Sammie Felder Executed For James Hanks Murder

Sammie Felder was executed by the State of Texas for the murder of James Hanks

According to court documents Sammie Felder was employed as a helper at a independent living facility. James Hanks was a quadriplegic Korean War Veteran. Felder would stab James Hanks to death using a pair of scissors before robbing him

Sammie Felder would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

Sammie Felder would be executed by lethal injection on December 15 1999

Sammie Felder Photos

Sammie Felder - Texas

Sammie Felder Case

Testimony at Felder’s third trial established that James Hanks, a 41-year-old quadriplegic, was fatally stabbed with scissors in the temples and neck-among the few areas of his body in which he could feel pain-in the early morning hours of March 14, 1975.   Because of his quadriplegia, Hanks lived in a Houston apartment complex for the disabled where he could receive frequent care and services.   That morning, when an attendant came to reposition Hanks as he slept, she discovered that Hanks’s door was open, though she had closed it on her previous stop two hours before.  (Because Hanks’s mother, who normally lived with him, was temporarily in the hospital, his apartment door was being left unlocked that week.)

Hanks was found in his bed, with his head contorted into an awkward position.   His breathing was very faint, and he had wounds on the sides of his head.4  The mattress was bloody.   Hanks’s wallet, which he kept under his pillow when he slept, was missing.   The pillow was on the floor.   Also missing was a pair of stainless-steel surgical scissors that was usually kept on a table near Hanks’s bed.   Hanks, comatose, was taken to a hospital and placed on life support.   When it was later determined that Hanks was brain dead, he was removed from the life support system.

Felder worked for the company that provided services to the disabled residents in Hanks’s apartment complex.   He was an attendant whose duties extended to about fifteen residents, including Hanks.   On the day before Hanks was found stabbed, Felder worked until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. He was scheduled to work the day Hanks was found, but he did not report to work that day or later, or ever make arrangements to receive his last paycheck.   Felder was arrested one month later in Idaho Falls, Idaho, when he was unable to produce valid identification during a traffic stop and found to have a concealed .38 caliber pistol.

Edith Cobb testified that she had seen Felder in Denver for “a couple of weeks” in late March and early April-after Hanks’s death and before Felder’s arrest.   Cobb had met Felder in August 1974 and helped him get a job in Denver before he returned to Houston in November 1974.   When Felder re-appeared in Denver in March 1975, Cobb asked Felder if he would like her to get him another job.   Cobb testified that Felder told her “he had killed a man in ․ Houston, and that he couldn’t get a job.”   Felder told Cobb that he had been working in some kind of hospital and had seen a paralyzed man with a lot of money.   After getting off of work in the afternoon, Felder returned at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., armed with a .38 caliber handgun, to rob the man.   When Felder tried to take the money, the man woke up, recognized him, and, calling him by name, asked Felder what he was doing.   Felder then grabbed a pair of scissors next to the bed and “started stabbing him in his head and throat and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and then he took the pillow and was-kind of smothered-the man was crying and hollering, please don’t hurt me, and ․ he just kept stabbing him back and forth․”  When it looked like the man was still breathing, Felder stabbed him more times.   Finally, when it looked like the man was dead, Felder took the money, over $300, and drove off in his car, throwing the scissors out the window on his way home.   That day, his brother took him to the airport, and Felder flew to Denver, having packed the pistol in his suitcase.   Cobb testified that Felder was “kind of laughing” when he recounted the killing.   When she asked Felder why he had to kill the man, Felder said, “a dead man tells no tales.”

Cobb saw Felder frequently over the next several days.   He told her that he called his sister in Texas every day to ask whether the police were looking for him.   Eventually, Felder heard from his mother that he should not come back to Texas because he was wanted by the police.   Cobb last saw Felder on April 9, 1975, five days before he was arrested in Idaho.

After the jury found Felder guilty of capital murder, Cobb testified in the punishment phase of his trial.   She described other crimes Felder told her he had committed in Denver.   The jury answered both special issues in the affirmative, and Felder was sentenced to death.

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