The Port Arthur News
The sister of recently executed serial killer Elroy Chester wants the public to know that they too are grieving and they offer prayers for all involved.
“I’d like to say our hearts go out to the victim’s as well and that my brother was a human being too,” Zelma Westbrook, Chester’s older sister, said via phone Friday. “He had a family who loved him too. We all lost in the process.”
Chester died by lethal injection for the 1998 murder of firefighter Willie Ryman III on June 12 in Huntsville. Chester confessed to a total of five murders, including Ryman, as well as shooting and injuring several other people and the sexual assault of three females under the age of 17.
Just as the families of his victim’s work to find closure and peace so does the family of Chester. Two months before his execution an older sister died unexpectedly while preparing for Chester’s execution. His original execution date was April 24 but due to a paperwork issue the date was pushed to June.
“We were in the process of dealing with that when out of nowhere she (sister) passes before him. It was a shocker. I think God was good, because by me being the oldest with her passing I was the person to hold my family up,” she said. “I asked Him, ‘God, I can’t do this.’ I couldn’t deal with burying two siblings within a week of each other. This (pushing the date to June) gave me kind of breathing room.”
Chester was one of eight siblings, the “baby boy” of the family. Besides his older sister he is also predeceased by two brothers and his parents.
Numerous people traveled to Huntsville in support of Ryman’s family as well as other victim’s families and a group from the Port Arthur Professional Firefighters Local 397, wearing matching union T-shirts, were also in attendance outside the facility.
Westbrook and family were present in Huntsville but not near the media laden area.
“We chose not to be present. The last thing I wanted was to see my brother be injected on the table,” she said. “This was at his request. He didn’t want his family there. We wanted to remember the happy times. We were outside the prison on the day of his execution and when they pronounced him dead and it was over with we saw a flock of birds pass over the prison.”
Westbrook interprets the flock of birds and their timing in a positive light.
In his final statement Chester asked the families of the victims not to have hate in their heart for him because he took their loved one. He apologized for and admitted to having committed murders. He spoke of God who watches everything.
“He believed in God, believed in God way before then,” she said. “I think he made peace with God at the end. Once he did that I think his spirit was lifted and that’s why the birds flew over. As long as he made peace, that’s all that matters to us. Only God knows.”
She went on to say Chester confessed his crimes although she doesn’t believe he committed all of them.
We lost as well,” she said. “There’s hurt and pain all around me.”
Today, 15 years after the murders, the families of both the offender and the victims are working to put their lives back in order and find closure.
“Now that it’s done I can get my family back together,” she said. “Our hearts go out to the victims and we pray for them as well.”