Update: Monday, March 30, 2015 11:05 am EDT
Robert Lynn Pruett is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Thirty-five-year-old Robert was convicted of killing 37-year-old correctional officer Daniel Nagle, on December 17, 1999, while Robert was serving a life sentence at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. Robert has spent the last 15 years of his life on Texas’ death row.
Robert grew up poor, often going hungry. He and his family frequently moved while he was a child. Robert was friends with gang members, did drugs, and drank alcohol while growing up. His mother worked hard and his father was gone during the early years of his life. Eventually they got back together. As a teenager, Robert and his friends began stealing from people's houses. During one of these robberies, when Robert was 15, he and his friends were caught by a neighbor. They fled the house and attempted to hide their stolen goods, including rifles. Robert was caught and sent to a juvenile detention center. Robert returned home on a very strict parole and warned to not get into any more trouble.
Upon returning home, Robert was informed by his friends that his neighbor, Ray Yarborough, had taken one of the guns he and his friends had stolen. Robert, who did not like Ray, asked for the weapon back. Ray denied having the weapon. The two argued for a while but did not resolve the problem. Robert informed his brother and father about the argument. They all agreed to do nothing so as to not stir up trouble.
On August 9, 1995, just a few weeks shy of Robert's 16th birthday, Ray, who lived in a trailer across from Robert, came home drunk. His dog had escaped and, while attempting to catch it, he yelled obscenities and threatened to beat it. Robert, who was unaware of the escaped dog, thought Ray was yelling at him. Robert awakened his father and brother and all three went outside to confront Ray. Robert, the first one outside, attacked Ray. Robert's brother came outside next and began fighting with Ray. The two of them ended up in some trees, where Robert's father went after them. Robert claims he stayed with the group who had gathered. Robert's father and brother emerged from the woods with blood on their clothing. The three fled. They were later arrested and all were charged with Ray's murder. Robert's father eventually confessed to stabbing Ray and killing him. He testified that although his boys were with him during the murder, they did not partake. He received a life sentence. Robert's brother, who was 25 at the time of the murder, received a 40 year sentence. Robert, who was tried as an adult, received a 99 year sentence.
On December 2, 1989, every mother’s worst fear became a reality for Debra Jean Milke: her son, 4-year-old Christopher Conan Milke, disappeared. Unfortunately, this was just the first nightmare for Debra - it was about to get much worse.
Debra had allowed her son to go to the mall to meet Santa with her roommate James Lynn Styers and his friend, Roger Mark Scott. Later that day, James filed a missing child report indicating Christopher had disappeared while they were at the mall. The following day, during a police interview, Roger confessed to knowing where Christopher’s body was buried and to being present when James shot and killed him. According to the two men, they murdered Christopher at the request of his mother, who did not want the child anymore or for him to live with his father. Christopher’s death would also lead to a payout of his life insurance.
Armando Saldate, Jr., a former detective with the Phoenix Police Department, questioned Debra shortly after her son’s disappearance. There were no witnesses during the questioning and it was not recorded. According to the detective, Debra confessed to the crime, however she did not provide a written statement, nor did she sign one written by the detective. She was convicted and sentenced to death on January 18, 1991, on the testimony of Detective Saldate. The two men, who were also convicted of murder and sentenced to death, refused to testify against Debra.
Since then, a federal court has affirmed that now-retired Detective Saldate has a history of misconduct by lying under oath and/or violated suspects’ rights. After nearly 20 years, an appeals court determined that there was no evidence that Debra had voluntarily waived her Miranda rights, therefore her alleged confession was inadmissible in court. Debra was granted a new trial. She was released on bond, with an ankle monitor, in 2013.
On Monday, March 23, 2015, 24 years after she was sentenced to death, all charges against Debra were formally dismissed. Her ankle monitor was also removed. She is now suing the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County, and numerous other individuals for violation of her civil rights, being denied a fair trial, and malicious prosecution.
Please pray for Debra.