HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A South Texas man was executed Wednesday for the 1998 slaying of a 12-year-old boy whose blood the convicted killer said he drank after beating the seventh-grader with a pipe and slitting his throat.
Pablo Lucio Vasquez told police he was drunk and high when voices convinced him to kill David Cardenas in Donna, a Texas border town about 225 miles south of San Antonio. He also told detectives in a videotaped statement that he drank some of the boy's blood.
Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Vasquez, 38, turned to look through a window where four of his victim's relatives watched and told them he was sorry.
"This is the only way that I can be forgiven," he said. "You got your justice right here."
Then as the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said he was a little dizzy. "See you on the other side," he said, raising his head off the gurney pillow and looking toward a window where two of his sisters, a brother-in-law and a cousin watched.
He was pronounced dead 24 minutes later at 6:35 p.m., making him the 11th condemned prisoner executed this year in the U.S., six of them in Texas.
The punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Vasquez' lawyer, James Keegan, who sought a reprieve so the justices could review whether several potential jurors were improperly excused from Vasquez' capital murder trial because they either were opposed to the death penalty or not comfortable making such a judgment.
State lawyers opposed any delay, arguing the potential jurors' exclusion was legally proper and that the latest appeal was similar to an unsuccessful one 12 years ago and amounted to "nothing more than a meritless attempt to postpone his execution," Assistant Texas Attorney General Jeremy Greenwell told the high court in a filing Tuesday.
Earlier, unsuccessful appeals, including one rejected last month by a federal judge, focused on whether Vasquez was mentally ill and should be ineligible for the death penalty.
Court records showed Vasquez, his 15-year-old cousin, Andres Rafael Chapa, and Cardenas, Chapa's friend, all attended a party in Donna, a Texas border town where Vasquez and Chapa lived. Cardenas was from nearby Alamo, also in the Rio Grande Valley, and was spending the weekend with Chapa.
The killing occurred April 18, 1998, after the three left the party. Vasquez told authorities as they reached a wooden shed, he started hearing voices telling him to kill Cardenas.
"Something just told me to drink," Vasquez said in the statement to police.
"You drink what?" a detective asked.
"His blood," Vasquez replied.
Police received an anonymous tip about the slaying that led them to Chapa and eventually to Vasquez, who was arrested in Conroe, a Houston suburb more than 325 miles north of Donna. Authorities found the mutilated body five days later under some scraps of aluminum in a vacant field.
"It was really horrendous," Joseph Orendain, the lead trial prosecutor, recalled last week.
Vasquez declined an interview request from The Associated Press as his execution date neared. His statement to police about the devil and drinking blood fueled speculation about Satanism, but the subject never came up at Vasquez's trial or in appeals.
"Did he drink it? I don't know," Orendain said.
Chapa pleaded guilty to a murder charge is serving a 35-year prison term. Three other relatives of Chapa and Vasquez received probation and a small fine for helping cover up the slaying. One of them was deported to Guatemala.