Gary Sterling, shown here being led to a January 2005
hearing, was executed Wednesday for the 1988 slaying of John
Wesley Carty. He apologized repeatedly to the Carty family
in his last moments.
Daily Sun file photo/SCOTT HONEA
8/7/2005 Sterling to be executed Wednesday
By LOYD COOK
Daily Sun Staff
A 16-year trek through the U.S. legal system, beginning in Navarro County
district court in 1989 and ending in the Supreme Court last month, ends
Barring an 11th-hour intervention, Gary Sterling, 38, will die by lethal
injection in the death chamber at Huntsville’s notorious Walls Unit.
Sterling was convicted of the 1988 robbery and murder of 72-year-old John Wesley
Carty, according to legal records.
He was first apprehended in connection with the murders of two elderly brothers
in Hill County, three days after the Carty murder. Sterling admitted that Leroy
and William M. Porter, 70 and 72 years old, had been repeatedly struck with “a
A Frost resident reported seeing Sterling and his brother, Randy Sterling, in
possession of a silver Chevrolet Caprice matching the description of one stolen
from the Porter brothers.
Randy Sterling was later apprehended, and Gary Sterling fled from the scene, as
the pair were removing the motor from the vehicle.
Sterling would then admit to the slaying of Carty, directing Hill and Navarro
county law enforcement officers to the body in an area near the Brushie Prairie
community. It was later determined that Carty had been beaten to death with an
automotive bumper jack.
Also found at the scene was the remains of Deloris June Smith. Both were
reportedly abducted from Carty’s home.
Sterling has been incarcerated in the Texas Department of Corrections since his
1989 Navarro County conviction. He has went through a myriad of appeals, has had
death dates set three times and had them stayed by the Supreme Court twice.
Moments after the second date was set in 2001, Sterling spoke with the Daily Sun
for a few minutes.
The condemned man said he had come to terms with what he agreed was an
“You ain’t given any choice in that matter, so I’m pretty much OK with it,”
Sterling said in a Oct. 30, 2001 Daily Sun article, moments after District Judge
John Jackson signed the death warrant. “The life I’m living is rough, so I
probably won’t pursue any appeals.”
Sterling said during the 2001 interview he really couldn’t explain how he feels
having lived under the knowledge that someday the state would take his life,
adding that “it would probably take 15 or 20 minutes of thinking about it before
I could answer that ... (and) I’m not sure how I feel about it.”
Set for a Dec. 4, 2001 execution, it left him with about five weeks of life
Or so he thought.
Although Sterling had asserted he would pursue no more appeals, another round
through the courts yielded his second, and last, stay of execution.
In mid November 2004, the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Texas granted a reprieve.
Former Navarro County District Attorney Pat Batchelor, in a Nov. 24, 2001 Daily
Sun article, had said it is not necessarily the condemned man that files an
“There are certain lawyers, certain groups ... that are so opposed to the death
penalty that they would be opposed to the death penalty for Osama bin Laden or
Hitler,” Batchelor said in 2001. “So they’re going to fight (a death sentence)
all they can ... no matter what.
“And (Sterling’s lawyer) gets paid pretty good, makes a pretty good living doing
But in January this year, a third death date was set — for May 25. Although
Sterling would get a reprieve of sorts, no official reprieve with more appeals
will likely come.
After the May 25 date was set, it was decided since Judge Jackson — who picked
the time — had once testified briefly in a 1989 hearing concerning Sterling, it
could be deemed a conflict of interest for Jackson to be involved in the
Jackson was once first assistant district attorney under Batchelor’s watch.
A visiting judge would set what appears to be the final date for Sterling ...
Next Wednesday. Sterling declined a chance to talk with the Daily Sun this time.
Former Navarro County Sheriff’s Office Chief Don Barron had several years of off
and on contact with Sterling.
“I had known Gary since he was a kid, since he was about 14 years old,” said
Barron in 2001. “He had been a pretty good kid until he got mixed up in drugs.”
Batchelor expressed a different impression and opinion of Sterling.
“I tried this case in ’89, Gary Sterling had at that time been convicted of two
murders — this was the third — and was the major suspect in a fourth,” Batchelor
said, also in 2001. “He’s as cold-blooded a killer as you’re ever going to see
in this county ...
“This guy was as scary a guy that we’ve ever had in a courtroom in Navarro
County — bar none.”
Loyd Cook may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Convicted killer executed for 1988 slaying of 72-year-old
Gary Sterling, shown here being led to a January 2005 hearing, was executed
Wednesday for the 1988 slaying of John Wesley Carty. He apologized repeatedly to
the Carty family in his last moments.
Daily Sun file photo/SCOTT HONEA
By LOYD COOK
Daily Sun Staff
HUNTSVILLE — Jovial and matter-of-fact, 38-year-old Gary Lynn Sterling made his
apologies to the children of the man he beat to death 17 years ago, then asked
the prison chaplain to say a brief prayer before he was put to death by lethal
Sterling was convicted in 1989 by a Navarro County jury for the 1988 slaying of
72-year-old John Wesley Carty and sentenced to death, and pleaded guilty to
murder in two Hill County cases in exchange for life sentences. There was one
other killing with which he was connected with but never tried.
“I wished I could do something to replace your father, your loved one, but I
can’t,” said Sterling to the five Carty family members in attendance. “I know
this was a heinous crime. I just wish I could get him back.”
The two daughters and three sons of Carty were silent as the lethal drugs began
flowing at 6:09 p.m. into Sterling’s arm. He was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. by
the attending physician.
The U.S. Supreme Court had denied last-ditch appeals about an hour before,
removing the last obstacle to the execution.
Carty’s family members told victim assistance officials they did not wish to
speak to the press or issue a statement after the execution.
The lack of comment is in character with comments about the victims’ families
made by Pat Batchelor, the Navarro County district attorney at the time of
“They’re hard working people, they’re not going to cause a stir,” Batchelor said
of the families in a Daily Sun article published Wednesday. “They didn’t demand
justice or try to twist your arm. When you come in contact with that kind of
people, you just want to make the system work for them.”
Sterling smiled throughout the last handful of minutes in his life, remarking “I
can only say I’m sorry” before asking prison chaplain Larry Hart to say a brief
prayer for him and for the victim’s family members.
The condemned man kept the smile on his face throughout the words offered by
Hart, as he lay on the gurney he was strapped to, eyes closed.
As the drugs began their three-minute dosage, Sterling said, “I’ll put in a good
word for everybody.”
A few, muted sputterings came from his lips as his last breaths left his body.
Sterling was apprehended in May 1988, located after a tip led police to a
Blooming Grove residence where he was found hiding in the attic. Law enforcement
at that time was looking for him in connection with the Hill County
double-murders of Leroy and William M. Porter, both in their early 70s.
Three days later, he took Navarro and Hill county officers to an area in the
northwestern portion Navarro County where Carty’s remains were found. The body
of a fourth victim who lived with Carty, Deloris June Smith, 52, was found a day
Legal records indicate Sterling took Carty’s car, a TV, a shotgun and lantern. A
purse and some glasses belonging to Smith were found at Sterling’s home.
He was never tried in connection with Smith’s killing.
According to a report by The Associated Press, police believed Sterling wanted
Carty’s car to sell in order to buy crack cocaine.
“He was looking for enough to just buy some rocks,” Hill County Sheriff Brent
Button told The Associated Press this week.
Navarro County law enforcement officials said, in private conversations with the
Daily Sun this week, they remembered Sterling as having a habit in the $200- to
Wednesday’s execution marks the end of a 17-year march through the Texas and
national judicial system. It also marks the end of a man some thought was one of
the most frightening produced in Navarro County.
“He was just one of those people who come along ... it really wasn’t a serial
killing because they were too close together,” Batchelor said in the Daily Sun’s
article Wednesday. “But it was the closest thing we’ve had here. He was just so
Originally published in the Corsicana Daily Sun
May 13, 2005
Reprinted with permission of the Corsicana Daily Sun
All rights to this story reserved. Copyright
Corsicana Daily Sun and Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc,. Content may not be
archived, retransmitted, saved in a database, or used for any commercial purpose without
the express written permission of the Corsicana Daily Sun and CNHI.
A former farm
worker from central Texas was executed this evening for using a car
bumper jack to fatally beat and rob a man during a violent spree 17
years ago that authorities said left three other people dead. Gary
Sterling, 38, was condemned for the beating death of John Carty, 72,
killed in May 1988 at his home in Navarro County near
Corsicana. Prosecutors also had evidence
tying him to the slaying of Delores Smith, 52, a friend of Carty's
whose purse and glasses were found at Sterling's home, although he
was not tried for the woman's death. Sterling led police to their
bodies after he was arrested for the slayings of William Porter, 72,
and Porter's brother, Leroy, 71, at their home in Hill County, about
35 miles northeast of Waco. He pleaded guilty to their slayings and
received two life prison terms. Authorities said Sterling knew the
four victims, who all were fatally beaten. Evidence showed Sterling,
who was 20 at the time, took Carty's car, a TV, shotgun and a
lantern. Police said he sold the car for cash he needed to buy crack
cocaine. "He was looking for enough to just buy some rocks," Hill
County Sheriff Brent Button said. Sterling's lawyers were in the
courts in the hours before his scheduled execution trying to block
the punishment, arguing in appeals that Navarro County jurors were
given flawed instructions when they decided in 1989 Sterling should
be put to death. Sterling had managed to elude police the night the
Porter brothers were killed when they spotted him stripping Leroy
Porter's car. Acting on a tip, he was arrested the following day as
he hid in the attic of his home in Blooming Grove, a town of about
800 some 15 miles west of Corsicana.
While in jail in Hillsboro, Button said Sterling gained notoriety
for trashing his cell, tearing up steel jail fixtures officials had
been told were indestructible. Sterling, who declined to speak with
reporters in the weeks preceding his scheduled lethal injection,
also was remembered for a physical training regimen where he would
do push-ups for hours. "I've prosecuted a number of capital case,
but this guy really scared me," Pat Batchelor, the former Navarro
County district attorney who prosecuted Sterling's capital murder
case, said. In earlier appeals, he argued unsuccessfully his intent
to kill Carty wasn't clear because he didn't bring a deadly weapon
with him and that he only struck Carty once. State lawyers responded
that if Sterling only wanted to rob Carty, there wasn't any need to
bash in the man's head with the jack. Another previous appeal
focused on comments from a juror at his trial who was portrayed as
racist for using an epithet to describe black people. The juror was
white. Sterling is black. At a later hearing, the juror said use of
the racially insensitive term didn't make him a racist and he didn't
consider himself a racist. Federal appeals courts agreed and denied