John Richard Baltazar, 30, was executed by lethal injection on 15 January 2003 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a 5-year-old girl in her home.
On 27 September 1997, Baltazar, then 25, and Johnny Gonzales went to the home of Arturo and Matilda Marines. Baltazar went to the house because Matilda's brother, Narciso "Ted" Cuellar, lived there, and Cuellar had allegedly beaten Baltazar's mother earlier that day. Baltazar kicked down the door and fired multiple gunshots at the couch where Cuellar usually slept. Cuellar, however was not home. Instead, the shots struck the Marines' 5-year-old daughter, Adriana, and her 11-year-old cousin, Vanessa, who were on the couch, watching "Sleeping Beauty" on television. Vanessa was struck once in the chest and survived. Adriana was killed by two shots to her head.
Arturo Marines, hearing the noise, jumped from his bed, where he and Matilda where watching television. Baltazar shot him, hitting him in the jaw.
Baltazar had two priors convictions for burglary. He served 6 months of a 5-year sentence in 1992-93, and 3 years of an 8-year sentence from 1994-97. He had been out of prison for 9 weeks before killing Adriana Marines. Baltazar also had 10 prior misdemeanor convictions.
A jury convicted Baltazar of capital murder in March 1998 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in September 1999. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
Baltazar was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for shooting Arturo and Vanessa Marines and was given two life sentences. Johnny Gonzales was convicted of murder, burglary, and two counts of assault and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 2037.
In a death-row interview the week before his execution, Baltazar said he did not remember much about what happened. "I remember going to the house," Baltazar said. "Then the next thing I remember is the dude jumping out of his bed, and I shot him." He said that shooting at the two girls "might have been just reflex ... It was dark. I don't know. I really don't."
Vanessa Marines, now 16, still has the bullet in her chest. Doctors could not remove it after the attack because it was lodged too close to her heart. Since then, it has migrated toward her back, closer to her spine. Doctors hope to remove it when she's older. Arturo Marines still has bullet fragments in his jaw, and his teeth are crooked.
"I'm sorry for Adriana," Baltazar said. "There's not even enough words for me to say how sorry I am for the little girl." Baltazar said he was still angry at Cuellar and regretted that he was not in the house that night. "I've never been very good with controlling my anger, but if Ted were to beat my mom again, I would try and go whip on him again." Baltazar said he did not regret shooting Arturo Marines. "He jumped up and he was in my face," he said. "That's why he got shot."
Although he admitted killing Adriana Marines, Baltazar said he didn't deserve to die. "I don't think being put to death for an accidental killing is right." Of his upcoming execution, Baltazar said, "You got to go sometime. Only thing about mine is that I know how I'm going. I've been prepared since the beginning. Plus it's not supposed to hurt, so I've got an advantage. Either way - give me life or execute me - it don't matter. It'd be better than being here on the row. I'm ready either way."
Despite his earlier statement to reporters, Baltazar did not apologize to the victim's family at his execution and only acknowledged them with a quick glance. He declined to make a final statement. The lethal injection was administered, and he was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.
After the execution, Baltazar's attorney, Grant Jones, said, "Our system failed to socialize him into a law-abiding citizen."
By David Carson. Posted on 16 January 2003.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Huntsville Item.