Convicted killer Henry Dunn Jr. says a murder conviction that earned him a trip to Texas's death row wasn't a gay-bashing hate crime, at least not on his part. Dunn, 28, doesn't deny being present when 23-year-old Nicolas West was gunned down during an abduction and robbery near Tyler more than nine years ago, but he says the man primarily to blame was a companion also condemned for the slaying. "I did admit to being at the crime scene," Dunn said from a cage in the visiting area of death row. "I'm not saying I'm responsible." Dunn faces lethal injection Thursday night for the murder of West on November 30, 1993. He would be the eighth Texas inmate executed this year and the second this week. Three more are scheduled for execution later this month.
Dunn was one day away from execution in May when the fifth circuit U.S. court of appeals stayed the execution so it could consider an appeal in which he claimed his legal counsel had been incompetent. The court later rejected the appeal and lifted the reprieve, and Thursday's date for execution was set. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, is considering a request to review the case and halt the execution. Donald Aldrich, now 38, is also on death row for the West killing. A third man, David Ray McMillan, received a prison term of life.
Dunn was 19 and McMillan 17 at the time of the slaying. Aldrich was on parole following two convictions, for burglary and robbery. Authorities believed Aldrich was the leader of what became know as the "CB gang"--because they first became acquainted over CB radios--that for months preyed on gay men in the Tyler area. "I don't hate homosexuals," Dunn said last week. "That's their right to be that way if they want to."
West, a medical clerk in Tyler, was abducted from a city park known as a gay cruising spot. Taken to a remote area of Smith County, he was stripped, ordered down on his knees, and shot as many as 15 times. "This is a crime that got out of control," Dunn said. "That's what happened."
Aldrich had lured West under the guise of seeking sex, then drove away with him. Dunn said he and McMillan were waiting nearby. According to a plan carried out several times before, Dunn and McMillan followed them out of town, where the trio would then rob the unsuspecting victim. "Aldrich was mad because the dude didn't give him all his money," Dunn said.
"It was a deliberate, preplanned, cold-blooded kidnapping and murder," Smith County district attorney Jack Skeen said. "This wasn't an isolated incident by them in these types of attacks, but the violence stepped up in this one and went all the way to kidnapping and murder."
Aldrich said at his trial that it had been Dunn who started the gunfire. Dunn replied from death row that he could "not positively say" he had done any shooting. Evidence showed that he had used a .357-caliber Magnum and that a shot he fired into West's head was the last of more than a dozen bullets and a shotgun blast fired into the victim. West's body was found two days later. Dunn was arrested driving West's truck.