Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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April 25, 2013

A Date to Die: Cobb is executed

HUNTSVILLE — Richard Cobb died smirking, apparently unremorseful, and unforgiven.

The 29-year-old was executed Thursday for the Sept. 2, 2002 shooting death of a mentally-challenged Rusk convenience store customer — a crime compounded by robbery, the kidnapping of two female store clerks, and his co-defendant's sexual assault of one of those clerks.

Cobb's accomplice, Beunka Adams, 29, was executed for the crimes almost exactly a year ago.

Cobb was the 496th inmate to be executed in Texas since 1982 and the fourth this year. None of his family members attended the execution.

As he lay strapped to the gurney Thursday, Cobb made what appeared to be a prepared last statement:

"Life is death," the prisoner said, looking up at a dangling microphone. "Death is life. I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to an end. Life is too short. I hope anyone that has negative feelings towards me will resolve that. Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That's it."

Then after a pause, as his lethal injection seemed to be taking effect, Cobb turned his head sharply to the right.

He looked in the direction of observer Nikki Ansley -- one of the kidnapped clerks and the one who was sexually assaulted by Adams.

It was unclear if the exclamation Cobb then made was a reaction to the lethal dose of pentobarbital flowing through his veins or a taunt.

"That is great," Cobb said with a huge smile, appearing to go off script from his prepared statement. "That is awesome. Thank you warden. Thank you, (expletive)ing warden. Wow."

Strapped to the gurney at 6:02 p.m., Cobb was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. Thursday.

In statements to the media after the execution, Nikki Ansley -- who said she preferred to be referred to by her married name, Nikki Daniels -- said she was offended by Cobb's last-minute outburst.

Had Cobb asked for forgiveness, he would have received it, Daniels said.

"I was prepared if he asked," Daniels said, tears in her eyes. "I had forgiven him many years ago."

Daniels' mother said Cobb's last statement was especially offensive in light of what he and Adams did to her family.

"We had the perfect family," Melinda Ansley said. "Our kids were raised in a glass ball. But it was shattered 10 years ago."

Cobb and Adams were on the tail end of a two-week robbing spree when they kidnapped mentally-challenged Kenneth Vandever, Daniels and Candace Driver from a Rusk convenience store and took them to a remote Cherokee County field.

There, Adams sexually assaulted Daniels. He and Cobb forced all three to kneel on the ground, and shot them all from behind.

Vandever died. The two women were left for dead in the field but survived. Daniels and Driver fled in opposite directions to nearby homes to get help.

Daniels in particular suffered grievous injuries that trouble her to this day.

Cobb was subsequently convicted of capital murder and sentenced to lethal injection in January 2004.

Over the years, Cobb had a growing reputation among Death Row guards as a troublemaker, said to be a constant thorn in their sides. At one point he even managed to sneak a cell phone into jail.

Vandever's father and stepmother, Don and Rebecca Vandever, also spoke with reporters after the execution. They both noted, as Daniels did, that Cobb showed absolutely no remorse.

As for Cobb's last minute exclamation, Don Vandever said, "I won't say I was offended, but I wasn't happy with it."

Don Vandever said he believes justice was served with the execution, but doesn't believe it changes anything.

"Justice is served," he said. "It's over with and that's all there is to it."

A handful of death penalty protestors were on hand before and after the execution. Authorities cordoned them off from the immediate vicinity with yellow tape.

As reporters and family members emerged from the death house, one of the protesters, on a loudspeaker, thanked Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the "murder of Richard Cobb."

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