Brother of death row inmate Carey Dean Moore: ‘He would just like to die’

August 5, 2018 GMT

If the state executes Carey Dean Moore next week as planned for killing two men in 1979, his twin brother will be there with him.

“It will not be easy, no,” said 60-year-old David Moore of Lincoln. “But Dean wants me there, so I have little choice. Sometimes none of us have a choice in things. Swing with the punches and come up kicking.”

David Moore always has called his brother Dean, even after others started calling him Carey. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for him, he said. Same as a lot of brothers. Maybe even more so with twins.


And 34 years ago, David Moore showed how far he would go when he swapped places with his brother and put himself on death row in a spur-of-the-moment escape attempt so that his brother might get to breathe fresh air again.

“Imprisoned twin brothers switch places” read the headline in the Lincoln Journal on Oct. 4, 1984.

It took several hours before Carey Dean Moore reported to his brother’s job in the prison kitchen and the supervisor noticed it wasn’t David.

They were 26 then. David Moore was serving four to six years for burglary. Carey Dean Moore was on death row for the murders of two Omaha cab drivers, Reuel Van Ness Jr. and Maynard Helgeland.

“Back then we were both animals. We weren’t fit to be allowed in society, I guess,” David Moore said.

* * *

In 1979, David Moore was in prison in Washington when he heard about Carey Dean and their 14-year-old brother, Donald Moore, getting arrested for the killing of Van Ness during an armed robbery, and Carey Dean for the killing of a second cab driver, Helgeland, four days later.

“I was shocked and yet I wasn’t shocked,” David Moore recently told the Journal Star. “We both had a sensation that there was something or somebody coming after us. Me? I took off. But Dean decided to stay around, and he ended up serving a lot more time.”

They had a pretty rough childhood in north Omaha, he said. They were two of 11 siblings. There never was enough money. Lots of times they sat down to the table and had nothing to eat. If they stole food, they’d get a spanking from Mom and a beating from Dad.

They did what they had to to survive, David Moore said.

Back in those days, it seemed like everyone was against them, they just didn’t know why, he said.

“It was get them before they can get you,” David Moore said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t learn to respect people before something really bad happened.”


* * *

On Aug. 20, 1979, Carey Dean Moore bought a gun for $50 from a driver who shared a Happy Cab with Moore’s mother. Two days later, he called for a cab from a telephone booth at the Smoke Pit, planning to rob and shoot the driver. He hid nearby to see if the driver was old enough, telling police later it would be harder to shoot someone around his own age, 21.

David Moore said his brother told him when he pointed the gun at Van Ness, the driver reached into the back seat. They were playing a kind of deadly tug-of-war with the pistol when it went off.

Carey Dean couldn’t really believe what he’d done, he told David Moore, so he asked 14-year-old Donald to look. Was the man really dead?

Four days later, Carey Dean Moore went to see if he could do it again, alone this time.

He called a cab to the Greyhound bus depot and asked Helgeland for a ride to the Benson area. Helgeland was found dead in his cab the next morning.

Every day since, David Moore said, his brother has wished he could take it back.

“Dean isn’t like what he was,” he said.

* * *

Since then, the Nebraska Supreme Court has given Carey Dean Moore seven execution dates — Sept. 20, 1980; Aug. 20, 1982; Dec. 4, 1984; May 9, 1997; Jan. 19, 2000; May 8, 2007; June 14, 2011 — before this one, Tuesday, Aug. 14.

There were delays by attorneys and the court, some that came in his own case, some prompted by other death-row cases. There were challenges over whether the aggravating factor known as “exceptional depravity” that made his case eligible for capital punishment was unconstitutionally vague, and whether electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment.

There were stays and resentencings.

In a recent email to the Journal Star from the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, Carey Dean Moore said June 20 marked his 38th year on death row.

It’s among the longest anyone has been on death row in the country.

“And in August it will be 39 yrs since I convinced my 14 yr old brother to go with me only to rob a man who drove a Omaha cab, almost 39 yrs. Are you people listening to me?!” he wrote.

Carey Dean Moore said the American Civil Liberties Union and his attorney at the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy would like to fight the execution on his behalf.

“But most certainly I do not (want that),” Moore said. “If they would file a motion for my brother, Donald, to get him off parole, which he has been on since forever, it seems like, that would be perfect for me.”

Donald Moore got 10 years to life for second-degree murder. He was released from prison 10 years ago, but he could be on parole forever.

A week after the email, Carey Dean Moore learned his newest execution date.

Asked to respond, the man who found religion inside the prison walls said he marveled at how God is able to work in the hearts of people forced to grapple with pain and anger, “all because of what one man (me) had done — murdering two men. I am so sorry for what I had done to these families, even more than anyone can imagine.”

He said he’s thankful for God’s forgiveness for his actions and sins, and prays his victims’ families will forgive him.

“It is easy to cause hurt, but it takes great strength to forgive,” he said.

* * *

David Moore is a couple years from retiring from Farmland, a job he’s had for 26 years. He heard about his twin brother’s August execution date from his daughter, but he didn’t really consider it to be true until his brother told him during a visit.

“If this happens it’s a relief,” he said. “Dean has almost been executed six or seven times and each time you start preparing yourself for it.”

So do the families. Both Moore’s and the victims’. It must be tough on them, David Moore said.

His brother wants the state to go through with it this time.

“He would just like to die,” David Moore said.

Carey Dean Moore admitted his guilt a long time ago, stopped his appeals, even tried to fire his lawyers.

“There’s got to be a time to say stop,” David Moore said. “I just hope they finally do it, stop messing around and pull the switch, give him a couple of shots or whatever. Do it instead of talking and talking about it.”

Profiles of Nebraska death row prisoners’ victims