Stripped of the modern trappings of the court system, the saga of condemned Texas murderer Andre Thomas resembles a medieval horror story featuring madness, a family’s homicidal slaughter, the defendant’s self-mutilation and a waiting executioner.
Knowing it’s real makes the story almost too grotesque to stomach.
Still, it was a service by the Texas Tribune and Texas Monthly to render it in stark detail, because it challenges this state’s collective conscience.
Thomas would have a standard death row cell today were it not for his mental instability. With his eyelids surgically shut over empty sockets, he waits in a prison psychiatric unit until a federal judge decides whether he can be put to death.
A reading of the case file is a journey into darkness.
Born into a chaotic family in Sherman, Thomas grew up with a mentally ill mother and siblings. He was experiencing auditory hallucinations and using alcohol by age 9 or 10. Regular drug abuse followed, with a series of arrests for petty crimes. Thomas was a father at 16 and married his girlfriend, Laura Boren, at 18, a union that lasted four months before the couple separated.
The voices in Thomas’ head kept growing in intensity, and he fixated on secret codes he saw on the dollar bill. He was tormented by visions that he was reliving the same events. At age 21, he harmed himself twice shortly before the murders. A neighbor took him to a medical center, where a doctor said he was “really mentally ill.” But Thomas slipped away without treatment.
Two days later, in March 2004, Thomas entered the home of his estranged wife with three knives. He killed Laura, and cut out part of a lung; killed Andre Jr., 4, and cut out his heart; then killed Laura’s daughter, Leyha, 13 months, and cut out her heart. He thought the three were possessed.
Thomas stabbed himself in the chest and lay down to die beside his dead wife, but when that didn’t happen he stuffed his victims’ organs in his pockets and walked home.
Later, in the Grayson County Jail, he gave rambling, delusional confessions. It was there he gouged out his right eye with his fingers, citing obedience to a biblical injunction.
After diagnoses of schizophrenia, Thomas was medically stabilized so he could be tried. A jury sorted through differing expert opinions on Thomas’ insanity and its origins and sent him to death row. It was there he pulled out his remaining eye and ate it.
This is the man that the state of Texas argues should be executed.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has deferred to the jury verdict, ruling that Thomas “is clearly ‘crazy,’ but he is also ‘sane’ under Texas law.”
It seems, rather, that the world has gone mad. That this human being is responsible for his psychotic actions is a preposterous notion. To strap down and terminate the life of such a tortured creature is the way a medieval society would deal with its embarrassments.
Texas must be better than that, and the courts should save us from insane ideas of what constitutes justice