By Michelle Guffey

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – The death penalty trial for a 27-year-old Killeen man accused of slaying four people over the 2004 Thanksgiving weekend was set to begin Monday with jury selection, but has been delayed until January.

Two of Richard Lee Tabler's three attorneys are no longer working on the capital murder case.

Waco attorney Russ Hunt filed a motion to withdraw from the case. His motion to Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court stated there was a "situation created by the defendant which created an ethical problem for attorney Hunt and the mitigation specialist."

Trudo granted Hunt's motion, and attorney John Donahue of Waco replaced Hunt as lead counsel.

Court documents stated that Tabler fired his pro bono attorney, Michael F. White, of Temple, because of a conflict of interest. No one has been selected to replace White.

Killeen attorney Buck Harris is still on the capital murder case.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 16, with the trial starting Feb. 20.

Tabler is charged in the Nov. 26, 2004, deaths of Haitham Zayed, 28, and Mohamid-Amine Rahmouni, 25, and in the Nov. 28, 2004, deaths of Tiffany Lorraine Dotson, 18, and Amanda Benefield, 16.

Also charged in the deaths is Timothy Doan Payne, 19, a former 4th Infantry Division soldier.

The slayings of the four individuals – all employees of Teazers Gentlemen's Club in Killeen – took place over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The bodies of Zayed and Rahmouni were discovered outside the Killeen city limits near West Fort Hood. They died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.

In an arrest affidavit, Tabler and Payne admitted to killing the two men.

Tabler stated that he met Zayed and Rahmouni on the pretense of buying stolen items. Tabler admitted that he shot the two men while Payne videotaped the incident. Both men said they searched Zayed's and Rahmouni's bodies for money.

In a separate affidavit, Tabler said he lured the two dancers to a remote area of Simmons Road on the promise of crack cocaine. Tabler stated he shot Benefield because she made comments about the earlier shootings of Zayed and Rahmouni.

Police believe that Dotson was killed because she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Apparently, both men told investigators that the murders were part of a revenge-based plot to kill at least 12 people who worked at the gentlemen's club, people Tabler believed had wronged him.

Tabler later recanted his confession in a letter he sent to the Killeen Daily Herald in which he stated he had never admitted to killing anyone.

Tabler said in the letter that the information being released about him was false.

Contact Michelle Guffey at

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