A Texas man targeted by a hitman who killed two members of his family fights for the life of the person who ordered the murders – his son – in an updated encore of 48 HOURS: “Sugar Land: Life or Death” to be broadcast Saturday, Jan. 5 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
48 HOURS and Peter Van Sant explore the remarkable story of a father’s passionate attempts for more than a decade to save his son, convicted of organizing the hit, from death.
By all accounts, the Whitakers were a perfect family living in a community outside of Houston, Texas. That was all shattered on Dec. 10, 2003 when the family of four was gunned down as they entered their home. Tricia Whitaker, a retired teacher, and her 19-year-old son, Kevin, died from their injuries. The dad, Kent, survived as did their son, Bart.
“I think, ‘Oh my God, he shot all four of us,'” Kent Whitaker said.
The investigation into the shooting revealed an intricate plot and a ruthless conspiracy to eliminate three of the four Whitaker family members. The mastermind of the plot? Bart, who hated his family and wanted their money. In 2007 he was tried and convicted of hiring the hit man to kill his family and hurt him, too, to cover up the crime. He was given the death penalty.
This is where most cases end. Not this one. Since his son was convicted, and to the disbelief of some, Kent Whitaker has fought to save Bart from being executed.
Whitaker, now remarried, made one last plea to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole in February 2018.
“We’re not asking them to forgive him or let him go. We just want them to let him live,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker got some reprieve from the board, but his son’s fate still rested in the hands of the governor of Texas, who would have the ultimate decision.
The emotional story of murder, conspiracy and forgiveness goes all the way down to the day Bart Whitaker was scheduled to die. Whitaker had a final meal. His father visited the prison for the last time before his scheduled execution.
“We touched hands through the glass and said our goodbyes,” Whitaker said.
Could Bart Whitaker be saved before time ran out?
48 HOURS: “Sugar Land: Life or Death” is produced by Jay Young. Linda Martin is the update producer. Carlin Miller is the associate producer. David Spungen is the producer-editor. David Franklin and Gary Winter are the editors. Marcus Balsam is the update editor. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.