Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, December 7, 1999

Media Advisory:

David Martin Long Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on David Martin Long, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Wednesday, December 8th.


On September 27, 1986, the bodies of Dalpha Jester, her daughter Donna Jester, and Laura Lee Owens were discovered at their home in Lancaster, Texas, by Donna's boss. Laura's body was found in the front yard, while Donna and Dalpha were found laying on the bed in the back bedroom of the house. All three died as a result of numerous chopping wounds to their heads and faces which had been inflicted with a hatchet. The murder weapon was found rinsed off and wrapped in a towel in a bathroom sink in the victims' home. Through entries in a diary kept by Donna, police were able to focus on David Martin Long as their prime suspect.

According to the diary and Long's subsequent confession, Donna met Long when she picked him up as he was hitchhiking on September 19, 1986. Since Long "had no place to go" Donna allowed him to stay in her home in exchange for house repairs. Donna also agreed to supply Long with cigarettes and wine, specifically MD 20/20, while he worked on her home. According to testimony from Long and police officers, the women's home was filthy and smelled of dog hair and feces from several dogs who roamed freely through the home. Although he initially slept outside in Donna's car, Long developed an apparently loving and sexual relationship with Laura. During that time, Long also began to fear that Donna had dead bodies, possibly of other hitchhikers, buried in her backyard.

Long testified that on the day of the murders, September 27, 1986, he experienced these fears and many unexplained emotions. Long claimed that he was also adversely affected by the filth and smell in the house. According to a forensic psychologist who later examined Long, Long related foul odors to his mother's death, which occurred when Long was ten years old, and certain odors caused him to become "out of control" or agitated. Nevertheless, on the day of the murders, Long completed several repairs on the house and did not consume any alcohol until Donna and Laura arrived home from their jobs. When Donna and Laura went to the back bedroom to talk with Dalpha, Long thought they were conspiring against him. Long then retrieved a hatchet.

When Laura returned to the living area to watch television, Long told her to go outside because he needed to talk to her. However, Long attacked her, from behind, with the hatchet. Long proceeded into the back bedroom of the house where he killed Donna and Dalpha. Long then returned to the front yard and repeatedly struck Laura with the hatchet. All three victims sustained defensive wounds to their hands and arms. Dalpha was particularly defenseless against Long as she was 65 years old, partially blind, and needed a walker for mobility. Long claimed that he was having some sort of a "spiritual experience" that was related to "satanics" during the attacks.

After cleaning off the ax, Long fled in Donna's car drinking MD 20/20 all the while. He was arrested that night in Buffalo for driving while intoxicated, but was later released. Long was eventually arrested on a felony warrant (from Dallas County) on October 24, 1986, in Austin where he had also been arrested for public intoxication. Long gave the Austin police of fictitious name but his true identity was revealed through a fingerprint analysis. Lancaster authorities took Long back to Dallas County, where he confessed to the murders. In his confession, Long stated, "I'm a cold hearted son of a bitch and I killed them because they threatened my relationship with Laura Lee. I killed Dalpha Jester because she knew my name and I felt like she was living dead anyway."

Long's presented an insanity defense at trial. Long testified regarding a lengthy substance abuse history which began with regularly consuming alcoholic beverages by the age of twelve and later included marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, and barbiturates. Long stated that he had suffered head injuries from a bat, a beer bottle, and being hit by a car. Long claimed he sought help for his alcoholism and drug abuse and was committed both voluntarily and involuntarily to several hospitals and institutions. Two or three days before he met Donna Jester, he was released from a voluntary alcohol treatment program at Serenity House in Little Rock. According to Long's religious beliefs, unless a condition is organic, insane people are actually demon possessed. Long stated that he was engaged in a game between God and Satan that he did not want to be a part of anymore.

Medical records indicated that Long had been previously diagnosed with "toxic psychosis superimposed residual schizophrenia," which can result from drug or alcohol ingestion, "catatonic schizophrenia," which is a severe condition manifested by almost total withdrawal from reality, borderline delusional thinking, and paranoid ideation.

A defense psychologist, Dr. William Hester, testified that Long had an unstable childhood, accompanied by over-discipline or physical abuse, as well as sexual abuse by a family member. Hester diagnosed Long with an extreme antisocial personality disorder, which came under the former label of "psychopath." Hester opined that Long may have been operating under an alcoholic hallucination due to alcohol withdrawal at the time of the murders and there was a reasonable probability that Long committed the murders in a psychotic episode and did not know that his conduct was wrong. However, Hester stated that Long was "malingering" on one of the tests he had administered. In addition, Long stated in a second interview that perhaps he was possessed by demons. When Hester confronted with the fact that he had not mentioned demons during the first interview, Long dropped the subject. Hester admitted that he had previously concluded in one of his reports that, "there was no evidence to support insanity obtained in any of my interactions or testing of the defendant." Ultimately, Hester acknowledged that he could not render an opinion whether Long was legally insane when he committed the murders.

Long's brother Gary, who is four years older than Long, and sister Linda Dornhoff, who is seven years older than Long, testified that Long changed after their mother's death when Long was ten years old. Gary and Linda related that their father's subsequent alcohol abuse and neglect of Long and their other brother Daniel resulted in the two boys being placed in various institutions and foster homes. By age twelve, Long was in reform school. Both believed that Long had serious mental problems and a long history of substance abuse. Linda also described that when their mother became sick, their father would go out drinking and leave the children alone. Following one such episode, their father brought a woman home from the bar and had sex with her in front of his children.

Dr. James Grigson, a psychiatrist called by the State, testified that he had met Long, reviewed medical records of Long's previous hospitalizations, and met with the defense expert. Grigson's attempt to examine Long was not unsuccessful. Based on a hypothetical question encompassing the facts in evidence, Grigson testified that he would diagnose Long with a severe sociopathic personality disorder. He noted that such a diagnosis coincided with Dr. Hester's diagnosis as well as test results from Long's previous hospitalizations. An antisocial personality disorder is not a disease or defect, and there was no evidence of organic damage in Long's medical records. According to Grigson, Long was not insane or suffering from a disease or defect and understood the difference between right and wrong.

Grigson also testified that it is not unusual for an individual to exhibit behaviors fitting a wide range of diagnoses and that a sociopath sometimes does this to manipulate his doctors. He believed Long may have done this because the later medical records reveal no evidence of schizophrenia and "schizophrenia doesn't come and go."


On November 18, 1986, a grand jury in Dallas County, Texas, indicted Long for the capital offense of the intentional murders of Dalpha Jester, Donna Jester, and Laura Lee Owens, committed during the same criminal transaction, on or about September 27, 1986. Long entered a plea of not guilty to a jury and asserted an insanity defense. On February 7, 1987, the jury found Long guilty as charged in the indictment. On February 10, 1987, after a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively three special punishment issues and in accordance with state law, the trial court (the Criminal District Court No. 2 of Dallas County, Texas) sentenced Long to death by lethal injection.

Because he was sentenced to death, appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was automatic. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Long's conviction and sentence on December 4, 1991, and denied rehearing on February 5, 1992. On June 29, 1992, the United States Supreme Court denied Long's petition for writ of certiorari. On August 11, 1992, the convicting court scheduled Long's execution for September 17, 1992.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, stayed Long's execution on September 15, 1992, appointed counsel, and gave Long 100 days within which to file a federal habeas petition. After Long filed his federal petition, the district court dismissed the cause, on April 23, 1993, so that Long could present his claims to the state courts before receiving review of the claims in federal court.

On July 12, 1993, Long filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus with the convicting court. On August 30, 1993, the trial court recommended that relief be denied. On March 3, 1994, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and denied relief on the basis that the record supported the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Supreme Court denied Long's petition for writ of certiorari on October 3, 1994, and denied rehearing on November 28, 1994.

Long returned to federal court by filing another federal habeas petition on February 1, 1996. The district court denied relief on July 9, 1998, and denied Long permission to appeal on August 11, 1998. On July 15, 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit similarly denied Long permission to appeal. The Fifth Circuit denied Long's petition for rehearing on August 10, 1999. Long then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. The matter is pending before the Court.


At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence that the instant triple murder was not Long's first murder. After he had given his confession to the instant murders, Long confessed to having committed two additional murders. Regarding the first murder, Long stated:

"In approximately 1978 I had been at a party to celebrate a wedding in San Bernadino, California. I was run off from this party for smoking marijuana. I was drunk. I decided to go to a bar. I went in a bar called Clyde's on the southeast corner of Waterman Ave. and I 10. I left the bar very intoxicated and jumped a median with my car which resulted in two tires being blown out. I went ahead and went to the Union 76 gas station on the northwest corner of Waterman and I 10. I had the flats repaired. I was already feeling angry about what happened at the party and the gas station attendant overcharged me for the tire repair. I went to the car and took out a tire iron from the back and followed the attendant into his parts room where I proceeded to beat him all over the head with the tire iron. I then took a broom and stuffed the handle of it down his throat to be sure he was dead.

A car pulled up to get gas. I acted as the attendant and pumped the gas. The customer produced a credit card but I did not know how to work the machine so I told him we did not take credit cards after 10 o'clock and to come back tomorrow and pay. He left then I left.

The only thing I took from the attendant was his key chain to make change for the customer. After I left, I threw the key chain in a field.

I killed him because I was pissed about him over charging me."

Long's confession to this offense was corroborated by the testimony of a San Bernadino police officer. This officer testified that, on November 28, 1978, at 1:38 a.m., he received a call reporting that a man with blood on his hands was giving away free gasoline at a Shell gas station. The person who had called the police was a customer who had attempted to pay for his gas with a credit card but the attendant would not accept it. The Shell station is located directly across the street from Clyde's Bar. Upon arrival at the Shell station, the officer discovered the body of James Carnell in a tool room. Carnell had suffered extensive head injuries and was lying in a large pool of blood. Blood and brain matter were spattered on the wall, and Carnell's injuries were consistent with a beating from a tire iron. In a work area, Gibson observed a broomstick with blood on the handle area. Carnell's key chain and keys were missing.

In confessing to the second murder, which occurred in Bay City, Texas, Long stated:

"On 12/20/83 at about 9:00 p.m., I went over to see Bob Rogers at his trailer because he had not been to work earlier that day. He had sent me out earlier in the day when I went by to buy him a bottle of whiskey. I had noticed that he had several hundred dollars in his billfold, I, at the time, had been shooting heroin on a regular basis along with Preludin. Besides that, I had a grudge against him. He had fired me and made a small matter a big matter when I had driven a company vehicle to a girlfriend's house. Though he had rehired me, I still held a grudge against him. When I got to his trailer that night he passed out while sitting in a chair in the living room. I had not been there more than five minutes. Seeing him sitting there, I snapped and first I went outside and tried to light the underside of the trailer on fire with no success. I then went into the trailer and proceeded to pour whiskey around where he was sitting. I then lit the drapes on fire with a Bic lighter. Then I took the money, a few hundred dollars, out of his billfold. I left a twenty dollar bill in the billfold to make it not look like a robbery. The fire at the time was beginning to engulf the drapes and I went to drug connections [sic] house and shot a hundred dollars worth of Heroin. I killed him because I hated the son of a bitch."

This confession was corroborated by several witnesses. An undercover law enforcement officer, who after hearing a dispatch regarding a fire at a local trailer park, observed Long arrive at a drug house which was under surveillance. A neighbor of Rogers's identified Long from a photographic lineup and in-court as the man he had seen running from Rogers's trailer home immediately after he had seen the curtains in Rogers's trailer burning and heard Rogers's smoke alarm. Another law enforcement officer stated that, after he locating Rogers's badly burned body in the trailer, he found Rogers's billfold. The billfold contained one twenty-dollar bill.


According to the defense testimony at trial, there was alcohol use connected with the instant capital offense.


12/09/1999 James Lee Beathard (Trinity County)
12/14/1999 Robert Ronald Atworth (Dallas County)
12/15/1999 Sammie Felder (Harris County)
01/12/2000 Earl Carl Heiselbetz, Jr. (Sabine County)
01/13/2000 Johnny Paul Penry (Polk County)
01/18/2000 Spencer Corey Goodman (Fort Bend County)
01/20/2000 David Hicks (Freestone County)
01/25/2000 Glen Charles McGinnis (Montgomery County)
01/26/2000 Anzel Jones (Lamar County)
01/27/2000 James Walter Moreland (Henderson County)
02/23/2000 Cornelius Goss (Dallas County)
02/24/2000 Toronto M. Patterson (Dallas County)
03/01/2000 Odell Barnes, Jr. (Wichita County)
03/15/2000 Timothy Lane Gribble (Galveston County)
03/22/2000 Dennis Bagwell (Atascosa County)


If this execution is carried out, it will be the 196th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 32nd since General Cornyn took office.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Ed Marshall of the Attorney General's Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Ted Delisi, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050