Man Who Killed Texas Couple Executed

By MICHAEL GRACZYK
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 26, 2007; 8:04 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- A gang member convicted of fatally shooting an Amarillo couple during a botched beer theft at their grocery store was executed Thursday evening.

Ryan Dickson, 30, spoke rapidly when asked if he had anything to say, expressing love to his family and apologizing to the relatives of his victims. No witnesses from his family or the victims' family attended the execution.

"I am sorry for what I did, and I take responsibility for what I did," said Dickson, the 13th prisoner to be executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.

Dickson was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m., eight minutes after he was injected with lethal drugs.

Dickson, who had frequent run-ins with the law dating to age 9, was just two weeks past his 18th birthday when he killed Carmelo Surace, 61, and his wife, Marie, 60, in 1994.

Before the attempted robbery, Dickson shared some marijuana with his friends at home, then decided he wanted some beer but didn't want to pay for it.

Armed with a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, he went inside the Suraces' store. His 14-year-old brother, Dane, stood guard at the door, and two other friends waited outside.

Prosecutors said Ryan Dickson told authorities he hoped the killing would earn him a teardrop tattoo to impress his colleagues in a gang known as the Varrio 16 Locos.

In a recent interview from death row, Dickson blamed Carmelo Surace for confronting him, saying the store owner must have spotted the weapon hidden in his jacket, tried to wrest it away from him and was shot in the tussle.

"I didn't go in there and pull a gun and start shooting people," Dickson said. He insisted Marie Surace was shot by accident as she reached under a counter for a gun.

Dickson, who fled the store empty-handed, received death sentences for each slaying. Thursday's punishment was for Carmelo Surace's murder. His brother testified against him and is serving a 15-year prison term.

Former Potter County District Attorney Rebecca King, who prosecuted the two capital murder cases against Dickson, disputed his story of the shootings, especially Marie Surace's death. The woman was trying to make a phone call, she said.

"She was on her knees. He shot her. Totally cold," King said.

___

On the Net:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice execution schedule, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/scheduledexecutions.htm


© 2007 The Associated Press