offender declined to make a last statement.
Age: 43 (36)
Executed: Sept. 21, 1999
Education level: Some college
On Dec. 2, 1992, Smith killed Karen Birky, 38, a
special education teacher, during a robbery at the Baytown
convenience store were she moonlighted. Smith eventually dropped all
appeals, electing for death by injection rather than from hepatitis
C he is believed to have contracted from sharing a heroin needle.
A five-time loser
addicted to drugs and alcohol was sentenced to die by lethal
injection for murdering a Baytown convenience store clerk in a
robbery that netted him less than $100.
Two people, driving
up at that moment, told police they heard Karen scream as the man
shot her. He then drove away in a Cherokee, police were told.
Patrolman Russell Krutsinger responded to the holdup alarm as the
Jeep was leaving, officers said.
"At first, he
didn't know what had happened until he saw the witnesses who had
gone to Karen's aid," Parker said. "So he didn't stop the Jeep from
leaving but had made a note of the license number. He was a few
numbers off but was close."
Karen was only able
to tell police that she didn't know her attacker before she was
taken to Hermann by Life Flight helicopter, Parker said.
Karen, a special-education
teacher at Lamar Elementary School where she had worked since
October 1991, died about 1:30 a.m. after being flown to Hermann
Hospital in Houston.
An HISD spokesman
said Karen's family lives in Michigan, and that she was single and
had no children. She had been employed by the Stop N Go chain since
July 1991 as a night clerk.
When Smith took the
stand, he was shown the surveillance photos, acknowledged that the
bearded man with the gun resembled him, but then said he didn't
remember doing it.
Nor was he fully
able to recall details of his 40 arrests and five trips to prison
since the 1970s.
He remembered his
bad conduct discharge from the Army in 1975 but said his memory was
fuzzy about his 1978 arrest in Bossier City, La., for forgery and
his 1978 arrest in Nacogdoches for stealing a rental car. Mount said
he was arrested against in Santa Cruz, Calif., in December 1978, but
Smith said he thought it happened in Missouri.
His testimony also
recounted arrests in Nevada for stealing trucks and prison sentences
in Louisiana for armed robbery.
Executes Killer Diagnosed With Hepatitis C
Los Angeles Times
convicted killer who dropped his appeals so he would be executed
before dying of hepatitis C was put to death by injection Tuesday night.
Richard Wayne Smith, 43, killed a Houston special
education teacher who was moonlighting as a convenience store clerk
Smith decided last year to drop his appeals so he
wouldn’t die from his advancing hepatitis C, a progressive disease
that leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure.
When a warden asked Smith whether he had a final
statement, he said, “No, sir.”
Smith was the 25th person executed in Texas this
year and the fourth this month.
Prosecutors said Smith robbed a convenience store
where Karen Birky, 38, worked so she could buy supplies for her
students. Birky complied with Smith’s demand for money before he
walked her into the parking lot, shot her in the neck and fled.
Smith is thought to have contracted hepatitis
through a shared heroin needle.
Richard Wayne Smith, 43, 99-09-21, Texas
Convicted killer Richard Wayne Smith was executed Tuesday evening
for the 1992 robbery and slaying of a schoolteacher moonlighting as
a store clerk.
Smith, 43, dropped all appeals to his conviction for the Baytown
murder of Karen Birky, allowing the state to execute him instead of
waiting to die from advancing hepatitis C.
When a warden asked whether he had a final statement, Smith said,
"No, sir." With a tear stain glistening under his right eye, Smith
licked his lips, closed his eyes and exhaled twice before dying.
Smith was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m., 8 minutes after the flow of
lethal drugs began.
Defense attorney Guy Womack said Smith hadn't wavered from his
decision late last year to die. Smith had used a wheelchair since
May because of his failing liver.
"When I tried to dissuade him from dropping his appeals he told me,
'Guy, you don't understand that I'll be much happier dead and not
suffering. If I win the appeal, what does that mean?'" Womack said.
Smith declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press.
According to prosecutors, Smith is seen on a Dec. 2, 1992,
surveillance videotape robbing the convenience store where Ms. Birky,
38, worked so she could buy supplies for her special education
students at Lamar Elementary in nearby Houston.
Ms. Birky complied with Smith's demand for money before he
apparently walked her into the parking lot. Witnesses testified
Smith fired one shot into Ms. Birky's neck and fled in a stolen Jeep
The victim bled to death aboard an emergency helicopter.
Police later that night found the Jeep in the apartment complex of
Smith's ex-wife. Smith woke up after sleeping in a nearby car and
was arrested in possession of a .32-caliber pistol tied to the
killing and three $5 bills traced to the store.
Smith, a Bowie County, Ark., native and Louisiana parolee in and out
of prison his entire life, has said he was impaired that night and
remembers nothing. Womack believes Smith had a chance at winning an
appeal but was intent on dying Tuesday.
Smith's record of crime and drugs dates to a juvenile marijuana-dealing
charge. He also was convicted of aggravated burglary, armed robbery,
auto theft and forgery before his 1994 capital murder conviction.
"Rickie was a guy who couldn't stop doing dope, and when he did dope
he became a very mean man," said Jim Mount, the prosecutor in
Authorities also said they thwarted what appeared to be an escape
plan Smith and his then-girlfriend organized while he was waiting
for his murder trial.
Smith is thought to have contracted hepatitis through a shared
heroin needle. Shirley Cornelius, the assistant Harris County
District Attorney who handles death-row appeals, noted that drug
abuse was responsible both for his illness and his criminal nature.
"He's a perfect example of drug abuse, both for the health reasons
and the sociological reasons," she said prior to Smith's execution.
Smith becomes the 25th condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in Texas and the 189th overall since the state resumed capital
punishment on Dec. 7, 1982. Texas has carried out 4 executions this
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)