On February 27, 2002, the Superior Court of Gwinnett County filed an order setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Tracy Lee Housel may occur to begin at noon, March 12, 2002, and end seven days later at noon on March 19, 2002. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections has set the specific date and time for the execution as 7:00p.m., March 12, 2002, pursuant to the discretion given the Commissioner under state law. Housel had previously concluded his direct appeal, as well as state and federal habeas corpus proceedings. On March 12, 2002, the court-ordered execution of Tracy Housel was carried out at 7:28pm.
Housel pled guilty to the offenses of murder and theft by taking motor vehicle and the following evidence was adduced in his sentencing trial:
Evidence was presented at the sentencing trial that, during a two-month period in early 1985, Housel killed a man in Texas (T. 1755-1759), stabbed a man in Iowa (T. 1644-1662), sodomized a woman in New Jersey (T. 1419-1432), and, finally, killed the woman in Gwinnett County, Georgia, for whose murder the defendant received the death sentence in this case. (T. 1601-1614; 1622-1642; 1852-1870). Housel’s pre-trial statements concerning these crimes were admitted in evidence. (See T. 1720-1759 regarding the Texas murder; see T. 1614-1617 regarding the Iowa stabbing; see T. 1419-1468 for testimony of the victim of the New Jersey sodomy; see T. 1572-1613 and 1622-1642 regarding the statement given to Daytona Beach authorities as to the Georgia murder). In addition, the surviving Iowa and New Jersey victims testified, (see T. 1644-1662, testimony of Iowa victim Gary Kennedy; see T. 1419-1468, testimony of New Jersey victim Renee Kilhullen), as did law enforcement officers from Texas (T. 1770-1787), Florida (T. 1479-1485; 1509-1524; 1525-1552; 1565-1644) and Georgia. (T. 1335-1338; 1338-1365; 1709-1770).
Housel left his wife in California in October of 1984, his marriage having unraveled as a result of his “being on the road” all the time. (T. 1839-1840). A month later Housel began living with a woman in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (T. 1840-1841). In February, 1985, Housel was at a truck stop in Spring, Texas (T. 1755-1756), “laid over trying to get a load.” (T. 1864). Housel stated, “We were all in our leathers (T. 1655), dressed more or less like a rowdy little bike club, just raising Hell and discontent.” He met a man named Troy, who had a quantity of cocaine and was trying to sell it. (T. 1876). Troy got drunk, (T. 1865), and Housel helped him out to his truck and went back to the bar. He learned (he said) that “a couple of guys [were] planning on robbing [Troy] of all of his cocaine,” but after he told them not to, they “left him alone.” (T. 1878). However, Housel himself “was wanting, I guess, a little bit more cocaine,” so he climbed into Troy’s cab “just [to] fix my nose again and go on about my business.” (T. 1865; 1878). Troy woke up and accused Housel of trying to steal his cocaine (T. 1756; 1866). When Troy grabbed him by the throat, Housel picked up a hammer and hit him on the head eight or nine times (T. 1757; 1866).
Housel took Troy’s cocaine and a few other things, including a CB radio, a stereo; and Troy’s identification, put them into his bag, and drove the truck to Beaumont, Texas, where he left it (T. 1882). He stated that Troy was still breathing when he left Spring, but that he died somewhere between Spring and Beaumont (T. 1758).
Troy’s body was found in the sleeper of his cab, seven miles from Beaumont, Texas, on February 20, 1985. He was nude from the waist down, and had been anally sodomized.
On March 29, 1985, Housel was back in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He met a man named Gary at a truck stop and asked him for a ride to Des Moines, where perhaps he could get a job (T. 1646-1651; 1841-1842). Gary told him he would take him as far as Atlantic, which was about halfway (T. 1651). They got into Gary’s car and drove. Gary testified that when they reached the Atlantic exit, Housel pulled out a knife and told him to drive on (T. 1652). A couple of exits later, Housel told Gary to pull off the interstate and park (T. 1653). Then, Gary testified, Housel demanded his wallet, and stabbed him as he reached for it (T. 1653).
Housel stated that Gary made a gesture which he interpreted as a homosexual advance, and he “freaked;” he pulled out his knife and began stabbing him (T. 1843-1844). Gary denied making any sexual advances (T. 1661).
In any event, Gary got out of his car, and Housel pushed him down a ravine (T. 1655). When Gary climbed out, Housel stabbed him several more times and threw him back in (T. 1657).
Gary had thrown away his keys (T. 1654), but Housel found a spare key in the console and drove the car to New Jersey (T. 1846). Credit card receipts found in Housel’s belongings after he was arrested showed that he had used Gary’s credit cards in Iowa, Illinois and Pennsylvania on March 30 and April 1.
On April 2, 1985, a young woman named Renee (T. 1421) met Housel at the apartment of a friend of hers in Phillipsburg, New Jersey (T. 1421). Housel introduced himself as “Troy” (T. 1421). About 11:30 p.m., Renee announced that she was going home (T. 1423, 1426). “Troy” (who Renee identified at trial as the defendant) offered to escort her to her car (T. 1425; 1432). Once there, Housel entered the car and began to strangle her, and then forced her to orally sodomize him (T. 1427-1428). Telling her she was too nice to kill, he took all her money and left. Renee testified that she had marks on her neck from being strangled that did not finally disappear until late that summer.
Next, Housel drove Gary’s car to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he abandoned it. He caught a ride from there to Lawrenceville, Georgia (T. 1848).
After “drinking all night,” (T. 1605; 1850-1851) Housel met the victim in this case, Jean Drew, in the early morning hours of April 7, 1985, at a Lawrenceville truck stop (T. 1852). Housel said they had sex, and then went for a ride in her car, a silver-gray Mustang (T. 1853-1855). They parked in an open area behind some woods, just off Beaver Ruin road in Gwinnett County. According to Housel, they were having sex again in the back seat of her car when he got the urge to spit (T. 1856). Unfortunately, his spit hit her window. She began yelling at him, and he lost his temper and began striking her with his fists (T. 1856). (There was blood all over the inside of the car when it was recovered.) They got out of the car. Her nose was bleeding, and she spit blood on him (T. 1609, 1856-1857). Then he really hit her, and she fell “like a ton of bricks.” He got on his knees and strangled her, and then he picked up a stick and beat her face to a “bloody pulp.” (T. 1856-1857).
Housel left her lying there, and drove her car to Daytona Beach, Florida, where, using her credit cards, he stayed several days prior to being arrested (T. 1482-1485; 1858).
Jean Drew’s body was found later that morning, nude from the waist down (T. 1333-1334). Her head was “extensively traumatized and disfigured.” (T. 1369). There were “several lesions about the neck area,” and there was “blood smeared on both hands.” (T. 1369).
The pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified that the victim was still alive at the time of strangulation (T. 1374), and that the “[strangulation] force was fairly long in duration given the amount of … contusion in the area of the neck …; the [hyoid] bone … was broken … and there was digging of fingernail not just into the skin and left in place, but actually tearing through the skin which is another indication of a fair degree of struggle on the part of the decedent.” (T. 1376).
Several of the victim’s teeth had been knocked out (T. 1378). Her mouth was cut (T. 1377-1378). Her skull was crushed in three places (T. 1373). The pathologist testified that because of the extensive trauma to the head, it was impossible to determine how many times the victim had been struck (T. 1381).
Cause of death was “a combination of multiple head trauma and asphyxiation by strangulation.” (T. 1379).
Housel v. State, 257 Ga. 115-117 (1987).
The Gwinnett County Grand Jury indicted Housel for the offenses of murder, rape, theft by taking motor vehicle and three counts of financial transaction card theft. Prior to the final selection of the jury, Housel entered his plea of guilty to the offenses of murder and theft by taking motor vehicle and the State agreed not to proceed on the offense of rape. The three counts of financial transaction card theft were merged with the theft by taking. After hearing all of the evidence in the sentencing phase and charge of court, the jury returned a verdict on the murder count as death. On February 7, 1986, the Court sentenced Housel to death on the murder count and twenty years in confinement on the theft by taking motor vehicle, consecutive to the sentence in the murder count.
The Direct Appeal
The Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed Housel’s convictions and sentences in Housel v. The State, 257 Ga. 115 (1987). A motion for reconsideration was denied on June 3, 1987. A petition for a writ of certiorari was denied on June 30, 1988. Housel v. Georgia, 487 U.S. 1240 (1988), rehearing denied on August 25, 1988, Housel v. Georgia, 487 U.S. 1250 (1988).
State Habeas Corpus Petition
Housel, represented by Michael O. Spivey and Gary A. Alexion, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia, which was denied, following an evidentiary hearing, on August 16, 1990. On December 21, 1990, the petition for habeas corpus relief was denied. The Supreme Court of Georgia subsequently denied an application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal on March 1, 1991. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on October 15, 1991 in Housel v. Zant, 502 U.S. 915, 112 S.Ct. 318 (1991). The petition for rehearing was denied December 16, 1991 in Housel v. Zant, 502 U.S. 1020, 112 S.Ct. 671 (1991).
Federal Habeas Corpus Petition
Housel filed petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on or about June 1, 1994. The petition for writ of habeas corpus was denied on March 31, 1998. The United States District Court granted Petitioner’s motion for a certificate of probable cause on September 10, 1998.
Appeal to the Eleventh Circuit
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas corpus relief to Housel on January 18, 2001 in Housel v. Head, 238 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 2001) and rehearing en banc was denied on April 6, 2001 in Housel v. Head, 246 F.3d 1326 (11th Cir. 2001). Housel’s petition for certiorari was denied on February 25, 2002.