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Texas death row inmate severs chaplain's arm with razor

June 9, 2000
Web posted at: 7:39 PM EDT (2339 GMT)

LIVINGSTON, Texas (CNN) -- A Texas death row inmate Friday grabbed the arm of a volunteer chaplain, tied it with a sheet to a toilet and nearly sawed it off with a razor blade, officials said.

"It was just hanging by some threads," said Larry Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

William Paul Westbrook, a 78-year-old Baptist chaplain from Livingston, was doing volunteer ministry at the Terrell Unit, the facility housing Texas' 456 male convicted killers, when inmate Juan Salvez Soria "somehow lured him into putting his arm" in the cell, said Fitzgerald.

Authorities used tear gas to stop the attack and subdue Soria, 33, who is scheduled to die July 26 for the 1985 robbery-slaying of a 17-year-old lifeguard.

"Let's put it this way: He made us more keenly aware that he needs to be executed," said Fitzgerald.

He said authorities are treating Soria's cell as a crime scene and the inmate has since been moved to a more restricted area within the prison.

"We're pretty much shipping daylight to him by FedEx," Fitzgerald said.

Westbrook was taken to a Polk County hospital before being moved to Hermann Hospital in Houston which specializes in the reattachment of limbs.

Westbrook, who has volunteered at the prison for two years, had ministered to Soria in the past. It was unclear what motivated Friday's attack, said Fitzgerald.

He said Soria apparently pulled Westbrook's "arm into the cell, tied a sheet to it, pulled the arm into the cell ... and began cutting on it with a razor blade." He said the sheet was tied to a commode.



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