Murder Most Foul: The Depraved Crimes That Put an Amarillo Teen on Death Row
Amarillo has seen some harrowing crimes over the years. There's crime committed every day in the city, just like anywhere in the world.
But the Yellow City has seen its fair share of some truly haunting tales of murder.
Digging into the history of Amarillo crimes, I stumbled upon one that sent chills down my spine. His name is Jay Kelly Pinkerton.
WHO IS JAY KELLY PINKERTON
Pinkerton was born February 14, 1962. Valentines Day naturally. Doesn't seem fitting though that a cold blooded murderer would be born on a day for lovers. Jay Pinkerton was a known burglar in the Amarillo area to police. October 26, 1979 turned out to be the day though that more than just a burglary would occur...and Pinkerton led police right to his house once again.
THE MURDER AND RAPE OF SARAH LAWRENCE
It would be the evening of October 26, 1979 where the course of 17-year-old Jay Pinkerton's life would take a turn for the worse. That evening, Sarah Lawrence was home alone while her husband David was at work. He had called his wife around 9:30pm to let her know he'd be home from work around 11pm that evening. It was in between those hours that Pinkerton would commit a heinous crime.
Somewhere between 9:30-11:30pm, Pinkerton entered the Lawrence's home. As he moved about the house, he noticed a Bowie knife on a display. He grabbed the knife that would ultimately become the murder weapon. He would find Sarah and proceed to stab her at least 30 different times according to pathologist Dr. Jose Diaz-Esquivel who performed the autopsy on Lawrence. After stabbing her multiple times, he proceeded to mutilate her body and rape her. Police believe it may have happened in that exact order. Pinkerton high tailed it out of the house when he was finished.
When David Lawrence arrived home around 11:30pm, he found Sarah face up between their couch and coffee table.
THE TRAIL LEFT BEHIND
When Lawrence testified at trial, he mentioned that he'd noticed the screen to the window in their master bedroom had been partially removed. It appears that's how Pinkerton exited the home. Red stains were found on the window sill just beneath the screen.
When Amarillo Police arrived, they were able to to trace footsteps from the house back to the home of Pinkerton. He was brought in for questioning, but ultimately released. The forensic skills we have today didn't exist back then, and police were unable to conclusively match Pinkerton's tennis shoes to those footprints they found, even though the tread pattern had similarities. They also found a bloody palm print in the home, but they couldn't immediately identify it and match it to Pinkerton.
A KILLER ROAMS FREE
Without enough to press charges on Pinkerton, he was set free by APD. He kept a pretty low profile after that for a bit, and rightfully so. How he was able to live with himself after committing such a heinous crime we'll never know.
However, it seems he wouldn't be able to live with the guilt for long. The demons crept back into his mind, and while police were still trying to piece together the Lawrence murder, Pinkerton would strike once again.
VICTIM #2: SHERRY WELCH
Six months after the murder of Sarah Lawrence, Pinkerton would break into a furniture store in Amarillo. On April 9, 1980 he would find his next victim in Sherry Welch.
Welch was a former beauty queen, and only 25 years old at the time of her death. Pinkerton would enter the store, and commit nearly the same exact crime he did with Lawrence. Welch was also stabbed more than 30 times, just as Lawrence had been.
Once again, Pinkerton would leave a trail that would eventually lead to him, but this time it wasn't a bloody palm print or shoe imprints in the ground.
THE ARREST AND CHARGES
After the Welch murder, Pinkerton once again was left to roam free for a few months. Police were still piecing everything together in the Lawrence case and now had to deal with the Welch murder as well.
His luck would eventually run out on September 26, 1980 though. Police were finally able to connect the bloody palm print at Lawrence's home to Pinkerton and they would ultimately arrest him at that time. The arrest was all over television, people enamored with it. It seemed though that Pinkerton relished the moment as he loved all the media attention he was receiving. He thrived on it. Maybe that's what drove him to do it again.
THE TRIAL AND APPEALS IN THE SARAH LAWRENCE MURDER
This was an interesting case in the sense of where it was held. While the murder took place in Potter County, Amarillo residents were living in fear after the murders. They ultimately decided to move the trial to Corpus Christi, over 600 miles away to help alleviate the fears of Amarillo residents.
On May 30, 1981, Pinkerton was found guilty of capital murder in the killing of Sarah Lawrence. His sentence? Execution by lethal injection. Once again, he soaked up the media attention he was receiving. This trial was far from over though, as appeal after appeal would roll in.
One of the appeals was granted mere minutes before he was scheduled to be executed, giving him another lease on life.
During the appeals process, a fellow inmate of Pinkerton, John Alley would take the stand to testify. It was a gruesome detailing of what Pinkerton had told Alley. He told the attorneys one of the things Pinkerton had told him was that he cut her breasts off and placed them on the television. When they pressed him for more details, Alley's response was "Do you want the whole gruesome details of it?" Of course, the attorneys said yes.
Alley went on to explain that Pinkerton mentioned he had cut Lawrence's stomach open and had intercourse with the stomach. After he was done, that was when he cut her breasts off and proceeded to slash her throat as David Lawrence had described seeing.
THE TRIAL IN THE SHERRY WELCH MURDER
11 months after his initial conviction in the Lawrence murder, he stood trial in the Sherry Welch murder. This trial was held in El Paso for the same reasons the Lawrence murder case was moved to Corpus Christi.
It was during the trial that we found out what had connected Pinkerton to her case. Bite marks were found on Welch's breasts. Because the murders of the two women were so similar, police had a pretty good feeling they were connected to the same person. They took dental impressions of Pinkerton and were able to match those to the bite marks they found.
That was more than enough evidence for a second capital murder conviction. His sentence was the same as in the Lawrence case, execution by lethal injection.
Pinkerton was set for execution on November 26, 1985...two days before Thanksgiving that year. That was when the 4th appeal came in and was granted. He was minutes from meeting his fate.
Another appeal was filed on behalf of Pinkerton. That appeal was denied, it was appeal #5. Pinkerton once said in an interview, "It was a conspiracy. I was convicted under false evidence."
Pinkerton was ultimately executed on May 15, 1986. His father was present for the execution, stand just a few feet from his son hanging onto a rail. Jay Pinkerton's last words were spoken to his father.
"Be strong for me. I want you to know I'm at peace with myself and my God." He then recited a prayer to Allah, looked back at his dad and said, "I love you Dad." Unverified reports have said his father Gene responded to his son by saying, "Goodbye Jay" which elicited another, "I love you Dad" from Jay.
Pinkerton was then injected, saying "I feel dizziness. I feel dizziness," yawned after those words, then passed away.