Donald Bess Sentenced to Death in 1984 TX Murder of Angela Samota

Started by Jeff1857, May 06, 2008, 02:23:14 AM

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DALLAS - A bailiff's accidental discharge of pepper spray has disrupted a Dallas capital murder trial, leaving members of the victim's family and other court observers wheezing in a hallway.

The court was cleared Wednesday during the sentencing phase of the Donald Andrew Bess trial. Jurors were not in the courtroom at the time.

Bess was convicted of capital murder Monday in the 1984 sexual assault and slaying of 20-year old Southern Methodist University student Angela Samota.

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, used DNA evidence in 2008 to link Bess to the killing.

Defense attorneys argued the evidence didn't prove Bess killed the woman and are asking the jury to spare his life.

heidi salazar


Another woman testifies that convicted Bess raped her, too

Angela Samota isn't the only woman Donald Bess victimized. But unlike Samota, the other women escaped with their lives.

One, a retired elementary school teacher, testified Tuesday during the punishment phase of his capital murder trial for raping and stabbing Samota to death in 1984.

The woman said that Bess raped her in September 1977 at her Houston apartment after coming to her door at 11 p.m. and asking her out. She said no.

He then asked for a drink of water. After drinking the water, Bess turned to go and instead locked the door and grabbed her, covering her mouth with his hand.

Bess, now 61, used a similar ploy with Samota, a 20-year-old Southern Methodist University student, by asking if he could use the phone and bathroom, according to testimony. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bess, but defense attorneys hope to spare his life.

The woman who said Bess had raped her in Houston testified that she struggled and bit his hand before realizing that she could not overpower him.

"He threw me down in the floor, and I just gave up. Obviously, I couldn't fight him," said the woman, who remained calm throughout her testimony. She said her focus switched to "mainly just how to survive the whole thing. It was pretty obvious he was going to rape me, and there was nothing I could do about it."

The woman is not being identified because The Dallas Morning News does not typically name victims of sex crimes. The woman said Bess assaulted her on her bed. After the rape, she said, "that was when I really started to fear for my life."

She said that after he stood up, he looked at her and said, "What am I going to do with you now?"

The woman said she convinced him to leave after swearing she wouldn't call the police.

Detectives were later able to locate Bess because the woman had seen him leave a note on the door of another apartment a few weeks earlier, when she moved into the complex. That day, she said, Bess repeatedly asked if she wanted help moving boxes. She said she repeatedly told him no.

During the woman's testimony, Bess watched her and frequently ran his right index finger over his upper lip. After the woman testified, she remained in the courtroom and sat with Samota's family.

Bess was never tried in connection with the sexual assault of the woman. A charge against him was dropped in exchange for his pleading guilty to another aggravated rape and an aggravated kidnapping in Harris County. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but was paroled in March 1984.

In October of that year, Bess raped and stabbed Samota.

Then, in 1985, he raped another woman in Houston and was sentenced to life in prison. He is currently serving that sentence.

The jury deliberated for little more than an hour Monday before finding Bess guilty.

The case went cold for many years, until Samota's sorority sisters appealed to police to re-examine it. DNA testing in 2008 showed a match to Bess.


Closing arguments in the death penalty trial for Donald Andrew Bess will begin Friday morning.

The defense rested its case Thursday and then prosecutors called three rebuttal witnesses before closing their case.

A woman whom Bess pleaded guilty to raping in 1977 testified that he abducted her off a Houston street before sexually assaulting her at knifepoint. Elizabeth "Bitsy" Kegg told jurors that Bess told her "'you're a victim of my aggression'" and that he was going to rape her. The Dallas Morning News does not typically identify victims of sex crimes but Kegg asked that her name be used.

Kegg testified that Bess took her to her home after finding her address inside her purse. He raped Kegg at knifepoint before taking her to her car and ordering her not to call police. Bess was sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping Kegg and kidnapping another woman. He was paroled in March 1984 - months before Bess raped and stabbed Samota to death in October of that year.

Also Thursday, Bess' ex-wife testified that Bess physically and verbally abused her during their brief marriage. They married in 1969 and divorced three years later. She has been remarried for more than 35 years. She said that Bess was always "telling me that nobody would want me, that I wasn't pretty. It just went on and on until I believed it." His ex-wife said that while she was 5-months pregnant with their daughter, Bess shoved her up against a wall. The next day she had black eyes because her head hit the wall so hard.

After Bess shoved her, she called her father, who picked her up. After Bess apologized and promised not to do it again, she went back to him.

But when their daughter was 5-months-old, Bess became angry and kicked the baby's crib while the baby was sleeping. It was on wheels and flew across the room.

"That was the end of it for me," his ex-wife said. "I could take a lot for myself but not for my children."

She went back to her parents and discovered she was pregnant again. This time the baby was a boy and she never went back to Bess. Bess eventually gave up his parental rights. He once sent a check for child support. It was for $25.

Samota's sister was the final witness called by prosecutors. Gail Samota said she can't help but wonder what her sister would be like today. Where would she live? Would she have kids? Where would she travel?

"Angie, to me, was like my baby because I was 13 when she was born," Gail Samota told jurors. "It gave me the opportunity to have a live doll."

She said that her sister's death was a blow to the family, one she has not gotten over.

"It's just really unspeakable. I try not to speak of it," Gail Samota said. "I try to bury it and, yet, I try to hold on to the good times."

Gail Samota said that finding out that Bess had been charged in her sister's death was "shocking. A good shock."

To remember her sister, Gail Samota said she still uses the plastic box Angela Samota kept her soap in and the metal box she kept her shower supplies in as a student at Hockaday. Another memento Gail Samota keeps is a tiny frog figurine with a crown on its head and its tongue stuck out that she once gave her sister.


I am sitting in the closing arguments for the trial right now. The attorneys are hashing out the instructions to be give to the jury. The courtroom is full. Mostly interns and victim's family and friends.


Prosecutor just finished. He said if Donald Bess wasnt deserving of the death penalty then we need to re evaluate the entire death penalty.

Bess' defense attorney is wrapping it up. It is about 9:45 and I guess it will go to the jury about 10:15 or 10:30. I will stick around and report the verdict if it comes back before lunch.


As to the issues of Bess health (he had a heart attack early on in the trial) the prosecutor reminded the jury that a doctor testified that Bess is in better health now than he was before his heart attack.

This monster raped 4 women before killing Angie; stabbing her 18 times. He has been a less-than-model inmate and has shown no remorse for any crime he has committed.

His first lawyer was barely audible and the word 'mercy' was his most used word.

We took a break and now Bess' other lawyer is presenting his arguments.


Bess lawyer empassioned, almost yelling: "we dont kill someone in the State of Texas just because we want to."


The latest defense attorney is saying that Bess has been incarcerated for 11,000 days (32 years) and has only been written up for 29 minor infractions. Basically he is an a-hole but has never attacked anyone or tried to escape.

And since he is in bad health his potential for raping a prison guard or someone else is going down (hey this is what the lawyer says, I'm just reporting).

Personally I think the guy is toast.


"What kind of an individual are you looking at?" With that the prosecutor is wrapping up. He is asking the jury to consider the impact Bess had on the lives of his numerous victims.

"He has destroyed peoples lives in a way you can never imagine."

The prosecutor said it was an issue of control over the women victims. He turned to Bess and said:  "Guess what Mr Bess, this jury is about to take control of your life."


Its in the hands of the jury. Right now the defense is moving for mistrial based on the prosecution bringing up the subject of the possibility of parole "[the jury's] got it in the back of their minds that he is going to get out on parole and go killing people."

Motion denied.


There is a verdict. Everybody is headed back to the courtroom.


June 18, 2010, 06:23:33 PM Last Edit: June 18, 2010, 06:39:50 PM by JoeGuru
Lots of cops milling in. Bailiffs, armed investigators etc. Count stands at 19 so far. Bess isnt here yet. The judge usually calls for the backup after reading the verdict. My guess is he is getting the death penalty.

The district attorney Craig Watkins just walked in.


Thanks for the updates Joe!! Hopefully he will be on the way to Polunsky very shortly.


After the death penalty verdict was read Bess stood calmly. he listened to a limited victim impact statement from one of her brothers. He showed no emotion.

He probably wont make it to execution but he will make it polunsky.

oh and the judge did not say "may God have mercy on your soul!"


June 18, 2010, 07:23:55 PM Last Edit: June 18, 2010, 07:39:42 PM by Jeff1857
 Donald Andrew Bess was sentenced this afternoon to die for the 1984 murder and rape of a Southern Methodist University student.

Earlier this week, Bess, 61, was convicted of sexually assaulting Angela Samota, then stabbing her repeatedly, possibly with a kitchen knife from her condominium near the SMU campus.

Samota was 20 at the time of her death. The murder remained unsolved for decades, until recent DNA tests connected Bess with the crime.

He is currently serving a life sentence for an unrelated rape in the Houston area.

In closing arguments this morning in the penalty phase of the trial, Dallas County prosecutor Josh Healy said Bess must die to pay for ruining so many lives.

Two women testified that he had raped them as well. Those attacks were in addition to the one for which he is currently serving life.

His former wife testified that he physically and psychologically abused her.

And he'd just been paroled on a rape conviction in 1984 when he raped and killed Samota.

"If Donald Bess isn't deserving of a death sentence ... then who is?" Healy said.

"Who's done this much harm? Who's tormented this many people?"

As the prosecutor spoke, several jurors nodded, seemingly in agreement.

Defense attorney John Tatum urged the jury to be merciful.

"What is mercy? It's about you and you, all of you," he said. "It's not about the person you give mercy to."

But defense attorney Richard Franklin said he wouldn't ask for mercy. He asked that jurors follow the law. If the do so, he said, they'll find that there are mitigating circumstances to warrant a life sentence for Bess.

He cited Bess' poor health, his difficult upbringing, and his relatively clean prison disciplinary record as reasons for the lesser sentence.

He acknowledged that his client had done "weird stuff, bad stuff," but said Bess could live out his days in prison without posing a threat.

"Once a jackass, always a jackass. Once a really bad person, always a really bad person," Franklin said.

But the question the jury must decide, he said, is: "Always a murderer or not; always a threat or not."

Franklin said he would understand if a jury in 1984 had sentenced Bess to death. But this jury, he argued, has seen that Bess can behave himself behind bars, and that should make a difference.

Prosecutor Pat Kirlin countered that if the death penalty was warranted in 1984, it's warranted now. He called Bess an "evil, evil, wicked" man.

Defense attorneys conceded during the trial that semen found in Samota's body provided a DNA match to Bess.

But they said that evidence didn't prove that their client murdered Samota. She was found stabbed repeatedly, possibly with a knife from her kitchen.

On Thursday, jurors heard from a woman whom Bess pleaded guilty to raping in 1977 -- seven years before Samota's death.

Elizabeth "Bitsy" Kegg said that after Bess abducted her off a Houston street, he told her, "You're a victim of my aggression. He then raped her at knifepoint, she said.

The Dallas Morning News does not typically identify victims of sex crimes, but Kegg wanted her name to appear.

She was the second woman to testify about being raped by Bess.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping Kegg and kidnapping another woman, but he was paroled in March 1984. Months later, in October of that year, Samota was raped and killed.

Bess' ex-wife, who asked that she not be identified, said he abused her during their marriage. They wed in 1969 and divorced three years later.

The woman, who has been remarried for more than 35 years, said Bess was always "telling me that nobody would want me, that I wasn't pretty. It just went on and on until I believed it."

She said that while she was pregnant with their daughter, Bess shoved her against a wall. The next day, she had black eyes from hitting the wall, she said.

When their daughter was 5 months old, she testified, Bess got angry and kicked the baby's crib -- while the baby was asleep in it. The crib, on wheels, went rolling across the room.

"That was the end of it for me," his ex-wife testified. "I could take a lot for myself but not for my children."

After leaving Bess and moving in with her parents, she discovered that she was pregnant again, she said. The second child was a boy.

She said Bess once sent her a check for child support. It was for $25.

He eventually gave up his parental rights, and the children were adopted by her new husband.

Samota's older sister, Gail Samota, wept as she testified about the loss of "Angie."

"It's just really unspeakable. I try not to speak of it," she said.

"I try to bury it and, yet, I try to hold on to the good times."

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