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Murder Victim’s Mother Troubled by Acquittal

January 15, 1993

WACO, Texas (AP) _ Nancy Wiser thought she was over the worst when jurors convicted a man for a murder scheme that killed her daughter and two other teen-agers.

But the man who was convicted and sent to death row, Muneer Mohammed Deeb, was awarded a new trial and on Tuesday he was acquitted.

″The very first thing I remember thinking was, ’My God, they’ve just set another killer free,‴ said Mrs. Wiser, who was in the Fort Worth courtroom when the verdict was read. ″From there, it turned to shock to pain and just amazement.″

Mrs. Wiser’s daughter, Jill Montgomery, 17, and two other teen-agers, Kenneth Franks, 18, and Raylene Rice, 17, were found mutilated on the shore of Lake Waco on July 14, 1982.

Deeb, 33, was convicted in 1985 of hiring David Wayne Spence to kill Gayle Kelley Reyes, a woman who had spurned his advances, for a $20,000 life insurance policy.

Spence, accompanied by two other men, mistook Jill Montgomery for Ms. Reyes. Jill and her two friends were killed. Both the young women were raped and stabbed several times. Franks was stabbed at least 20 times.

Deeb remained on death row until 1991, when the Court of Criminal Appeals awarded him a new trial on a ruling that testimony from a jail inmate should not have been allowed during the trial.

Spence is still on death row. The two others were given life sentences.

Deeb, native of Jordan, said he plans to move to Saudi Arabia with his parents.

Mrs. Wiser, 51, said Wednesday she doesn’t blame prosecutors or the jury for Deeb’s acquittal. Instead, she faults a change in the definition of the term ″reasonable doubt″ used in determining a defendant’s guilt.

A change in Texas law now allows a judge to spell out what constitutes reasonable doubt rather than allowing each juror to make the interpretation individually.

″What is reasonable doubt?″ she asked. ″It’s different for you than it is for me.‴

Special prosecutor David Chapman said he is not sure why Deeb was acquitted.

″I think with these jurors, the main problem was this is a 10-year old case,″ Chapman said. ″It is always difficult to convict the older a case becomes.″

Carlton Stowers, whose 1986 book ″Careless Whispers″ detailed the killings, said he was stunned by the acquittal.

″The thing that is distressing here are families of these three kids who have been waiting for justice for 10 years and it still hasn’t been served,″ he said. ″That is just a travesty. It is heartbreaking.″

Mrs. Wiser compared the verdict to having another death in the family.

″I’m laying in bed trying to figure out how I’m going to get up and go to work tomorrow,″ she said.

As for Deeb, Mrs. Wiser said: ″I just hope he leaves the country. It’s the most I can hope.″

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