My father, Robert Gene Vick, was 65 years old and a retired executive with Lone Star Airlines when he was found murdered on March 22, 1997.  

My dad loved airplanes and flying.  He was born on February 6, 1932 in Youngsport but grew up in Killeen, Texas, attended Texas A & M University and had lived in Abilene when he worked with Chaparral Airlines.  He was a 32nd Degree Mason and loved to help people.  The above was a favorite saying of his and was read at his funeral.

Dad lived alone and was last seen by family member who lived next door around 6pm on March 21.  His body was found just before 9:00 the next morning, near an open safe. He was killed by multiple gunshots to the face and head.  His front door was unlocked.  There was no sign of a struggle.  A neighbor reported hearing what they had then thought was a car backfiring around 11pm the night before.  Some neighbors reported seeing a small, dark-colored pick-up truck in front of the house that night.

Dad had begun communicating with a woman over the internet, and this led to his death.  He had met her online only two months before his death. We had cautioned him against becoming involved with someone in this manner but he was not concerned. The woman was 34 years old and had visited my father's house, and brought Scotty Gottleib Arnst with her.  

Arnst, 19 at the time, was introduced to Dad as the woman's "son", however he was a friend of her son's and had been living with her for about five months.  Arnst had an extensive criminal past including weapons and drug charges.  My father, trusting everyone, had made the mistake of offering to cash a payroll check for her and had removed an envelope full of hundred dollar bills from his safe in their presence.  Arnst subsequently visited my father several times in order to become familiar with the house and with the operation of the safe.

After being contacted by my family, the woman called investigators to report that she had recently taken Arnst to Dad's home and that Arnst drove a truck exactly like the one reported to be seen in front of the house on the night of the murder.  She said Arnst had left her home shortly after the time of my father's death and that he had contacted her several times both before and after police questioned her.  She also said that after seeing the money that was in the safe, Arnst had made a comment that he should rob my dad, but she didn't warn Dad or confront Arnst, or take any action at all.

Arnst was wanted on an attempted murder in College Station, Texas; a drug-related shooting of two people in Indiana and an auto theft in Plano, Texas.  After brutally killing my father, he fled to his family in South Dakota.  In December of 1996, his mother and sister had moved from Dallas to Millbank, SD.  Instead of moving with his family, the 19-year-old had stayed behind, moving in with the woman my dad met online. 

Arnst had just left the family's home with his sister and her boyfriend when police officers, armed with an arrest warrant, pulled the truck over.  Arnst pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and jumped from the truck and ran.  He slipped and fell in the snow, and lost his grip on the gun.  Officers tackled him and he was taken into custody.  Police discovered that Arnst had a gunshot wound on his leg.  Arnst's sister said she decided just to not ask about the wound on his leg - "I don't want to know."  She said he didn't resist arrest and did not pull out a pistol, he just got out to run because he was scared.  I wonder what her definition of resisting arrest is?  Obviously jumping from the truck and taking off, with a gun in his hand, does not count.  

Items taken from my father's home were recovered in a search of the home in Millbank, the discovery of which proved robbery and upgraded the charge from murder to capital murder, which meant he could have received the death penalty.  His fingerprints were also  found on the safe.  A spare bed appeared to have been slept in, indicating that Arnst had asked my father if he could stay there and my father had agreed, allowing his killer easy access to him.

Arnst rejected a plea bargain offered by prosecutors and jury selection began in November of 1998, with the trial scheduled to start on November 30.  During the fifth week of jury selection, Arnst suddenly decided his chances of being sentenced to death were pretty high and pled guilty.  Arnst was sentenced to life in prison, which means that he must spend 40 years there before he will even be eligible for parole.  Under the plea agreement, he is not allowed to appeal his sentence.  

Crime victims and victim survivors in Texas are allowed to address the perpetrators at sentencing.  In my statement to him, I told him I hoped he would be tormented by the murder of my father.  I said, "You are a complete and total coward.  You shot a defenseless man in the back of the head.  The punishment you are receiving today does not fit the crime.  You took it upon yourself to be judge, jury and executioner....Your true judgment day will still come."  I told him that my father "wasn't just some old man in a bathrobe - he was loved!"  

My father's niece Jeanniene, who found his body, said Arnst was a cold-blooded murderer and scolded him for not listening to the statements from Dad's family.  "All it is is just words, isn't it Scott?  I do hope and pray that there is some good that comes out of this for you."  

My sister Mona told how our father often took in stray animals and helped people in need, including his murderer.  "You did not appreciate the simplest gift God has given us.  Not only have you taken my father's life, you have destroyed your own life. You took away a light and goodness in this world and you need to find a way to put it back.  Don't make your life be a waste.  Try to find some goodness within yourself."

My sister Kayla cried and held a photo of Dad and said "I pity you.  I really pity you."


From the Victim Impact Statement I filed with the State of Texas:

"The thought of the last few minutes of my father's life horrifies me.  I can't stand to think of the pain and agony he must have felt as he was being shot and his body was being blown away.  As a result of his injuries, I was not able to look at his body and do not feel like I was able to say goodbye.  His death was completely premature and unexpected."

"I have been so distraught and upset that I can not concentrate to complete tasks or take care of daily routine obligations and responsibilities.  I have been obsessed with making sure that all responsible are held accountable for their part in this murder.  I intend to be present at any and all court proceedings concerning this murder."

"I have realized that victims have no rights.  The criminals are protected and placed back in society to commit more crimes, again and again.  My family is scared.  We feel hurt and cheated.  We were robbed of a father, grandfather and father-in-law.  When my daughter is grown, the one thing she will always remember is that her grandfather was murdered!"

Carla Powell

 

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