Texas halts execution of man convicted in multiple homicide

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Texas' top criminal court called off Wednesday's scheduled execution of a death-row inmate linked to five killings in Houston, though attorneys said the court didn't immediately explain its decision.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve Tuesday afternoon to inmate Garcia White, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of fatally stabbing twin 16-year-old girls at a Houston apartment where their mother also was killed. White also was tied to the deaths of a grocery store owner and a prostitute.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said the court didn't immediately explain its decision. Another inmate is scheduled for execution Thursday for a separate crime in the nation's busiest death-penalty state.

In their appeal, White's attorneys argued that he may have been mentally impaired because of longtime cocaine use when he waived his right to an attorney during interrogations. They also said DNA evidence suggests a second person may have been involved in the triple slaying.

The bodies of Bonita Edwards, 35, and her 16-year-old daughters Annette and Bernette were found at their apartment a few days after they were last seen in December 1989. But his confession came only after he was arrested six years later, for the July 1995 death of 55-year-old Hai Van Pham, who was fatally beaten during a robbery at his store.

White told police he went to Edwards' home to smoke crack cocaine and killed her during an argument, then attacked one of her daughters when she came out of her room. Evidence shows the attacker also broke down the locked door of the girls' bedroom.

"I stabbed one in the bedroom and one in the living room," White told detectives, who said both girls' throats were slit.

White was convicted of killing the teenagers, and charged but not tried for the deaths of Bonita Edwards and Pham. Authorities also linked but never charged White with the slaying of a prostitute.

Another inmate, Robert Ladd, 57, is set for execution Thursday. Ladd was convicted of fatally beating 38-year-old Vickie Ann Garner of Tyler in 1996.