The Port Arthur News
Donning a mask to hide his identity and using Duct tape and a handgun, Elroy Chester once had a violent hold over the city.
Like a serial killer in a horror movie, Chester, then 28, methodically stalked and killed five people during his six month reign of terror in the Pear Ridge area. The violence ended with the death of Port Arthur Firefighter Willie Ryman III who was shot and killed when he stumbled upon the brutal rapes of his teenaged nieces 15 years ago.
Now 43 years of age, the death row inmate is set for execution for the murder of Ryman on Wednesday, June 12.
Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton was deputy chief of field operations when the serial killer’s crime spree occurred. He minces no words when talking about Chester.
“Justice will only be served if he is put to death,” Blanton said. “His propensity for violence shook even veteran officers. His selection of victims and how he perpetuated his crimes... the man is evil incarnate, the epitome of evil.”
Chester’s violent crime spree began just five months after he was paroled from prison on a burglary charge.
• Aug. 3, 1997, Chester burglarized a home and stole a .380 caliber handgun, a tool he would use to wreak havoc and forever change lives.
• Aug. 9, 1997, he tied up a 10-year-old child with tape and anally raped her.
• Aug. 16, 1997, attempted to burglarize two different homes. He shot a 16-year-old boy in the leg when the teen tried to flee the room. Later the same night he shot Matthew Horvarich in the shoulder while demanding money.
• Sept. 20, 1997, he broke into the home of 78-year-old John Sepeda and his wife after cutting the phone lines. He wore a clear plastic clown mask and carried a gun. Sepeda woke up and was shot by Chester. Before he left, he demanded Mrs. Sepeda give him her ring while she watched her husband die on the floor.
• Nov. 15, 1997, broke into the home of 87-year-old Etta Mae Stallings and her husband after cutting the phone lines. Stallings awoke and was shot and killed while trying to retrieve her handgun from a night stand. He burglarized the home and left the bedridden husband to search for a way to call for help.
• Nov. 20, 1997, he went to the home of former co-worker Cheryl DeLeon and unscrewed the light bulb of her carport area. Thirty minutes later when DeLeon returned from shopping he ran up to her and they began to struggle. Chester claims he struck her in the head and the gun went off, shooting her in the head.
• Dec. 21, 1997, shot and killed Albert Bolden, his common-law-brother-in-law. He later told police he killed Bolden for hitting his sister and setting him up with a woman who turned out to be a transvestite.
• Feb. 6, 1998, he cut the phone lines to a home he had previously burglarized and entered wearing the mask and armed with the stolen gun. He took a teenaged girl named Erin hostage while demanding money and jewelry then bound her with Duct tape. The girl’s teenaged sister, Claire, and her boyfriend, Tim, arrived at the house .
The three were stripped of their clothes, blindfolded with Duct tape and bound. He then raped Erin while she lay next to her sister then had the girl perform oral sex on him at gunpoint. Next he had Claire perform oral sex on him at gunpoint.
Ryman, uncle to the girls, and his girlfriend Marcia arrived at the home to check on his nieces. He enter the home and found the girls bound then Chester shot him and dragged him to the kitchen where he was left to die.
Outside the home he fired his gun several times at Marcia’s car before he fled the scene.
During the crime spree police followed leads and found persons of interest and in November 1997 arrested four Port Arthur men on capital murder charges stemming from the home invasion murder of Sepeda. The men were suspected members of the Laraza Gang, according to archive stories. It was later learned that two of the men suspected in the Sepada case were already incarcerated at the time of the murder. Less than a week later a fifth suspect was arrested and charged.
“The police department was investigating these crimes and multiple suspects were developed during the course of the investigation,” he said. “Later they were either eliminated or no longer considered suspects when Chester was arrested and confessed.”
Chester was originally arrested for burglary of the Ashland Drive home where Ryman was murdered and forensic evidence later linked him to the crime. While in custody Chester made a statement to police regarding the other crimes.
“The death penalty was designed for violent offenders such as him,” Blanton said. “He enjoyed his crimes, enjoyed inflicting pain and injury on people. He deserves to die.”