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Inmate Executed in Texas for Murder of Law School Graduate

November 10, 1993

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ An inmate who waived his appeals and agreed he ought to die for the 1988 slaying of a law school graduate was executed by injection early Wednesday.

″I just want to tell my family that I love them, and I thank the Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me another chance and for saving me,″ Anthony Cook, a 32-year-old former electrician, said in a final statement.

Cook was on parole just 13 days after serving a fraction of an eight-year sentence for theft when he and another recent parolee abducted David Dirck VanTassel Jr. from Austin in 1988. VanTassel, 35, had just left a hotel where the University of Texas graduate had taken a review course for the bar exam.

Cook and his accomplice drove VanTassel to a park about 50 miles away, where Cook shot the man four times in the head, robbed him and stole his car.

Cook was later arrested trying to set up a drug lab. He was carrying VanTassel’s wallet. Cook and his accomplice, Robert Moore, were identified in a lineup by a man who said they sold him VanTassel’s car.

Moore testified against Cook and received a 50-year prison term.

Within the past two years, Cook wrote authorities from death row that he had a religious conversion and wanted his punishment carried out. Initially, the defense had claimed on appeal that Moore was the triggerman.

″He sent me a letter basically saying he could not persist in the appeal where they were alleging that a co-defendant actually pulled the trigger. He said ’I’m the one who did it. I can no longer lie about it,‴ District Attorney Hollis Lewis said.

Cook also sent a letter to VanTassel’s widow apologizing for the crime.

VanTassel had graduated from law school the month he was slain and was a dancer who performed for two years in the early 1980s with the Nikolais Dance Theater in New York.

Before the slaying, Cook had been in and out of prison, serving time for aggravated assault, burglary and then theft, for which he got an eight-year sentence. He was paroled after just one year, then was sent back after six months for violating parole. But he was back on the streets in another six months.

″It’s very frustrating,″ Charles Lance, the former district attorney who prosecuted Cook, said Tuesday. ″The system is not doing its job.″

Cook became the 70th inmate in Texas, and the 223rd in the nation, to be executed since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed capital punishment to resume. Texas’ total is by far the highest in the nation.

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