Steve's Soapbox

Monday, November 01, 2004

Similar to Brownwood 1996 ! Leon Laureles ?

Ex-high school football star set to die
Inmate to be executed for '94 robbery, killing of gay man in Houston
09:15 PM CST on Monday, November 8, 2004
Associated Press

LIVINGSTON, Texas – As the star quarterback for his Houston high school football team, Demarco McCullum was accustomed to getting his name in the newspaper.
Where he got in trouble was when reports of his exploits moved from the sports section to the news section. As a result, he traded a college athletic scholarship for a cell on Texas' death row.
Mr. McCullum, 30, was set to die tonight for the abduction, robbery, beating and fatal shooting of a gay man in Houston 10 years ago.
"I realize when I look back, you're young, you go out, you're not mature – which I wasn't, you fail to look beyond the moment," he said from a small cage in the visiting area of death row at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit near Livingston. "I did not have my eyes on the future."
Instead, prosecutors said, it was quick and easy money that Mr. McCullum and three of his football-playing buddies were seeking when they approached Michael Burzinski, 29, outside a Houston gay club the night of July 30, 1994.
Mr. Burzinski, who had moved to Houston from Toledo, Ohio, was beaten and taken away in his own car, forced to withdraw $400 from an automated bank machine, then shot in the back of the head. His body was dumped in north Harris County, miles from where he was abducted, and the car was abandoned and torched three blocks from where one of his attackers lived.
A reward posted for information in the case prompted a tip to a Crimestoppers phone line. Mr. McCullum was arrested the day he was supposed to leave for Tyler Junior College, where he had been given a football scholarship.
"It was the first time I'd ever been in a courtroom," he said of his court appearance. "When they said: 'The State of Texas vs. Demarco McCullum,' I kind of froze."
Also arrested were Terrance Perro, Decedrick Gainous and Christopher Lewis. Mr. Gainous, who was to have played football with Mr. McCullum at Tyler Junior College, and Mr. Perro received life prison terms.
Mr. Lewis testified against Mr. McCullum and got a 15-year sentence.
In a statement that defense attorneys argued was coerced by police, Mr. McCullum said he shot Mr. Burzinski "because that is what everybody said I should do."
"I wish my mother had made me stay home that night," he added. "I feel terrible about what happened."
He disputed accusations that he and his companions were hunting for homosexuals because they believed gays had money and targeted Houston's Montrose neighborhood, known as an area frequented by gays.
Mr. McCullum grew up in Seminary, Miss., a town of 400 north of Hattiesburg, and moved in 1990 to Houston, where he went to Aldine High School. By the time he graduated in 1994, his football prowess earned him "Mr. Aldine" honors from his school.
He didn't have convictions, but authorities tied him to a series of shootings, robberies and assaults that summer.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency plea. Mr. McCullum's lawyer, David Schulman, said appeals were exhausted.
Mr. McCullum would be the 21st Texas inmate put to death this year and the first of two this week. He was to be followed to the death chamber 24 hours later by Frederick McWilliams, convicted of fatally shooting a man in Houston while stealing a car.
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