Travis Trevino Runnels, 46, was executed by lethal injection on 11 December 2019 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a prison employee.
In 1993, Runnels was convicted of burglary of a building, sentenced to five years in prison, and placed on probation. Later that year, he was convicted of another burglary carrying another five-year sentence, and his probation was revoked. In 1995,1 he was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon - a firearm - and his sentence was extended by another 70 years.
On Wednesday, 29 January 2003, Runnels was incarcerated at the Clements Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Potter County, serving in the eighth year of his 70-year sentence. He was assigned as a janitor at the prison boot factory and, according to trial testimony, was angry that his request to transfer to being a barber had not been granted. He told fellow inmate Bud Williams that morning that he was going to be "shipped one way or another" and that "he was going to kill someone." He said he would kill the supervisor, Stanley Wiley, if he said anything to him that morning. He told another inmate, William Gilchrist, that he planned to hold the factory manager hostage in the office after the other correctional officers left. After Runnels arrived at the boot factory, he told inmate Phillip Yow that he was going to do something.
During the first shift, Runnels, then 30, approached Wiley, raised a knife, tilted his head back, and cut his throat. He then wiped the knife with a white rag and walked back toward the trimming tables.
When Yow asked Runnels why he attacked Wiley, he stated that it could have been anyone "as long as they was white." When Yow stated that Runnels could get the death penalty if Wiley died, Runnels answered, "A dead man can't talk."
The medical examiner found a cut 23 centimeters (9 inches) long on Wiley's neck, extending in depth to the spine, severing the external carotid artery and the internal jugular vein.
Runnels pleaded guilty at his trial. During the sentencing hearing, the state presented evidence that while Runnels was in prison in 1999, he hit a guard in the jaw. Between Wiley's killing and Runnels's trial, Runnels threw urine at a guard, threw a light bulb at a guard, and threw feces at a guard.
Under cross-examination, seven prison inmates who had contact with Runnels on the day of the murder testified that they had never previously known Runnels to be violent and that he cooperated with officers following the attack on Wiley. The inmates vouching for Runnels included Bud Williams, who stated that he had known him for eight years.
Runnels's attorneys did not bring any witnesses to testify on his behalf. According to court records, they contacted his mother, father, grandfather, and brother. The brother refused to make the trip to Amarillo. The grandfather made himself ineligible to testify by remaining in the courtroom during the trial. The mother and grandmother left and began driving home before they were called to testify. When attorney Kathy Garrison phoned them, they told her there was nothing they could do for Runnels and hung up the telephone.11995 according to TDCJ records, but 1997 according to court records.
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