365 days of Texas True Crime: Kitten
Tawny the Rock Chick here, your resident true crime aficionado. As interesting as I find true crime from all over to be, it’s the local stuff that I can really dig into. You could say I’m a bit obsessed with researching stories of murder and missing persons from this area. I’ve spent countless hours reading old newspapers articles, requesting files on cases and sifting through data cases online regarding homicide cases that you probably didn’t even know existed. This area holds more sordid secrets than you may know and I’m going to tell you about all of them, one day at a time. It’s 365 Days of Texas True Crime and todays story goes like this…..
Ronnie Dawn "Kitten" Hewitt was born in Odessa, Texas, on August 26th, 1960. At the time of her death it had been 10 years since she moved away from good ole slo-deatha. She was living in Amarillo with her boyfriend Tac Buchanan and her nine year old daughter working as a bartender in June of 1998 at 1216 W. 11th Street. A South Carolina man who had just been paroled from prison a few months previous happen to be passing through the area. He was serving time for an armed robbery and assault and was released in February. He was a drifter and a bit of a opportunist burglar. On June 5th a 71-year-old one-legged man had been beaten and robbed there in Amarillo. The man died of a heart attack as a result of the violent beating and authorities were still searching for the person responsible. A few days after on June 8th, Roach crawled through the bedroom window of Ronnie Dawn Hewitt’s apartment and hid. Her daughter was at school and her husband was at work. He watched Ronnie take a shower, dress and talk on the phone. As she was walking down the hallway Roach came up behind her, put his hand around her mouth and told her he wasn’t going to harm her. She begged for Roach to take anything he wanted saying, “Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me,” telling him she had a husband and a daughter. He pushed her into the living room and she did exactly what she should have, she started kicking and scratching him. Roach over powered her however, he put his belt around her neck and along with is arm he chocked her to death. After she was dead he raped her, took some jewelry, money, a knife and some beer and then with a can of hairspray and a lighter, set her apartment on fire with her body inside.
Tony Roach had a long history of burglary and theft. As a teenager he did five terms in juvenile lockups according to records. He was given six years in prison after pleading guilty to theft and robberies and was paroled after five years.
In Greenville Roach was able to find a job that he promptly decided to rob. He stole money, a video camera and a minivan from his boss and then fled to Jacksonville, Fla. While in Florida Roach stole money from a motel and hoped on a bus to Amarillo. In an interview his lawyer said that Roach had seen Amarillo on a post card. While in Amarillo, in addition to the two murders, Roach was allegedly responsible for shoplifting at Kmart, stealing a purse, breaking into and stealing from a car, burglary of a house and writing checks from the stolen checkbook out of the purse he snatched.
After he left Amarillo he headed to Guyman, Oklahoma where he stole a bike, broke into a Girl Scout office and took money, knives and some postage. He then broke into a convenience store, stole cigarettes and was selling them when he was arrested.
The arrest in Oklahoma could have possibly mean some simple jail time, then again he was violating his parole by committing a crime, but even so he would’ve gone back to prison for a bit and eventually been paroled again had he not decided that life on the outside was just too much. While being detained Tony told the officers that he should has him about the killing of a woman in Amarillo. His lawyer, Walt Weaver, was quoted in an article on myplainview.com as saying “Tony was breaking back into prison”.
Roach was tried and convicted of the murder of Ronnie Dawn Hewitt. He was given the death penalty and was executed on September 5th, 2007 as friends and Tac Buchanan watched behind the viewing glass. As he lay on the gurney he looked out and into the room at the man who was getting ready to marry Ronnie back in 1998 and asked his forgiveness. Buchanan shook his head and then realized that he truly was ready to forgive Tony Roach, something he had been struggling with ever since that day in June.
There truly isn’t anyone who wouldn’t trade any good that came out of what happened to Ronnie Dawn Hewitt to have her back, least of all her daughter, Nakita. However, to say that nothing good came out of such a tragedy would be a lie. Ronnie and Tac Buchanan were getting ready to get married. They lived together there in Amarillo with their 9 year old daughter and life was objectively good for them. After losing Ronnie it didn’t seem as if anything good would ever come to Tac Buchanan again. He was filled with rage and sadness, he lost custody of his daughter, started drinking and doing drugs and things just went down hill from there.
He landed himself in the Potter County Jail on a felony drug-possession charge around 2000 and was more than happy to be there. That’s where Tony Roach was and Buchanan was more than happy to save the prison system the trouble of an execution by taking care of Roach himself. When staff got word that the husband of a murdered woman was in the same prison as her killer he was quickly transferred to Randall County. During his time in 2002 in a substance-abuse felony punishment facility in Breckenridge he was required to write an autobiography. At the end of what he wrote he said, “They have given Roach the death sentence, and after the state kills him, five minutes later I want to be dead so that I can go to hell and spend eternity killing him over and over.” As a result he was given a psychological test and referred to the facilities chaplain whom he told his story to. That was when he began a journey toward faith in God and a path toward forgiveness for Tony Roach.
Tac did what he had set out to do, he turned his life around, found his faith and was finally able to forgive his wife’s murderer and put away all the hate and rage. Little did he know he would return to Amarillo to start a whole new journey.
Tac Buchanan is now working for Bridges of Life as a regional coordinator (www.bridgesoflife.org), a rehabilitative program here in Texas and eight other states and three countries. Buchanan spends his days counseling violent criminals. His horrible experience was even made into a movie called “The Redemption Clause.”