David Spence ~ Executed 1997
In 1982, David Spence was accused of the rape and murder of two 17-year-old girls and one 18-year-old boy in Waco, Texas.
He received the death penalty in two trials for the murders.
This was a murder for hire, according to prosecutors. Muneer Deeb, a convenience store owner, hired Spence to do the murders and he was also charged and sentenced to death.
The bodies of Kenneth Franks, Jill Montgomery and Raylene Rice, 17, all of Waxahachie, were found in a wooded area of Speegleville Park at Lake Waco on July 13, 1982.
This is the fourth installment of the Innocent Executed series from HistoryDojo. Please find the first installment here. The second installment is here and the third installment is here.
On the morning of July 13, 1982, Jill Montgomery and Raylene Rice drove to Waco to pick up and cash Jill’s paycheck from the Fort Fisher Ranger Museum, and to meet their friend Kenneth Franks. Later that day, the three drove to Koehne Park, located on the banks of Lake Waco.
They were never seen alive again by their loved ones. Their bodies were found in a wooded area of Speegleville Park, across the lake from Koehne Park, a day later. Their last moments are recorded in the record of the two trials.
After arriving at the park, Kenneth, Jill, and Raylene encountered Spence and his cohorts, Anthony (Tony) and Gilbert Melendez. The six “hung out” together for some time drinking beer and smoking marijuana joints. After a few hours, in the evening, Spence persuaded the group to go to a convenience store and buy more beer.
En route in his car, Spence attempted to grab Jill’s breast. When she resisted, they argued heatedly. Spence then warned Kenneth and Jill he was going to “get even” with them “for some dope that he [Kenneth) had burned me for.” Kenneth denied he had “burned” Spence for anything.
This was a bad situation from the start, of course. The party was spiraling into bad behavior, with dangerous intent toward Jill and Raylene. Spence had claimed he was rebuffed for a romantic advance, and blamed Kenneth for it. On the surface, it was mistaken, petty and jealous. It was just the environment for an outbreak of anger, even violent anger.
“Instead of driving to the convenience store, Spence turned and drove back into a wooded area in Koehne Park. After everyone got out of the car, he produced a knife and in vile terms ordered Jill and Raylene to undress. The girls immediately complied. Spence then forced Jill to walk with him to another part of the park. Gilbert ordered Raylene to get into the car. Gilbert then raped her.
Spence told Anthony to bring Kenneth, forcibly, to where he was with Jill, so that Kenneth could watch him rape Jill. Spence forced Jill to the ground, sat on her legs, and rubbed her breasts with his knife. He then raped her while Kenneth and Anthony watched. After Spence finished, Anthony traded places with him and raped Jill. Spence marched Kenneth back to the car where he raped Raylene.
The girls were found bound and nude with their throats slashed and all three teens had been repeatedly stabbed. The grisly nature of the killing made for sensational headlines, of course. What was even more head-turning was the bite marks. The victims were bitten by their assailant.
The rape and murder of these two girls is even more horrific in the case facts, as the knife and other instruments were used in deliberate and shocking manner. While these details were most likely emphasized by the prosecution at trial, the most shocking piece of evidence was not seemingly important at all.
The prosecution could provide no evidence that Spence had ever been at the scene of the murder. There was no DNA evidence, hair, blood, semen or saliva matching Spence anywhere. His car was clean, and he claimed that on the night of the killing his car was broken, unable to drive anywhere.
The lack of any evidence placing Spence at the scene would seem to be reason to doubt the charges that he conducted a messy, bloody violent rape and murder with a knife and his teeth.
It was the bite marks on Montgomery’s body led to Spence’s conviction.
The state testified that the bite marks on one of the victims matched the bite of Spence, a claim that is subjective and unsupported by any clear science. A person’s bite marks are not like fingerprints, and bite marks can vary from day to day and bite to bite.
Nevertheless, with the bite marks and the testimony of two jail house informants who claimed Spence admitted to them he did the deed, Spence was found guilty.
And do not forget that the Waco, Texas police swore up and down that Spence was guilty. His motion to challenge the testimony of police in this case was denied without comment. Police testimony is often the most convincing and least questionable in the minds of jurists, even when it seems likely that errors in police work exist. In this case it seems that there was actual corruption, as well.
The prosecution built its case against Mr. Spence around bite marks — a state expert said that bite marks on the body of one of the girls matched Mr. Spence’s teeth — and jailhouse snitches, both of which can be highly unreliable forms of evidence.
The prosecution built its case against Spence around bite marks that a state expert said matched Spence’s teeth and jailhouse snitches.
Two of the six jailhouse witnesses who testified at trial later recanted, saying they were given cigarettes, television and alcohol privileges, and conjugal visits for their testimonies.
In spite of the damaging forensic evidence and testimony linking Spence to the crime, Waco attorney Russell D. Hunt, Sr. was convinced of Spence’s innocence.
“He was convicted on jailbird testimony that was bought and paid for with conjugal visits and such,” Hunt said. “The State was trying somebody who was probably innocent.”
Spence’s post-conviction lawyers had a blind panel study in which five experts said the bite marks could not be matched to Spence’s. Even the original homicide investigator on the case said he had serious doubts about Spence’s guilt and a former Waco police detective involved in the case said he did not think Spence committed the crime.
His last statement before his execution was,
“Yes, I do. First of all, I want you to understand I speak the truth when I say I didn’t kill your kids. Honestly I have not killed anyone. I wish you could get the rage from your hearts and you could see the truth and get rid of the hatred.
I love you all – (names of children) – Corey, Steve (garbled) – This is very important. I love ya’ll and I miss ya’ll. O.K., now I’m finished.”