January 6


Curtis Harris
Six times in the modern history of Texas, brothers have been convicted of crimes and executed. The first were the Noel brothers, executed in 1925, followed by the Robins brothers in 1926. It was ten years before the next set of brothers were introduced to ‘Old Sparky’ and they were the Browns, followed two years later by a second set of Brown’s in 1938. They were the last siblings to be executed by electrocution.

Danny Harris
The remaining two sets of brothers, who were put to death by lethal injection, received their sentences in the 1990’s. Interestingly, in both cases the crimes were committed in Brazos County, Texas. Jessie and Jose Gutierrez murdered a female clerk at a U-tote-em store during a robbery. Curtis and Danny Harris crime was even more gruesome.

The Harris brothers, along with co-defendants James Charles Manuel and Valarie Denise Rencher, beat a Good Samaritan to death who had stopped to assist them. Timothy Merka was an employee of Texas A&M University. He was flagged down by the murderers after their car stopped running. He tried for a half-hour to get their car started before they rewarded him by knocking him to the ground and beating him to death.

Danny Harris held Mr. Merka on the ground as he pled for his life. Curtis Harris beat him to death with a car jack as their accomplices apparently stood by and watched, although Rencher testified that she begged them to stop. Manuel was sentenced to 25 years for his part. Rencher became a witness against the Harris brothers and was not sentenced to prison.  The brothers received the death penalty and were executed in 1993 for the crime they committed in 1979. Curtis Harris is reported to be the youngest person to ever have arrived on death row.

A quick internet search to find what the other two defendants are up to these days revealed little. Manuel was reported to no longer be in prison. There is a female by the name of Valarie Denise Rencher who is reported to live in Brazos County and has been arrested for forgery, aggravated assault on a police officer and multiple traffic offenses since the execution of the Harris brothers.  

But the name we should remember is Timothy Merka, the Good Samaritan.

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Posted January 6, 2014 by Larry Watts in category "Crimes and Criminals", "Other