LIVINGSTON, Texas - Bobby Wayne Woods says he was just playing with his ex-girlfriend's kids when one of them, an 11-year-old girl, wound up dead with a slashed throat and her 9-year-old brother nearly died of strangulation.
But a jury agreed with prosecutors who contended Woods abducted the children from their home southwest of Fort Worth in 1997, killed Sarah Patterson and left her brother, Cody, for dead.
On Thursday, Woods, 42, was set to die for the girl's slaying. He'd be the second Texas prisoner executed this week and 13th this year. Two more men face execution next week in the country's most active death penalty state.
Woods had no late appeals that sought to delay the lethal injection in Huntsville.
In earlier unsuccessful appeals, Woods argued he was mentally retarded and ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court standards.
"I can't tell you he's the sharpest fellow I've ever met, but he doesn't meet the mental retardation standards," Richard Hattox, who prosecuted Woods, said. "There's a lot of evidence in our record to that issue and that's why appeals have not been successful."
Woods in a recent interview outside death row denied abducting the children and said Cody Patterson's near fatal injuries were the result of an accident.
"I took the kids out and we were horsing around," he said. "We went walking around graveyards, horsing around by a fence. Cody jumped on my back and hit a fence post.
"I guess I panicked."
The girl's killer, he insisted, was his cousin, who was with them and who left with the girl. Woods said he'd searched for her after his cousin told him he "took care of everything" and acknowledged finding her near a fishing spot they frequented and with her throat fatally slashed.
"I panicked," he said. "My cousin said the girl was dead, that it was an accident."
Evidence showed only one man at the slaying scene. DNA on a knife identified as the murder weapon was traced to Woods. But the key witness was Cody Patterson, who survived his attack and testified against Woods.
A cowboy exercising a horse near the cemetery spotted some movement in the brush and found the gravely wounded boy who identified Woods as his attacker.
Woods was arrested. In a statement to police, Woods said he had taken drugs before going to his former girlfriend's house and admitted to the abduction. He said he was trying to keep the girl quiet by holding a knife to her throat but that she jerked.
"I cut her throat," he told officers before leading them to the girl's body.
From death row, he said the statement was coerced after he'd been kept awake for three days.
"If Cody had told us there was another person, it would have opened more evidence," Hattox said.
Woods said his cousin hung himself in the weeks after the abductions. Hattox said Woods' cousin did commit suicide, but investigators could not tie the man to the case.
"There was no other physical evidence to connect another person," Hattox said.
Other evidence at Woods' trial, which was moved to Llano in Central Texas in 1998 becuse of extensive publicity in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, was Sarah Patterson's diary, in which she expressed hatred for Woods. Evidence showed the girl had been sexually molested and both Woods and she had the same sexually transmitted disease.
Woods had been kicked out of the Patterson home days before the attack by his former girlfriend and the children's mother, Schwana Patterson. Prosecutors said she heard the children screaming as they were abducted but didn't help.
She denied the accusations, said she didn't hear the screams, but was convicted in 1998 of injury to a child by omission and received 23 years in prison. Her sentence later was reduced to eight years.
Woods also received a 40-year prison term for the attack on Cody Patterson. The boy testified he was awakened by his sister's screams as Woods beat her in the bed the children shared.
Woods is scheduled to be followed to the death chamber next by Eric Nenno, 47, who is set to die Tuesday for abducting, raping and strangling a 7-year-old girl who lived in his Harris County neighborhood in 1995.