‘No, they have to die’ _ convicted killer recalls slayings at trial
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) _ A woman convicted in Albuquerque’s worst mass murder told jurors she pleaded for the lives of an elderly couple and sat helplessly as her alleged accomplice fired shotgun blasts that sent them crumpling to the ground.
After seeing them fall, Esther Beckley said, she closed her eyes and heard 28-year-old Shane Harrison blast away with the shotgun ``as fast as he could cock it and fire.″
Then he drew a pistol and fired at least 10 more shots, she testified Tuesday. Beckley was expected to return to the witness stand today for cross-examination at Harrison’s murder trial.
Harrison, 28, is accused of killing five people _ three workers at an Albuquerque video store and the grandparents of one of the employees. He could be sentenced to death if convicted.
Beckley pleaded guilty in March to two first-degree murder counts in the deaths of George McDougall, 77, and his wife, Pauline, 72.
As part of a plea bargain that spared her the death penalty, Beckley was sentenced to 95 1/2 years in prison and agreed to testify against Harrison.
The three employees _ Zachary Blacklock, 19, Mylinh Daothi, 30, and Jowanda Castillo, 18 _ were killed March 3, 1996, during a robbery that netted $1,080.
Beckley testified that she lied to impress her boyfriend, John Lausell, telling him hours after the robbery that she killed the McDougalls. Lausell later received a reward of nearly $100,000 for information leading to the arrests of Harrison and Beckley.
The McDougalls had gone to the store to pick up Blacklock, their grandson. They were abducted and shot to death in the mountains east of Albuquerque.
Harrison forced the couple to drive to the mountains and ordered her to follow in his car, Beckley testified. She said she pleaded ``that he didn’t have to kill them, that they were old people.″
``He said, `No, they have to die,‴ Beckley testified in a flat voice.
Then, as she sat in the car, he walked to a wooded area where McDougall appeared to be comforting his wife. Harrison shot them repeatedly, first with the shotgun and then with a Tech-9 semiautomatic pistol, she testified.
``He said something about, `They’re still making noises.′ I said, `Leave them alone, they’re dead. They’re dead,‴ Beckley testified.
She said the victims’ families deserved to know the truth.
``I wish I could turn back the clock and change it all. I wish I had never met John or Shane or any of them,″ she said.