Denton true crime author Patricia Springer says she thought she had found the man who killed her friend’s daughter when she sat across from Ricky Lee Green on death row in the early 1990s. She had traveled a couple of hours from the Dallas area to reach the Polunsky Unit outside the small community of Livingston. It was her first time visiting a prison, and she’d been given only an hour to speak with the one-eyed former radiator repairman and convicted serial killer. She planned to use that hour to find out if he had killed her friend’s daughter like her family believed.
Springer says she thought Green, who was in his early 30s, was going to be a monster when he walked into the visitation room, shackled and chained. Instead he was soft-spoken and fairly open to her questions. He wasn’t a big man. His dark hair was short, and he was clean shaven. Only one of his eyes worked properly, and he later told her his abusive father had dubbed him, “One-eyed Jack,” though he considered it a derogatory term.
Green had been tied to four murders, suspected of at least eight more and convicted for the Dec. 27, 1986, murder of the 28-year-old Steven Fefferman, an advertising executive at a Fort Worth television station. Police found Fefferman castrated and repeatedly stabbed with a butcher’s knife (Green’s weapon of choice) at his home after he had sex with Green, who would later admit to killing three more people a year earlier, one of whom was a 16-year-old boy who was also found castrated and stabbed repeatedly with a butcher’s knife. He later told police, “They all deserved it. They were kind of the dregs of society.”
Springer’s friend’s daughter, Wendy Kae Robinson, came from a good family and played tennis with Springer’s son in Weatherford. She disappeared from the Lake Weatherford area, and was only 19 years old when police found her body on July 12, 1987, in Parker County. Springer learned that Robinson’s parents believed Green had killed their daughter since he’d been known to stalk the same area, and Fort Worth police suspected him of more killings. So she drove to death row to ask the serial killer.
It was a question she wouldn't get answered until 29 years later when Weatherford police arrested 59-year-old Ricky Lee Adkins for Robinson’s murder on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at his home in Ranger, a small town about 60 miles west of Weatherford. Police investigators told reporters that more suspects may have been involved in the 29-year-old cold case murder. "We're continuing to investigate other leads that is leading us to believe there are more people," Interim Deputy Chief Chris Crawford of Weatherford PD was reported saying.
Now Springer has a different question to get answered, “Why?” The Denton author plans to come out of retirement and attempt to answer the question in a book about Robinson’s murder. It will be a fitting end to Springer’s series of true crime books that began with a book about Ricky Lee Green called Blood Rush. A former newspaper reporter, Springer decided to write about Green after their initial meeting on death row in the early '90s and published the book three years before he died.
"Actually, I've really never felt any need to apologize for what I do," Springer told the Observer in a Jan. 9, 2003, profile of the true crime author, "but at the same time I understand that there are a lot of people out there who view those of us who write true crime as book-world stepchildren."
Springer continued to visit Green after her book was published in May 1994. When she initially asked him about Robinson’s murder, he simply smiled at her. She’d eventually learn that he was highly manipulative and enjoyed playing games. They would develop a relationship that mirrored a mother and her child because of their age difference, though she says not as close.
At their first meeting in the early '90s, Green was more like a predator and she was more like his prey. He told her that he had only agreed to meet with her because he was curious about what the visitation room looked like. He’d been on death row for about a year at the time. He also had an appetite for vending machine food, which his guards gladly fed him.
When she first arrived at the prison outside of Livingston, a guard lowered a bucket from the catwalk above for her and a couple of newspaper reporters to place their credentials for inspection. The prison was set up specifically to cage the predators until they made the walk to the execution chamber. “The reporter from New York said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” Springer recalls. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’”
At their initial visit, Springer told Green about her relationship with Robinson and her family in Weatherford, and he just kind of grinned knowingly. Then she asked him, “Did you kill her?” She says he told her that he didn’t kill her, but part of her didn’t believe him. She could also tell that he wanted to confide more information to her. She says their conversation wasn’t forced but flowed naturally, so she asked him to put her on his visitation list because she wanted to learn more about his life as an abused child and other victims he had killed and sexually mutilated.
“He gave me every detail,” she says. “What he was thinking and tasting, his emotions. He was very open and always said if there were other victims, he was always high or drunk when he killed. I think there are a lot more victims.”
Springer spent several years driving to death row to visit with Green. He even invited her to attend his execution on Oct. 9, 1997, when he would finally apologize to some of the relatives of his victims. “This to me is another killing, and it’s not going to solve nothing,” local news reported Green saying before he died from a lethal cocktail. “I feel my punishment is over, and now my friends and family are being punished.”
Springer says Green didn’t allow his family to be there for his execution because he didn’t want them to watch him die. It was Springer’s first time to attend an execution. She was allowed to meet with Green a few hours before his 6 p.m. execution. He’d eaten his last meal and had changed out of his prison stripes and wore a navy blue shirt with a pair of blue jeans.
“He wasn’t nervous,” she says. “He was at peace with it. They either go kicking and screaming or peacefully. He had accepted it, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll see you on the other side.’”
Before he left the visitation room to go to his execution, Springer asked him one more time if he had killed Wendy Kae Robinson. “He said, ‘I hadn’t killed anybody other than the ones we discussed.”
Green had told her about one victim he called “a pretty girl named Wendy” whom he said he killed with his butcher’s knife, but he said her last name was “Skidmore,” someone whom Springer couldn’t locate over the years and caused her to doubt Green’s words.
After Green’s execution, Springer still had her doubts of whether he was being truthful or still trying to manipulate her. Then a Tarrant County judge unsealed some of the documents related to Green’s murder, and she was finally able to watch his confession videos, and that's when she finally realized that he didn't kill Wendy. She also learned from an autopsy report that Robinson showed no signs of a stab wound and was killed with a blunt force weapon, not a butcher’s knife.
She asked a couple of friends, one a former U.S. assistant district attorney and the other a private investigator, to look at the documents related to Robinson’s death, and they all determined that Green wasn’t Robinson’s killer.
When she learned investigators had arrested Ricky Lee Adkins for Robinson’s murder in December, Springer had never heard of the guy, though she did think it was ironic that his name was “Ricky Lee.” She says she had gotten a message from an investigator about three weeks prior to Adkins’ arrest. The investigator had wanted to chat with her but then changed her mind and sent another message saying Springer’s involvement might compromise the investigation.
Springer had quit writing true crime books several years ago. She decided that she couldn’t do it anymore because the victims’ families often feel violated and sometimes get angry when they read the story. It was hard for Springer to accept because she would get so involved with the families when she was telling the story of the killer who murdered their loved one.
“My favorite book was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood,” she says. “I was fascinated that he had talked with people and got into their heads. My degrees are in psychology, and it’s why I spend time with the killers. I want to know what makes them tick; but I never could figure it out.”
She was recently asked by the Bynum family to write their story. Their daughter Kelli Cox’s remains were finally found 20 years later outside of Houston after her killer pointed investigators in the right direction. She agreed to do it because it’s a story that focuses on the Bynums’ struggle to learn the truth of their daughter’s disappearance in the late ’90s from Denton.
Now, with Robinson’s accused killer finally captured after nearly 30 years, Springer finds herself faced with telling another crime story, especially since investigators claim she was killed because he either robbed or sexually assaulted her or maybe both, and more people may be involved in her killing.
Adkins’ live-in girlfriend, Cynthia Brown, told local reporters that she was shocked to hear that investigators had linked her boyfriend to such an old brutal crime. Adkins’ capital murder charge also unnerved her but no more so than when detectives surfaced months ago asking questions and her boyfriend made remarks about hiding a body. “‘Hidden what body? What are you talking about?’” she recalled asking him. “But he wouldn’t say anything else.”
“I will write the Wendy Robinson book because I know the family so well,” Springer says. “It’s what got it all started.”
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