EDINBURG, Texas – A jury rejected an insanity defense and found a south Texas man guilty of capital murder Monday for beheading his common-law wife's three children in 2003.
John Allen Rubio, 29, of Brownsville, showed no reaction when guilty verdicts were returned for each of the four counts of capital murder. Each count reflects one death, and the fourth covers all three.
It was Rubio's second conviction in the children's deaths. A state appeals court overturned an earlier death sentence in 2007, because statements from the children's mother, Angela Camacho, were wrongly allowed as evidence.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty again and moved immediately into the punishment phase of the trial Monday afternoon.
Only after the jury had been released for the day was any reaction to the guilty verdict visible.
Ed Stapleton, one of Rubio's attorney's put his arm around his back and said, "I'm sorry, John. I'm sorry it came out that way."
Rubio appeared to nod slightly.
With a gag order still in place, neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys could comment on the verdict.
Police discovered the bodies of 3-year-old Julissa Quesada, 14-month-old John E. Rubio and 2-month-old Mary Jane Rubio on March 11, 2003, in a squalid Brownsville apartment.
Rubio's guilt in the murders was never in dispute. Instead, attorneys argued over his state of mind and whether he knew what he was doing was wrong.
Rubio told police he killed the children, and evidence showed he made increasingly ferocious attempts — strangling and stabbing them, then finally cutting off their heads. Rubio said first that the children were possessed and later claimed he was the "chosen one" intended to save the world, according to testimony.
During closing arguments given before a packed courtroom Monday morning, both sides showed enlarged photographs of the children from happier times. Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos got the last word and accentuated it by showing a photograph of a headless child and making a chopping motion on the floor with a cleaver.
"This kind of crime tears at the fiber of who we are here in the Valley," Villalobos said.
Testimony showed Rubio had nailed the backdoor of the windowless apartment shut. Prosecutors said it foretold of the killings to come, while the defense claimed it was meant to keep demons out.
"These babies were not demons, they were angels," prosecutor Charles Mattingly said.
Defense attorney Ed Stapleton reminded jurors of Rubio's childhood — his mother's prenatal drinking, his stepfather's abuse, his experience as a teen prostitute. The defense team's psychiatrists found Rubio suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
"(Rubio) was insane from early on," Stapleton said. A prosecution expert rebutted that diagnosis Friday.
The jury returned the guilty verdict after about three hours of deliberation and a break for lunch.
Moving into the punishment phase of the trial, Mattingly emphasized Rubio would continue to endanger lives even if he was in prison. He told jurors that Rubio started fires three times while in prison, tested positive for marijuana and was caught with contraband pills.
Texas Ranger Rolando Castaneda testified that when he went to the county jail three days after the children's deaths to collect hair and blood samples from Rubio, he found "a young fellow that was laughing and smiling."
But Rubio's attorney Nat Perez promised defense witnesses would convince jurors that there was no need to put Rubio to death.
"The evidence will show that this young man is not the same from 2003," he said.