Texas is scheduled to put a notorious killer to death tonight. Elroy Chester III, 44, is set to die by lethal injection in Huntsville this evening for the 1998 murder of decorated Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III. Ryman was fatally shot when he interrupted a burglary at his sister's home. Police say Chester broke in to the home and raped Ryman's two teenage nieces. "Willie Ryman's nieces, (Chester) had them kidnapped and had already sexually assaulted them, and (Ryman) had gone over to their house to check on them, and walked in on a burglary, and was murdered for it," says Ed Shettle, Assistant District Attorney for Jefferson County.
Shettle tells KTRH that Ryman's murder was the finale of a months-long crime spree by Chester that included other burglaries and killings. "He was convicted of capital murder (in the Ryman case), but we also have several murder charges still pending against him because he's accused of murdering five other people," says Shettle. Chester was arrested two days after the killing, and pleaded guilty to capital murder. It took a jury only 12 minutes to sentence him to death. "He's a bad guy," says Shettle. "He is the worst offender that we've prosecuted in this office in the past 25 years."
Chester's attorneys have spent years appealing his death sentence, claiming he is mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for execution. Courts have rejected all of those claims, finding no evidence of mental retardation on the part of Chester. Just this week, a federal appeals court judge refused a request by Chester's attorneys to remove herself from his case because of perceived bias against him. Chester's execution would be the 499th in Texas in the modern death penalty era.