Ex-Texas Tech student executed for double slaying
Thursday, July 18, 2013
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A former Texas Tech graduate student was executed Thursday for a double slaying in Lubbock a dozen years ago.
Vaughn Ross, 41, was condemned for the January 2001 fatal shootings of an 18-year-old woman with whom he had been feuding and an associate dean at the university who was with her at the time.
Ross, from St. Louis, had no friends or relatives present but told them he loved them, thanked them for their support and urged they stay strong.
“You know I don’t fear death,” he said, strapped to the death chamber gurney.
The execution, the 10th this year in the nation’s most active capital punishment state, came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal to block the punishment. Ross contended his previous appeals attorneys neglected to note that his trial lawyers didn’t present evidence that may have convinced jurors to sentence him to life in prison.
Defense attorney Don Vernay also argued that differences in rulings involving similar cases decided by the justices needed to be resolved and Ross’ punishment should be put off until those conflicts are clarified.
Assistant Texas Attorney General Tomee Heining contested the appeal, noting that Ross’ trial lawyers called witnesses on Ross’ behalf and managed an “admirable mitigation defense” even though Ross had instructed his family and friends not to cooperate.
“Ross cannot interfere with trial counsel’s strategy and later claim deficient performance,” Heining told the high court.
A bicyclist spotted the bodies of Douglas Birdsall, 53, the associate dean of libraries at Texas Tech University, and Viola Ross McVade in a car in a gully at a Lubbock park. McVade was the sister of Ross’ girlfriend and was not related to the convicted killer.
Court documents said Birdsall had been looking for a prostitute and that a friend of McVade introduced him to her that evening. Prosecutors contend McVade was the intended target, and that Birdsall was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Both victims were shot multiple times. Detectives said they linked Ross to the deaths after finding his and Birdsall’s DNA on part of a latex glove in the car. DNA tests on Ross’ sweatshirt also detected blood from both victims.
Ross came to Texas Tech for graduate work in architecture. When questioned by detectives, he acknowledged arguing and threatening McVade. He also acknowledged wearing latex gloves but said they were to protect his hands while he was doing some cleaning with bleach.
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