NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Thursday marked exactly one week since a Nashville man was set to be executed for murdering a woman and her two young children.
“When you know for a fact done killed somebody, done took somebody off this earth, and you still want to spare his life – I don’t agree with that,” said Linette Bell.
More than thirty years later, the pain is still real for her and her mother after her sister Angela Clay was killed in her Nashville home along with her two daughters, Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6.
“The children – one was in between the bed and the chest of drawers, and the other one was in her bedroom trying to get to the telephone. She had her little bloody fingerprints all over the phone where she tried to get to the telephone to call somebody,” Bell recalled of the incident in March 1988.
It wasn’t a scene that Bell saw firsthand, but retired Metro police officer Bill Pridemore did.
“You can see from the blood streaks where she had attempted to crawl,” he recalled. “Very few times you would see, back then, did you see a murder – or what would now be considered a mass murder because it’s three people – with children being involved.”
In 1989 Angela Clay’s boyfriend Byron Black was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband. He was sentenced to death.
“With the sentence that we got, we were comfortable with it but now that the time has come for him to be executed, I’m not seeing no justice,” said Bell. “My sister was a good girl. My sister didn’t deserve that.”
Black is currently being held at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Davidson County after his sentence began in 1989. Today, he’s 64 years old.
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Black because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the issues about whether or not an execution can move forward is whether a person is competent to be executed,” said Supervisory Assistant Public Defender Kelley Henry. She worked with Black for the past 20 years and said he currently has intellectual disability and serious mental illness.
“That’s a lie,” said Bell. “I don’t believe that. He was mentally competent when he did it. And now that he has the death penalty he’s not mentally competent? Oh okay. Well if he’s not then I’m not either.”
Henry said there has to be a court hearing after experts examine Black in prison.
“The law requires that those evaluations be contemporary, they can’t be old. It’s based on what his current functioning is and that just can’t happen during a pandemic,” said Henry.
Black’s execution date was moved from October 8, 2020 to April 8, 2021.
As lead detective in the case, Pridemore said the death sentence was fair. “Standing in that room with the mother, Angela, and her two children absolutely,” he said.
Black has always denied he killed Clay and her daughters, and Pridemore said he needs to help the family get closure.
“I think it’s another opportunity provided to him to ask for forgiveness certainly from the Lord if he hasn’t but also from the family,” said Pridemore.
Bell said three decades was too long to see justice followed through.
“I hate that he got the death penalty but I also hate what he did to my sister and my two nieces too because right now they’re pushing up daisies out there at the Greenwood cemetery and he’s still walking around here breathing,” said Bell.
In the next few months there will be a hearing on Black’s competency to be executed.
See more of News 2’s in-depth coverage of “Death Row Delayed”