Man put to death for killing two Hous­ton opera singers in 1988

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Michael Graczyk

HUNTSVILLE — A man who main­tained he was un­fairly con­victed of the 1988 slay­ings of two Hous­ton opera singers was ex­e­cuted Tues­day evening.

Der­rick Jack­son, 42, was put to death for the fa­tal beat­ings and slash­ings of For­rest Hen­der­son and Richard Wroten­bery. The two 31-year-old men were in the Hous­ton Grand Opera cho­rus.

Their Septem­ber 1988 slay­ings in­side Hen­der­son’s apart­ment went un­solved for years, un­til a bloody fin­ger­print from the murder scene was matched to Jack­son in 1995. By then, Jack­son was in prison serv­ing a 12-year term for ag­gra­vated rob­bery.

Jack­son said noth­ing Tues­day when the war­den asked if he would like to make a fi­nal state­ment. He never moved, star­ing at the ceil­ing of the death cham­ber, as the in­jec­tion of the lethal drugs be­gan. He was pro­nounced dead eight min­utes later.

Jack­son’s fa­ther, who wept qui­etly, and two broth­ers were among peo­ple watch­ing the ex­e­cu­tion.

Carl Wroten­bery, the fa­ther of one vic­tim, was in an ad­ja­cent wit­ness room.

No last-day ap­peals were made to the courts to try to block the 15th lethal in­jec­tion this year in Texas, which ex­e­cutes the most in­mates na­tion­wide. The Texas Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals re­jected an ap­peal Mon­day, and the Texas Board of Par­dons and Paroles turned down a clemency request.

Jack­son was ar­rested in 1992 for three rob­beries and took a plea bar­gain that sent him to prison. He was there when de­tec­tives work­ing cold cases and us­ing new com­puter data­bases matched his fin­ger­print to one at the scene of the mur­ders.

Jack­son said bad de­ci­sions led to bur­glar­ies and rob­ber-- ies and ul­ti­mately the prison term, but he de­nied in­volve­ment in the killings.

Fin­ger­prints on a beer can, a glass and a door­knob were linked to Jack­son. Stains on bath­room tow­els matched his DNA.

“Technology caught up with him,” said Bill Hawkins, a Har­ris County district at­tor­ney who pros­e­cuted the case.

Hawkins said the odds against the DNA match ac­tu­ally be­long­ing to some­one other than Jack­son were “off the charts.”

Richard Wroten­bery also taught mu­sic at an ele­men­tary school in the Hous­ton sub­urb of Deer Park. He had been house-sit­ting at Hen­der­son’s apart­ment af­ter a divorce un­til he could find a place of his own. Hen­der­son had just re­turned to Hous­ton af­ter per­form­ing with the opera in Scot­land.

The day of the slay­ings, Sept. 10, 1988, Wroten­bery and Hen­der­son, both tenors, had been re­hears­ing for an opera pro­duc­tion of Bizet’s “Carmen.”

Wroten­bery went to the apart­ment af­ter re­hearsals. Hen­der­son went to some bars and may have met Jack­son at one and took him home.

Ev­i­dence showed that Hen­der­son was stabbed in the chest. Wroten­bery’s throat was slashed. Both were blud­geoned with a heavy metal bar that could have been part of a weight set. Wroten­bery may have been asleep when he was killed.

Der­rick Jack­son ‘Technology caught up with him,’ pros­e­cu­tor in case says.

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