Monday, February 05, 2007

Death penalty still on table in Texas killings

Jury selection for the Texas man accused of murdering four people connected with a Killeen strip club in 2004 is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12, in Bell County Circuit Court.
Richard Lee Tabler, 27, will face the death penalty following a judge's ruling in January. No trial date has been set for Tabler's codefendant, Timothy Doan Payne, Granby, a graduate of East Newton High School. Payne will not face the death penalty.
Tabler's attorney's claim that Tabler should not face the death penalty because he suffers from a mental illness did not fly with Judge Martha Truco of the 264th District Court.
The following information about the case is reprinted from the Feb. 21, 2005, Turner Report:

Bell County, Texas, grand jury issued three capital murder indictments last week against a 2004 East Newton High School graduate in connection with the November 2004 deaths of four people connected with a Killeen, Texas, strip club.
The Temple, Texas, Telegram reported that Timothy Doan Payne, 19, a soldier at Fort Hood, was indicted along with Richard Lee Tabler, 26, of Killeen. Tabler was identified in print reports as a disgruntled former employee of the Teazers nightclub and purportedly was involved in gang activity.
In a December interview with the Dallas Morning News, Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith described the deaths as coming as the result of a "sinister and gruesome plot" to kill Teazers employees who had wronged Tabler. The Morning News reported that Tabler had been fired from the nightclub for dealing drugs and fencing stolen property.
Those allegedly shot to death by Tabler while Payne videotaped the murders, according to printed reports were: Tiffany Dotson, 18, a blond dancer from California; Amber Benefield, also known as Zoe, 16, a runaway from Louisiana; Mohamed Amine Rahmouni, the bar manager and a native of Morocco; and Haitham Zayed, who was described by authorities as most likely being a bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Payne had been assigned to Fort Hood for less than a month, according to the Morning News. Both men allegedly confessed to their involvement in the murders, though Tabler later recanted in an interview with the Morning News. Sheriff Smith said Tabler told him he was angry at being banned from Teazers, so he lured the manager to a rural stretch of road outside Killeen on Nov. 26, allegedly to sell him stolen property. Rahmouni arrived with Zayed and reportedly Tabler shot them to death as Payne taped the action.
Two days later, the two men allegedly lured Miss Dotson and Miss Benefield to a deserted road with the promise of crack cocaine. When they arrived, Tabler reportedly shot them to death, with Payne once again operating the videocamera.
Club employees told the Morning News they had a hard time believing that the victims had anything to do with drugs or with stolen property.
Though nothing has been mentioned to link Payne with gang activity, there has been a serious problem over the past few years with Fort Hood soldiers becoming involved with local gangs, according to printed reports.
Payne and Tabler could receive the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted. Tabler is being held in lieu of $8 million bond, while a $4 million bond has been set for Payne.

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