandatory Supervision on March 21, 1997 beginning his rampage five months later.

Today, Elroy Chester, Texas prison inmate number 999280, occupies a cell in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Prison System in Livingston, Texas.  There is no date set for his execution while the U.S. Supreme Court continues considering how Chester, and others, can be executed painlessly.



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