HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A registered sex offender was put to death Wednesday for the rape, robbery and slaying of a woman abducted from a San Antonio bus stop 11 years ago.
Ramon Torres Hernandez was one of three people convicted in the killing of Rosa Maria Rosado, 37, who was pulled into a car Hernandez was driving after she refused to let go of her purse during a drive-by robbery.
Hernandez, 41, told a family member he was "sorry for putting you through all this" after a warden asked if he wanted to make a final statement.
"Tell everybody I love them," the condemned inmate said, directing his words at his brother who was standing nearby in the death chamber and watching through a window that separated him from Hernandez.
Glancing briefly at relatives of his victim, Hernandez said: "I'm very sorry for all the pain." Then he urged other prisoners on death row to "keep fighting; don't give up."
He took several breaths as the lethal dose of pentobarbital took effect, then began snoring quietly. Within a minute, all movement stopped.
His time of death was announced as 6:38 p.m. CST, 26 minutes after the drug began flowing into his arms.
Hernandez became the 14th inmate executed this year in Texas. Another inmate, Preston Hughes III, is scheduled for lethal injection Thursday for a 1988 double slaying in Houston.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused last month to review Hernandez's death sentence and a late appeal filed earlier Wednesday was rejected by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Hernandez, who was on parole at the time of his arrest in Rosado's death, also was a suspect in the slayings of three teenagers and a 12-year-old girl.
According to court records, Hernandez told police that he was driving around San Antonio with his pregnant girlfriend and a friend from prison looking for someone to rob when they saw Rosado at a bus stop on March 31, 2001.
Hernandez said his friend, Santos Minjares, grabbed Rosado's purse. When she wouldn't let go, he pulled her into the car. They taped Rosado's mouth shut, covered her head with a towel and rented a motel room, where they raped and eventually killed her.
Five days later, Hernandez's girlfriend, Asel Abdygapparova, contacted police and led them to the body. Police tied Hernandez to the crime in part with a shovel that he sent Abdygapparova to buy to bury Rosado. Her body was found in a shallow grave.
Hernandez and Minjares ended up on death row, where Minjares died in January of septic shock and multiple organ failure. Abdygapparova, a University of Texas at San Antonio graduate student from Kazakhstan, received a life sentence. She gave birth in jail following her arrest.
At the time of Hernandez's arrest, he was a registered sex offender on parole from an 18-year sentence after admitting in court to a burglary where a woman was raped.
Jurors at his 2002 capital murder trial learned Hernandez also was linked by DNA to the 1994 sexual assaults and slayings of Sarah Gonzales, 13, and her cousin, Priscilla Almares, 12, in the same San Antonio area where Rosado was abducted.
"We're not cruel people, we don't want to have to watch somebody die," Brenda Ayala, Almares' sister, said after witnessing Hernandez's execution. "It doesn't give us happiness at all. If anything, I feel sorry for his family and they're going to have to feel what we felt when we lost our loved ones."
He was a suspect in the killings of two 15-year-old girls west of San Antonio as well. They disappeared within days of the Gonzales and Almares slayings.
Hughes, set to follow Hernandez to the death chamber, was convicted of the 1988 stabbing deaths of Shandra Charles, 15, and her 3-year-old cousin Marcell Taylor. They were attacked in a field behind an apartment complex where Hughes lived.
Hughes, 46, claims police planted evidence and coerced his confession. He and his appeals attorney, who Hughes has sought to fire, have multiple appeals pending in state and federal courts to put off Thursday's planned execution.
Police responding to a passer-by's call about a body in the field found Charles still alive. The teen told an officer that "Preston" had tried to rape her. Authorities went to the nearby apartments and determined that Hughes was the only resident with that first name.
Hughes, who knew Charles through a friend, denied any involvement in her death. However, he made statements while in police custody that implicated him, one of his trial attorneys recalled this week.
"We did what we could with what we had. ... I could say he convicted himself," defense attorney Ellis McCullough said.
But Hughes has insisted he is innocent. "The fact is I didn't kill anyone," he told The Associated Press last month from death row.