Cobb set to die today for 2002 murder, sex assault

EAST TEXAS (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Pleading for her life, a Rusk woman in September 2002 told her attackers she had two small children at home, but her pleas were not met with compassion.

Instead, a .20-gauge shotgun was put inches from her face, and the man holding the gun pulled the trigger.

As the victim fell to the ground, she did the one thing she could think of at the time — acted dead.

She told herself to lie still and not breathe. Minutes later, she ran through the darkness for help, unaware her co-worker, who also was shot, was running for help too.

Both women were shot and survived, but the third victim, the mentally challenged Kenneth Vandever, 37, known throughout town for his acts of kindness, was dead.

The three had been kidnapped during a bungled robbery of a Rusk convenience store just hours earlier. One of the women was sexually assaulted, and Vandever's last words would be, "They shot me."

Eleven years have passed since Richard Cobb, then 18, and Buenka Adams, 19, at the time, made their way into the BDJ convenience store in Rusk with a plan to rob the clerks.

But when one of the women recognized the pair, the plan went awry. The duo kidnapped the two women and Vandever, took them to a pea patch north of Alto and terrorized them before shooting all three execution style.

Cobb is scheduled to die Thursday in Huntsville by lethal injection. Adams was executed last year for his role in the crimes.

During Cobb's trial, one of the women, Niki Ansley Dement, testified about that night.

Mrs. Dement said when Vandever and her co-worker were released from the trunk of the vehicle after she had been sexually assaulted, the three were told they soon would be freed. But that did not happen.
Cobb and Adams told all three to kneel down in the remote field, and the two women were then tied up.

Cobb then fired a fatal shotgun blast, striking Vandever, and then Adams allegedly grabbed the gun and fired, hitting Mrs. Dement in her left shoulder.

"We were kneeling there and praying, and Kenneth was saying he just wanted to go home and take his medicine. Then there was a shotgun blast, and Kenneth started screaming 'They hit me, they hit me,'" she said. "Then I was shot."

Vandever suffered from a serious brain injury in a car accident when he was a teenager. His father described him as childlike.

Mrs. Dement said when she fell forward, so did her co-worker, and the two laid facing each other.

Then Cobb shot her, pulled her up by her hair and threw her back to the ground.

With the help of the women, law enforcement were able to apprehend the two men the following day at a home in Jacksonville, bringing an end to the pair's string of violent robberies in Cherokee County that took place during the month prior to the murder of Vandever and the attacks on the women.

Vandever's family agreed to release a photo of him to the media.

Tyler Morning Telegraph reporter Kenneth Dean will be reporting from Huntsville during the execution of Richard Cobb.


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