Donald Bess is behind bars for murdering a 20-year-old college student, Angela Samota, in her off-campus apartment in Dallas, Texas.
On the night of Oct. 11, 1984, Samota, a junior at Southern Methodist University, called Russell Buchanan, then 23, whom she had met at Andrew’s restaurant on McKinney Avenue.
She asked him if he wanted to hang out with her and her friend, Anita Kadala, the Dallas News reported.
Samota also invited her boyfriend, Ben McCall, but because he worked in construction and had to report to work the following morning, he stayed home.
On the other hand, Buchanan said yes.
The trio went to Lakewood’s Boardwalk Beach Club before heading to Shannon Wynne’s Nostromo restaurant. They then got into a club upstairs called the Rio Room, where they danced and had a few drinks.
David Skelton, a Rio Room employee, testified that Samota did not appear to be intoxicated when she and her friends left the club around 1 a.m.
Samota dropped Buchanan off at his apartment on Matilda Street.
Kadala was supposed to spend the night with her, but she changed her mind because Samota had plans to attend a football game early that morning.
Samota drove Kadala to her dormitory before she stopped by her boyfriend’s house to say goodnight. The couple spoke briefly before she returned to her apartment on Amesbury Drive.
At around 1:45 a.m., she called McCall on the telephone. When he answered, the first words she uttered were, “Talk to me.” From there, their conversation was odd, and she appeared to be nervous about something.
Samota began to ramble until McCall interjected when he heard a noise in the background. She told him that she had let a man into her apartment to use the telephone and the bathroom.
Then she asked McCall if there was a payphone at a nearby convenience store. He said yes, and she relayed that information to the man in her apartment before telling McCall that she would call him back.
Samota never called back, so he called her—but he didn’t get a response. That’s when McCall drove to her apartment.
During the drive, he used the phone in his truck to call her several times, but they all went unanswered.
When he reached her second-floor apartment, he knocked on the door, but no one responded. He then tried to open the door, but it was locked.
He then drove to the convenience store that Samota mentioned during their conversion, but she wasn’t there.
McCall drove back to her apartment and called 911.
Police officers arrived at the apartment and kicked in the door. Upon entering, they found Samota dead in her bedroom.
She was naked and covered in blood, with her legs dangling on each side of the bed, and her eyes were open.
Samota’s remains were transported to the state’s medical examiner’s office for an autopsy, which revealed that she had been stabbed in the chest 18 times, with 10 of the wounds going through her heart and lungs.
The autopsy results also indicated that she had a blood-alcohol content of .09 and had been sexually assaulted moments before she was murdered.
Dr. Claudia Werner, an obstetrician-gynecologist, explained that “there was a lack of bruising and trauma found on Samota’s body as being consistent with that of women who submitted to a sexual assault under threat of force.”
After blood and semen were collected from Samota’s body, experts were able to determine the killer’s blood type.
McCall and one of Samota’s ex-boyfriends from her hometown of Abilene were initial suspects in the case, but when their blood types did not match, they were excluded.
However, Buchanan’s blood type was a match, and because of that, he was kept under 24-hour surveillance for six months.
During that time, law enforcement officers would watch his every move, and they would often pick him up from his job and/or home and take him to the police station for questioning.
The officers were so certain that he was Samota’s killer that they tried everything in their power to get him to confess.
During one interview, Buchanan stated that detectives held up graphic crime-scene photos of Angela Samota’s body and said, “She dropped you off. You were mad because you wanted to have sex with her.”
“You went down to her apartment. She let you in. You had sex with her. She started to scream. You stabbed her. And you stabbed her, and stabbed her, and stabbed her—18 times.”
When they didn’t get a confession or find any forensic evidence that would link him to Samota’s murder, the case went cold by the summer of 1985.
More than 20 years later, in 2008, detectives reopened the case after Samota’s friend and college roommate, Sheila Wysocki, made nearly 700 calls to the Dallas Police Department, insisting that they take another look at Samota’s case.
Wysocki told BBC News in 2018 that “the most heartbreaking part of making all those calls was that they said that not one other person in 20 years had called.”
“Think about that—not one person. How can someone die such a violent death, and no one call and want to know why and want to know who? That still makes me cry.”
Authorities used DNA technology that wasn’t available in 1984 and traced it to Bess, who was 59 years old at the time.
Bess was charged with capital murder.
Police said he was already serving life at Huntsville Prison in Texas for three unrelated sexual assault cases that transpired in 1985.
According to Fox 4 News, Bess was a convicted rapist who had been released on parole for seven months before he killed Samota.
Retired Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Virgil Sparks, who was the lead investigator in the case, stated in 2010 that he believed that when Samota’s boyfriend knocked on her apartment door, the attacker was still inside.
When she heard a knock, she attempted to get up or call out. WFAA reported that Sparks believed “that it was this action that caused her assailant to stab her repeatedly in the chest.”
Sparks went on to say that he believes that Bess cleaned up the crime scene before fleeing.
In June 2010, a jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Bess guilty of sexual assault and murder.
He was sentenced to death.
Bess later filed an appeal, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected it in 2016.