Bower executed after Supreme Court denies appeal

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Texas death row inmate Lester Bower is photographed May 20, 2015, during an interview from a visiting cage at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. Bower is set to be executed June 3, 2015, for the fatal shootings of four men at an airplane hangar north of Dallas in 1983. At 67, Bower would be the oldest inmate executed in Texas since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1982. (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk)

Nick Niedzwiadek

MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas  The execution of a 67-year-old man who was convicted of killing four men more than three decades ago concluded Wednesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-day appeal to halt the lethal injection.

Lester Bower Jr. was be the oldest prisoner executed in the most active death penalty state since the punishment was reinstated in 1982.

He was convicted of the  fatal shootings of four men in October 1983 at an airplane hangar on a ranch near Sherman, about 60 miles north of Dallas. Prosecutors say he killed the four after stealing an airplane that he had been trying to buy from one of his victims.

“I do have remorse,” Bower, who has maintained his innocence, said two weeks ago. “I’m remorseful for putting my family and my wife and my friends through this.

“If this is going to bring some closure to them (the victim’s family), then good. But if they think by this they’re executing the person that killed their loved one, then that’s going to come up a little bit short.”

Bower was the eighth inmate given a lethal dose of pentobarbital this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.

The Supreme Court declined in March to review Bower’s case — although three justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said they would have thrown out his death sentence. But about three hours before he was to be taken to the death chamber, the Supreme Court denied his renewed late appeal.

Bower, a chemical salesman from Arlington, was arrested and charged with capital murder after the four men were found Oct. 8, 1983.

Those killed were building contractor and B&B Ranch owner Bob Tate, 51; Grayson County Sheriff’s Deputy Philip Good, 29, who sold ultralights and was trying to sell one owned by Tate; Jerry Brown, 52, a Sherman interior designer; and Ronald Mayes, 39, a former Sherman police officer.

Prosecutors built a circumstantial case that Bower, obsessed with obtaining the aircraft, stole it and shot the men as they showed up that Saturday afternoon at the hangar where Bower was to complete the purchase and where the four victims had planned to watch the Texas-Oklahoma football game on TV. Parts of the plane later were found at Bower’s home.

Bower initially lied to his wife, who didn’t want him to buy the plane, and to investigators who tracked him down from calls made to Good that were charged to Bower’s company-issued telephone credit card. He eventually acknowledged being at the ranch, but said the victims were alive when he left with the disassembled plane that he properly bought, but could produce no receipt. His attorneys suggested years later that other men involved in a drug deal gone bad were responsible for the shootings.

Bower was nearly a year and a half older than William Chappell, who was executed at age 66 in Texas in 2002. Nationally, a 74-year-old prisoner was put to death in Alabama in 2004. Only one other executed prisoner in Texas served more time on death row than Bower.

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