HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Texas executed a former Houston security guard Wednesday for gunning down four people, including his ex-girlfriend and her two small children, during an October 1996 shooting frenzy.
Virgil Martinez, 41, was condemned for killing 27-year-old Veronica Fuentes; her children, 5-year-old Joshua and 3-year-old Casandra; and an 18-year-old neighbor, John Gomez, in Alvin, just south of Houston.
Martinez was the fourth Texas inmate executed this year and the first of two on consecutive nights this week in the nation's most active death penalty state.
He delivered a rambling final statement in which he told relatives he loved them, then blamed Gomez, who survived long enough to tell a police officer at the scene that Fuentes' former boyfriend was the gunman, for three of the slayings.
"I know what you've been told and that's all a lie," he said, looking toward the victims' relatives watching through a window. "John Gomez killed your kids and sister."
He was recounting the slayings when prison officials, who warn inmates they have only a couple minutes for final comments, began pumping in the lethal drugs.
Nine minutes later, at 6:50 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Martinez's lawyers had tried to delay punishment, saying he might be so mentally ill that he could be disqualified for execution. Appeals pending in federal courts briefly delayed the lethal injection beyond its scheduled 6 p.m. start time.
Jerry Fuentes, whose family was killed, watched the execution and read from a prepared statement, saying he vowed to see Martinez brought to justice on the day he laid his family to rest.
"The wheels of justice have finally turned," he said. "Although the system is flawed, justice has been served."