Doug and Lora White had just had their dream wedding. After months and months of exhaustive planning, the scrimping, the saving, finally the day had come. Like most weddings, it was over in a flash but was everything they ever could have hoped it would be.
Happy as they were, they never expected that a mere ten days later, all of that would come crashing to a sudden and destructive end…
The comedown from a wedding high is always a bittersweet one. In a flash, all the plans and partying is over and done. The guests had scarfed down their dinners, the first and last dances had been danced, and the bride and groom had collapsed after the day in a loving heap on their new marriage bed.
Walk in the Woods
Ten days later, the happy couple decided to take a nice hike down a community college jogging trail. It was hardly a honeymoon, but it was something they both needed. A little fresh air and some time away from the rest of the world. Little did they know the world would eventually catch up to them even in this most remote of places.
Money for Your Lives
The Whites didn’t have any money on them at the time, they hadn’t needed it on their hike, so when a stranger emerged from the bushes and demanded they hand it over, they had more than one problem to deal with. They tried to explain that they had no money, but the would-be highwayman wouldn’t taking no for an answer.
Incensed, the angry man demanded that they both get on the ground. The two began to pray. Doug, a religious man, was praying that God forgave them of their sins. He knew that this was it, that they were going to meet their maker, but if he could help it, he wanted to make sure Lora, at least, was safe.
The robber’s name was Alvin Braziel and he was, as if it wasn’t clear enough, a very desperate man. His ambush of the Whites was his very last hope. A resident of the Mesquite area, Alvin was determined to get what he wanted, when he wanted it. He just happened to pick the wrong people this time around.
Even as he heard Doug praying, Braziel began firing his gun. He hit him once in the head and once in the heart. He turned to fire at Lora, but the gun jammed. He screamed in frustration, but no one else was around to hear them. Seemingly undaunted by that knowledge, Braziel rounded on Lora. Unfortunately, Lora was not out of the woods just yet.
Into the Woods
Quite the contrary, as Braziel was about to drag the helpless woman further into the woods. As her new husband lie dying in the dirt, the robber pulled Lora further into the bushes and began to feverishly sexually assault her. When he was done, he left her there and ran.
It would be many years before the police finally tracked down Doug’s killer and Lora’s assailant. Nearly 40 potential suspects were interrogated over the next few months. All of them had their blood tested, but none of them matched the evidence found on Lora’s body. Still, they never gave up hope.
In 2001, the Mesquite police arrested Braziel for another, unrelated sexual assault case. His DNA was tested and put into the system. Once it was in there, it was only a matter of time before they made the connection to the White case. Seven years after it happened, they finally tracked him down.
In 1993, when the terrible crime was committed, Alvin Braziel was 18 years old. He was very young to have been so desperate and so armed, but age has never been an excuse for criminality. At the ensuing trial, Braziel tried to argue that he was nowhere near the college at the time. Obviously, his lawyers had to try another tactic.
After that, Braziel’s lawyers tried to claim mental illness due to a childhood brain injury. It didn’t take, partially because Braziel himself refused to be examined by a mental health expert during the trial. In the end, that may have been what sealed his fate. Braziel was found guilty and received the death penalty.
Braziel sat on death row for years after that and though his attorneys filed any number of last-minute appeals, it was no use. One of those appealed referenced the fact that prosecutors showed Lora pictures of her husband’s autopsied body on the stand, eliciting an emotional response from her and the jury. Nevertheless, Braziel’s date of execution was scheduled.
A Lethal Injection
Braziel’s death was to be accomplished by way of a potent combination of drugs and drug combinations in lethal injections. The most common of these is pentobarbital, a barbiturate that slows brain activity and that of the rest of the nervous system as well. Normally, doctors use it to treat seizures or convulsions, but in high doses, it’s lethal.
In the last year, 13 inmates in Texas and Georgia have been executed by way of single-drug doses pentobarbital. Eleven of those executions were conducted in Texas. Though capital punishment is often seen as an extreme method when it comes to deterring criminals, there are some factors which can reverse this most final decision.
In December of 2018, Alvin Braziel was ready to die. He got his last meal and sat waiting for an extra hour as his lawyers put together one last-minute appeal again on the basis that he was intellectually disabled. This is in reference to a Supreme Court case in 2002 that said even those convicted of murder can’t be put to death if they are mentally disabled.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the last-minute appeal and said that the execution would go ahead as planned. Braziel knew what was coming, he knew the mistake had cost him his life, and he was prepared to meet it. But not before he took the chance to say one more thing.
In the seating area of the execution chamber, Douglas White’s brother sat with two of his best friends, waiting to see the killer brought to justice. Lora was not present that day. Braziel himself had no one there to witness his death. Whether his family declined to come or he requested they not, no one knows.
Braziel was strapped down to the death chamber gurney and an IV was attached. When he was ready, the warden asked him if he had a final statement. The now 43-year-old thanked his lawyers and supporters and then, in a surprising admission, apologized to Lora White. “I would like to apologize…for her husband dying at my hands,” he said, surprising everyone.
Braziel also added that he loved the White family and another person he named who was not present at the execution. When he was finished, they administered the pentobarbital and after a few ragged breaths, and three loud snores, Alvin Braziel was no more. He was pronounced dead at 7:19 pm, nine minutes after the drug was first administered.
One of Many
Braziel is just one of many who will be put to death by capital punishment in the following years, though he is the last Texas inmate executed for 2018. There are many out there who debate the process, but it’s clear from Braziel’s response that he was sorry about what he’d done; at the end at least. That has to count for something.