Huntsville - A man was put to death on Wednesday evening for
killing his parents at their home 15 years ago during a drug-influenced rampage
that also left his 89-year-old grandmother dead.
Michael Yowell, aged 43, told witnesses, including his daughters
and his ex-wife, that he loved them.
"Punch the button," he told the warden.
He took several deep breaths, and then began snoring. Within
about 30 seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 19 minutes
Yowell tried to delay his execution, the 14th this year in
America's most active death penalty state, by joining a lawsuit with two other
condemned prisoners that challenged Texas prison officials' recent purchase of
a new supply of pentobarbital for his scheduled lethal injection.
The US Supreme Court rejected the appeal minutes before
Yowell was taken to the Texas death chamber on Wednesday evening.
The prisoners argued use of the sedative could cause
unconstitutional pain and suffering because the drug, replacing a similar
inventory that expired at the end of September, was made by a compounding pharmacy
not subjected to strict federal scrutiny.
Texas, like other death penalty
states, has turned to compounding pharmacies that custom-make drugs for
customers after traditional suppliers declined to sell to prison agencies or
bowed to pressure from execution opponents.
The lawsuit sought an injunction to delay the execution and
gain more time to ensure "the integrity and legality" of the drug and
be certain its use was within constitutional protections.
Attorneys for the inmates took the case to the US Supreme
Court after lower federal courts ruled that the drug appeared adequate and that
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did nothing wrong in acquiring it.
Yowell's parents, John, aged 55, and Carol, aged 53, were
found dead in the wreckage of their home following an explosion on Mother's Day
weekend in 1998. Yowell's 89 year old grandmother, Viola Davis, who was staying
there, died days later of injuries suffered in the blast.
Yowell already was on probation for burglary and drug
convictions. He was arrested on federal firearms charges and charged with his
parents' slayings after authorities determined his mother had been beaten and
strangled and his father was shot.
Prosecutors showed John Yowell was killed
when he caught his son stealing his wallet. Yowell then attacked his mother,
opened a gas valve and fled. The home blew up.
Evidence showed Yowell had a $200-a-day drug habit he
supported by stealing. Evidence also showed he burned some of his bloody
clothes and hid a blood-stained jacket and the murder weapon in the crawl space
of a friend's house. Defence attorneys unsuccessfully tried to show Yowell was