Sixteen years after allegedly murdering Texas real estate agent Sarah Walker, death row inmate Kosoul Chanthakoummane is less than 24 hours from his execution.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined Chanthakoummane’s latest request for a 120-day reprieve or commutation of his sentence to life without parole on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Chanthakoummane’s legal team has spent the past several years questioning investigators’ tactics, which included allegedly shoddy DNA and bite-mark analyses and hypnotism to garner stronger statements from eye-witnesses.
“I am innocent,” Chanthakoummane said in his last appeals letter in March.
Chanthakoummane was accused of robbing and killing Walker in a DR Horton model home she’d been showing to prospective homebuyers. According to state prosecutors, Chanthakoummane bludgeoned Walker with a wooden plant stand and then proceeded to stab the agent more than 30 times before taking her Rolex watch and silver ring, both of which were never recovered.
The Texas Tribune said investigators considered other suspects, including Walker’s ex-husband, other romantic partners, and buyers and sellers who were allegedly part of other deals gone wrong. They also reexamined another case Walker was involved in mere months before her murder when assailants attacked and robbed her at her Dallas area home.
However, agents and buyer testimony of an Asian man parking a white Mustang in front of Walker’s listing and walking inside led police to arrest Chanthakoummane, who had a rap sheet that included violent crimes.
Both the AP and Texas Tribune‘s reports recounted Chanthakoummane’s initial trial, where the plaintiff’s experts hinged their case on bite marks and remnants of Chanthakoummane’s blood under Walker’s fingernails.
After initially denying he ever went into the model home, Chanthakoummane recanted his story and said he’d gone inside for water and the blood under Walker’s fingernails was a result of her touching the same surface he’d touched with an injured hand.
Chanthakoummane maintained his innocence throughout the initial trial and immediately began the appeals process. After multiple failures, The Tribune said attorneys Catherine Clare Bernhard and Eric J. Allen found some success in 2020 when they convinced a judge to throw out the bitemark testimony under the state’s 2013 “junk science” law.
“Critically, current scientific knowledge contradicts the trial court’s previous finding that the ‘only reasonable inference’ to be drawn from the DNA evidence is that Mr. Chanthakoummane violently attacked Ms. Walker,” Bernhard and Allen told the Tribune on Wednesday.
His team also highlighted the wooden plant stand used to bludgeon Walker had DNA from someone else; however, the Collin County district attorney’s office and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles said that wasn’t enough to commute Chanthakoummane’s sentence.
“Chanthakoummane presents no new science in the field of DNA analysis, and even if there were something new, he fails to show it would have prevented his conviction,” court documents read.
Walkers’ family and friends have been silent in recent years about Chanthakoummane’s multiple appeals, and Inman has yet to receive a response to a request for comment from Walker’s former employer, DR Horton.
However, Walkers’ late father did support Chanthakoummane’s request to receive life in prison. In 2013, Joseph Walker shared personal memories about his slain daughter’s life with a local news outlet the Times Union, and petitioned the community to “pray for [his] daughter’s killer.”
“The FBI says it was one of the most brutal single murders they ever investigated,” Mr. Walker said. “He stabbed her 27 times. Bashed her skull in. She had bite marks on her. It was senseless. It was a horrible, horrible crime.”
“She was full of life, a beautiful young lady,” he added. “People want revenge, but revenge never works. Yes, it was just a totally senseless, random act. But everyone deserves every bit of their life so they can have a chance to repent and go to heaven. I believe that totally, completely. God wants to not lose even one soul.”
Unless Chanthakoummane’s legal team appeals to the United States Supreme Court; he will be the second inmate put to death this year in Texas and the ninth in the U.S.