Frances Elaine Newton: Execution Texas Style

Texas has a higher percentage of women on death row than many other states. That is due in part to the fact that Texas is more likely to sentence women to death row than other states, with the exception of California, North Carolina, and Florida. Here is the story of a woman who was executed in Texas for her heinous crime of murder.

Frances Elaine Newton was born in Texas on April 12, 1965. She completed high school and eventually she became an accountant. However, Frances Newton also had a criminal record for forgery. She had been given a three-year sentence of probation in 1986. Her husband was no stranger to illegal activities either and had been involved with buying, using, and selling drugs.

On April 7, 1987, her estranged husband, Adrian, 23, their son, Alton, 7 years old, and their daughter, Farrah, 21 months old, were viciously murdered in the husband’s apartment in Houston, Texas. They were all shot to death with a .25 caliber gun that had been owned by the boyfriend of Frances. No investigation was ever made into the possibility that the crime was drug related. It was assumed that Frances was guilty from the start.

Sondra Nelms, Newton’s cousin, claimed to have gone with Frances to Adrian Newton’s apartment and to have discovered the bodies. Police arrived shortly after in response to a call about a disturbance. Eventually, Nelms gave evidence to the police regarding the whereabouts of a paper bag that contained the murder weapon.

Frances Newton admitted to bringing her boyfriend’s gun, which turned out to be the murder weapon, to the apartment for protection. However, she denied having anything to do with the murders.

In March 1987, Newton had separated from her husband. Also, in March 1987, she had purchased life insurance policies valued at $50,000 for herself, her husband, and her daughter. A policy was previously purchased for Alton. The existence of these life insurance policies was considered the motivation for the crime.

The day after Frances Newton filed an insurance claim, April 22, 1987, she was arrested and charged with murder. Frances Elaine Newton was convicted of capital murder and sentenced on November 17, 1988.

The execution that was scheduled to take place on December 1, 2004, had been temporarily delayed for 120 days when Governor Rick Perry granted a stay of execution in order that evidence could be re-examined. New lawyers, Frances Elaine Newton’s claim of innocence and a bad review for the Houston Police Department’s crime lab prompted the move. The Houston Police Department’s crime lab had undergone an audit that revealed problems with the lab’s analysis of DNA and ballistics. Any conviction resulting in the death penalty based upon work from the Houston Police Department’s crime lab was now under review.

Even after the evidence was reviewed, Frances Newton was still under a sentence of the death penalty. Newton, who remained silent during the event, was executed on the evening of September 14, 2005. She was 40 years old.

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