Death Letters

In 1990, Charles Dean Hood was convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Twelve years later he began writing to senior editor Michael Hall. Here, in three of his letters, he describes in extraordinary detail his two decades spent awaiting execution and reveals what it’s like to be taken to Huntsville for the lethal injection only to receive a stay at the last possible minute—not once, but twice.

On September 10, Charles Dean Hood will be executed. Or not. Hood, who was sentenced to death in 1990, has cheated the executioner five times now, in 1994, in 1999, in 2005, and twice on his most recent date, June 17, which turned out to be one of the most dramatic execution days in Texas history.

He received his first stay that day in the late afternoon from a trial judge, but the van taking him back to death row was detained after prosecutors submitted an appeal. Over the next six hours those prosecutors battled with frantic defense attorneys, while state and federal judges tried to sort out the mess. In the end, as the clock approached midnight, the state gave up trying to put Hood to death for fear it would not be able to carry out the process in time (his death warrant was to expire at 12:00 a.m.). On September 10, the executioner will get another chance.

Hood was convicted in 1990 of murdering Tracie Lynn Wallace and Ron Williamson in Plano on November 1, 1989. It was a grisly crime. Hood had been a housemate of the couple’s, and on that day, Williamson came home for lunch and found a note from Wallace saying she had gone for a walk. But the note was signed “Tracy” rather than “Tracie.” And Williamson’s safe was open. Williamson called 911 and told the operator that he feared Wallace had been abducted. “There’s a lot of things that just don’t add up,” he said. He was heard talking to another man in the background, a man later confirmed to be Hood. When police showed up four minutes later, they discovered Williamson shot through the head and Wallace wrapped in two garbage bags and stuffed in a water heater closet (she had also been shot in the head). Hood was gone, and Williamson’s watch and some jewelry were missing. Hood’s fingerprints were found on the note and the garbage bags. He had also left bloody prints

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