Ladd Execution Stayed at Last Minute, Family Says Justice Put on Hold

An execution scheduled for Wednesday night has been stayed. The man condemned for killing a mentally challenged Tyler woman will now have his mental profile examined.

Robert Charles Ladd was sentenced to die for murdering Vicki Garner in 1996. After killing her, he set a fire to destroy evidence.

Ladd is now 45, but it's a test given when Ladd was thirteen that showed his IQ at just under the level that declared him mentally retarded. Since then, Ladd received his high school equivalency diploma, and even graduated from barber college.

District Attorney Jack Skeen says more recent examinations show Robert Ladd is, indeed, competent.

"He scored 85 or 86 on the IQ test when he went ito prison -- obviously way way above any level of even mild mental retardation." Skeen says.

The family of Vicki Garner was in their car, headed to Huntsville, where they were to witness the execution.  They got a phone call, and learned of the appeals court stay.

They say the delay of execution, just prolongs their anguish.

"I don't think that we'll ever find closure. For me it was a conclusion, it was an end to an episode," says Vicki's sister, Teresa Wooten.

All that she, Vicki's father and mother can do is hold on one another and bear another wait.

"I thought today was going to end it all.  I got a little bit angry," says Vicki's father, Gene Garner.

Gene's angry not at Robert Ladd, but at the legal system - they say -  put justice on hold.

"They know as well as I know, as well as Mr. Ladd knows, and his lawyers know, that he's guilty," Gene says.

Teresa says, "I spent a week preparing myself mentally for six o'clock this evening."

It's been six and a half years since Vicki was murdered. Robert Ladd has written letters of apology. Gene says that proves understanding of right and wrong.

"I think the man was sincere in his apology. I really do. And if he knew what he did, he's not retarded," he says.

Teresa replies, "We will carry with us -- each member of my family -- Vicki's death and the way she died. And, all the horrible images that we saw during the trial. We will carry it with us, to our own deaths."

Still, they try to make every day bright, with the memory of Vicki's smile.

Vicki's mother, Lawanta, says "Sometimes the sad things push their way in, and we try to think of the good times.  She'll always be in our hearts."

Reported by Morgan Palmer.