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Texas Death Row Inmate’s Appeal Hinges On DNA Evidence

The fate of a Texas death row inmate who came within minutes of execution in 2010 turns on DNA evidence, but the state and the defense disagree on what that evidence shows.

Hank Skinner (Texas prison photo)

AMARILLO (June 7, 2014) State and defense attorneys have filed briefs with a judge who will decide the fate of Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner, 52, who came within 20 minutes of execution in 2010.

Skinner's defense team is asking the judge to rule that it is "reasonably probable" Skinner would have been acquitted in the 1993 triple slayings of a Pampa family if jurors had heard testimony about DNA evidence gathered at the crime scene, but attorneys for the state argue that much of the DNA evidence points solely to Skinner as the killer of his girlfriend, Twila Jean Busby, and her two sons.

Skinner says Busby became the love of his life after they met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and he says there would have been no reason for him to explode in rage more than 20 years ago on New Year's Eve, swinging an ax handle to batter the 40-year-old woman to death.

She was beaten and her two grown sons, Elwin “Scooter” Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20, were stabbed to death on Dec. 31, 1993 at the home they shared with Skinner and their mother in Pampa.

Skinner acknowledged being at the scene, but said he was passed out and sick from using alcohol and codeine.

Skinner was arrested after a Pampa police officer, who was dispatched to check on a report of a stabbing, found Elwin Caler, wearing only bloodstained underwear, sitting on a neighbor’s porch.

Caler was taken to a Pampa hospital, where he died a short time later, prosecutors said.

Officers went to Twila Busby’s house where they found the woman dead on the living room floor near the family’s Christmas tree, prosecutors said.

She had been strangled and beaten on the head with a blunt object.

Officers found a bloodstained axe handle leaning against a couch nearby.

Randy Busby was found dead in the bedroom he shared with his brother.

At about the same time officers were at the scene of the murder, Skinner was at the home of a former girlfriend, whom he first told that he had been stabbed and shot, prosecutors said.

She tried to call police, prosecutors said, but Skinner threatened to kill her if she did.

Later he told her that he thought he had kicked Twila Busby to death.

Police arrested him about three hours after the murders after finding him standing in a closet in the ex-girlfriend’s home, wearing jeans and socks that were heavily stained with blood, prosecutors said.

The only injury he had was a gash on the palm of his right hand, prosecutors said.

DNA tests showed that the blood on his shirt was Twila’s and the blood on his jeans was a mixture of Elwin’s and Twila’s, prosecutors said.


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