Hank Skinner

Gray County, Texas
Date of Crime:  December 31, 1993

Henry Watkins Skinner, also known as Hank, was convicted of bludgeoning to death his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and stabbing to death her two sons, Randy Busby and Scooter Caler. Hank was sentenced to death. The murders occurred at 801 East Campbell Ave. in Pampa. Hank, then 31, had been drinking earlier in the evening and passed out after taking codeine to which he was severely allergic. A friend, Howard Mitchell, arrived to take Hank and Twila to a New Year's Eve Party at 9:30 p.m., but he could not rouse Hank.

At the party Twila, 40, was stalked by her drunk uncle, Robert Donnell, a big man, who made rude sexual advances. Twila became agitated and asked Mitchell to take her home. She arrived home between 11:00 and 11:15 p.m. Shortly afterwards she was bludgeoned to death. Her younger son Randy, age 20, was stabbed to death in his bed. Her older son, Elwin “Scooter” Caler, 22, was also stabbed, but managed to escape to a neighbor's yard where he collapsed on the porch. He never regained consciousness. The neighbor found him and called police at 11:59 p.m.

It is believed that after the attacks, Scooter revived Hank and led him outside, but left him in an alley. Hank suffered a cut on his right palm that night, possibly from stumbling. Other than that possibility, Hank suffered no noticeable harm from the attacks, either because Scooter scared off the intruder(s), or the intruder(s) were only interested in attacking Twila and her sons, and Hank, being comatose, posed no threat. Hank managed to find his way to a different neighbor's house, the home of Andrea Joyce Reed, where he was arrested three hours later. Following his arrest he was unable to stand on his own for police photos. After being photographed, he was then taken to a hospital to give blood samples. The samples, taken six-and-a-half hours after the murders, showed a blood alcohol level of .21, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Tests also revealed high levels of codeine in him. Hank could not have drunk alcohol at his neighbor's house as she was a recovering alcoholic and did not allow it in her house.

Autopsy results of Twila showed that she suffered a skull fracture that required great manual strength of someone wielding a club to inflict. Hank, besides being in a stuporous state at the time of the murders, was only 5'9" 140 lbs. and had a handicapped right arm. His right hand was too handicapped for him to have inflicted the strangulation injury found on Twila. Whoever strangled her was strong enough to inflict bone fracture. In contrast to Hank, Scooter towered over him at 6'6" 265 lbs. and was in good health. Yet allegedly Hank was able to manually injure him and two other victims, without receiving any defensive wounds or bruises, aside from the possibility of his palm cut.

At the time of the murders, a witness, Ronnie Campbell, then in the county jail, phoned the house. Scooter answered and Ronnie heard an unidentified man who was not Hank speaking with Twila. On speaking to the frightened Scooter, he asked to speak to Twila but was told that she was speaking to “some guy.” Ronnie claimed that he heard Twila “screaming hysterically in the background.” Ronnie's jailer confirmed that Ronnie reported the conversation to her shortly after it occurred. Hank's appointed attorney called neither Ronnie nor the jailer at trial.

The neighbor, Ms. Reed, who aided Hank after the murders, was threatened with being charged as an accessory after the fact and with harboring a fugitive. She was also threatened with having her children taken away. In response, her trial testimony made it seem as though Hank forced his way into her home and that he was physically capable of committing the murders. She later felt remorse and signed an affidavit saying he did not force his way in and that he was unable to stand on his own. She said that she had to practically carry him wherever he went in her house.

After Twila left the New Year's Eve party, her uncle, Robert Donnell, reportedly left 5 minutes later. There was some evidence that Twila was raped. She was found with her pants unzipped and her blouse was pushed up over her abdomen. Although vaginal samples were preserved in a rape kit, police refused to test it. Donnell's truck was identified by a neighborhood boy as being present at the time of the murders. Following the murders Donnell thoroughly cleaned his truck, replaced the carpets, and repainted the exterior. He was never questioned by the police. He was later killed in a drunken auto accident.

Hank had been something of an irritant to the district attorney's office and to the sheriff's office. He was an outspoken advocate of prisoner's rights and had participated in inmate lawsuits. He had many interviews in the Pampa newspaper on the way the prior sheriff, Jimmy Free, treated inmates in the jail and violated their rights. He was previously arrested on a bogus burglary charge, but by demanding a rare examining hearing, got the matter dropped before he could be indicted. Hank is still imprisoned as of 2007.  [4/07]


References:  www.hankskinner.orgJustice: Denied, Skeptical Juror, ODR

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