An East Texas man will be put to death on April 9 for the capital murder of a Tyler man and sexual assault of that man's fiance.
In 1993, a Smith County jury found Rickey Lynn Lewis guilty of killing George Newman during a home burglary. Lewis was sentenced to death. After two decades of appeals, Lewis will receive the lethal injection in 90 days. It'll finally be justice Newman's fiance, Connie Hilton, has waited a long time to see.
On Thursday, Connie re-told the story of that horrific night.
"I had gotten up to check the dogs because of the way they were barking, and I saw a man in the hallway with a shotgun. And, I started screaming," said Connie.
Connie's screams brought her fiance, George Newman, rushing to her aid. But Lewis shot and killed him, then put Connie through a violent hour of torture.
"I could hear the other two men talking while they were taking things out of the house and he was raping me while they were doing that. I was taken into the kitchen and tied with my hands and legs behind me and told that somebody would find us in the morning," Connie said
Lewis didn't leave then. He assaulted Connie again, killed her dog and stole her truck. Connie eventually was able to get loose and crawl to her fiance, but he was dead. Determined to do something, Connie crawled out of a window, got in a truck and drove to a local store.
"I ran into a few trees because I was afraid to turn the lights on," Connie said.
Seeing Lewis in court Thursday leaves Connie hoping that this time will be the last time he walks away. Even after all these years, Connie said, "I'm determined to be a victor, not a victim."
"It's the justice system. Justice. For victims. It's taken entirely too long," Connie said.
When then-district attorney Jack Skeen, Jr., first prosecuted the case, Lewis was sentenced to death row twice. Then, Lewis claimed he was mentally challenged in hopes of halting his execution.
"He has now had two state courts and he has had two federal courts look at this and say, 'We've looked at this, we've reviewed the evidence and clearly you're not mentally retarded,'" said Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.
Bingham says Lewis' decades of appeals have cost Smith County tax payers a significant amount of money, including Connie.
"I'm a taxpayer. I'm supporting the man that killed my fiance," Connie said.
"We're ready, finally, for this to be over with and for him to be executed," said Bingham.
But for Connie, Lewis' execution won't be the end.
"It's just one chapter closing, but not it will never be total closure... never be over," she said.
Connie credits God, her family and friends for helping her make it through, but she says she will always feel like she never got a chance to tell her fiance goodbye.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says they're very thankful Judge Kennedy set Lewis' execution for as soon as she did. Connie Hilton says she will attend the execution.