Execution date set for Sugar Land man convicted in family's murder

HOUSTON – A Fort Bend County judge has scheduled the execution of a Sugar Land man who arranged the killings of his mother and brother in 2003 so he could collect a $1 million inheritance.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed early Tuesday that Thomas Whitaker is scheduled to go to the Huntsville death chamber on Feb. 22, 2018.

The date was set just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal from the 37-year-old, who also goes by Bart.

Whitaker went to the high court after losing a federal court appeal earlier this year. He claims his trial lawyers were deficient and that Fort Bend County prosecutors engaged in misconduct by improperly referring to discussion of a plea deal that never was reached.

According to court records, Whitaker offered to take responsibility for the killings and accept life sentences but his attorneys said prosecutors rejected it because it contained no expression of remorse for the shooting deaths of his mother, Patricia Whitaker, 51, and his brother, Kevin, 19, at the family's Sugar Land home. Whitaker's father was shot but survived.

The justices provided no explanation for their refusal.

Evidence showed Whitaker orchestrated the plot and that it was at least his third attempt to kill his family. As part of the scheme with two friends, Whitaker was shot in the arm to draw attention away from him.

The gunman, Chris Brashear, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a murder charge and is serving life in prison. Another man, Steve Champagne, who drove Brashear from the Whitaker house the night of the shootings, took a 15-year prison term in exchange for testifying at Whitaker's trial.

Investigators said they made the shooting look as though the family had interrupted a burglary when they returned from a dinner to celebrate Thomas Whitaker's graduation from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Whitaker never graduated.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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