Science

Texas inmate faces execution for 1990 store clerk slaying

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Gustavo Garcia. Garcia's lethal injection scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, would be the third this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Garcia was sentenced to death for the fatal 1990 shooting of Craig Turski during a robbery. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Gustavo Garcia. Garcia’s lethal injection scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, would be the third this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Garcia was sentenced to death for the fatal 1990 shooting of Craig Turski during a robbery. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — No last-day appeals were filed as a Texas inmate condemned for the shotgun slaying of a suburban Dallas liquor store clerk was moved to a small holding cell outside the death chamber to await his Tuesday evening execution.

Gustavo Garcia refused to eat breakfast, but did visit with family members and friends. At midday, he was transferred from a prison near Livingston that houses death row to one in Huntsville, about 45 miles to the west, where executions are carried out. Prison officials described Garcia as calm in the hours before his scheduled lethal injection, which would be the third this year in Texas, the busiest capital punishment state.

Garcia, 43, was sentenced to death for the 1990 killing of Craig Turski during a robbery in Plano.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency petition and a federal judge considering an appeal Friday refused to halt the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to review an appeal that challenged the competency of Garcia’s earlier legal help. Then last week, the high court turned down a request for a rehearing on that ruling.

Seth Kretzer, one of Garcia’s lawyers, had said Monday that he expected no last-day appeals to the courts.

Garcia spent more than half of his life on death row for the Turski slaying. Garcia was 18 when the killing happened. It was one of two slayings linked to him and then-15-year-old Christopher Vargas.

Vargas was tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. His young age made him ineligible for the death penalty.

Court documents show Garcia shot Turski in the abdomen on Dec. 9, 1990, then reloaded and shot the 43-year-old man in the back of the head. A month later, Garcia and Vargas entered a Plano convenience store armed with a sawed-off shotgun and carried out a holdup in which another clerk, 18-year-old Gregory Martin, was fatally shot in the head.

Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend just before the shooting and told her to call police. Officers arrived and found Vargas standing over Martin’s body and Garcia hiding in a beer cooler with the shotgun nearby. Authorities later determined the weapon was the same one used in Turski’s death.

In a statement to police after his arrest for Martin’s killing, Garcia said he’d ordered Turski to his knees and then a customer entered the store.

“I then panicked,” he said. “I shot the clerk with the shotgun.”

On Thanksgiving night in 1998, Garcia and five other death row inmates were scaling a pair of 10-foot-high prison fences when corrections officers opened fire on them and they surrendered. A seventh death row prisoner, Martin Gurule, was shot but managed to flee, making him the first inmate to escape Texas death row since a Bonnie and Clyde gang member broke out in 1934.

Gurule’s body was found about a week later in a creek a few miles from the prison. An autopsy showed he drowned.

“At least I can say I tried,” Garcia said of the escape attempt in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “Facing execution is scarier.”

He declined an interview request as his execution date neared.

Garcia’s death sentence was overturned in 2000 on appeal. A year later, he was returned to death row after a second punishment trial.

At least nine other Texas inmates have executions scheduled in the coming months, including three in March.

So far this year, five inmates have been put to death nationwide — two in Texas and one each in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Last year, 28 executions took place in the U.S., 13 of them in Texas.

 

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