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Inmate Says Love Led Him To Slay Guard

June 5, 1985

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ A prison inmate accused of stabbing a guard to death told officers he loved the woman and ″couldn’t live without her,″ an investigator says.

Minnie Houston, 41, was found dead about 9:30 p.m. Monday in a bathroom next to an employee dining room at the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis I Unit.

Billy Linville, who investigates department matters for the Walker County sheriff’s office, said inmate Ramon Mata Jr. admitted to the slaying Tuesday in a six-page statement.

Mata, 36, serving 30 years for murder, was transferred to Walker County Jail, where he was being held on a capital murder charge in the guard’s death.

According to his statement, Mata said he killed Ms. Houston because he loved her and he ″couldn’t live without her,″ Linville said. ″I guess he had some kind of intimate feeling toward her ... He’s living in a fantasy world. That’s my opinion.″

Ms. Houston, a department employee since October 1979, was assigned to supervise a seven-member crew of inmate trusties - which included Mata - at the dining area, said corrections spokesman Charles Brown.

Mata was spotted leaving the building, then drove Ms. Houston’s automobile to the main prison unit where he surrendered to prison officials, Brown said.

Investigators said the guard had been stabbed about 10 times from behind with a 15-inch butcher knife. The weapon was found in Ms. Houston’s car, and Mata’s clothes were bloody, officials said.

Ms. Houston’s late husband, Robert Houston, also worked as a guard at the Ellis I Unit until he died in an August 1975 traffic accident, Brown said.

One of her three sons, 21-year-old Robert Houston, is a guard. Another son, Terrell Houston, 18, said he, too, plans to become a guard.

″It’s the only thing around here with a good income,″ Terrell Houston said.

Ms. Houston was the first prison system employee killed since April 4, 1981, when Ellis I Unit Warden Wallace Pack and farm manager Billy Max Moore were killed during a struggle with inmate Eroy Brown. The prisoner was acquitted on grounds he killed the two in self-defense.

Guard George Billups, 42, was stabbed about noon Monday as prisoners at the Coffield Unit in Palestine lined up outside their cells to go to lunch, said corrections spokesman Jay Byrd. He was treated for minor injuries.

There have been at least 116 stabbings and 12 homicides at Texas prisons this year, Brown said.

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