Executions · Texas

Man executed for the abduction and murder of 9-year-old

August 11, 1999
Texas
James Otto Earhart is executed for the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Kandy Janell Kirtland

Earhart had reportedly visited the Kirtland home a week before Kandy’s disappearance, claiming to be interested in purchasing a paint sprayer the family was selling. Kandy’s stepmother later recalled Earhart looking Kandy “up and down” and described him as “obese, filthy, and unkempt.”

On May 12, 1987, Earhart was seen with Kandy in his car. Later that day when Kandy’s parents returned home, her backpack was found on the front porch and her keys in the kitchen. Her body was found facedown on a pile of garbage in a wooded area on May 26, her arms tied behind her back with an electrical cord. She had been shot once in the back of her head.

The suspect, memorable and easily identifiable due to his large 350 to 400 lb. frame and ”offensive” body odor, was described to police by several neighbors. On the day of Kandy’s disappearance, the man had made contact with five of the neighbors, inquiring when the Kirtlands would be home. Based on these descriptions and blood evidence in Earhart’s car and on some clothing in his possession, Earhart was arrested. The eye witness testimony also helped convict him of murder. He was executed by lethal injection without making a final statement.

In 2018, Earhart’s body was exhumed to gain his DNA to compare to evidence recovered from under murder victim Virginia Freeman’s fingernails. Freeman, killed on December 1, 1981, was beaten, stabbed 11 times, and strangled hard enough to have her neck broken. The DNA analysis gave “clear and convincing evidence” to link Earhart to the murder according to Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk.

Earhart has also been long-suspected in the 1986 murder of Ruth Richardson Green. Investigators hope to link Earhart to Green’s murder as well.

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