Vincent Gutierrez, 28, was executed by lethal injection on 28 March 2007 in Huntsville, Texas for the carjacking murder of a 40-year-old man.
On the morning of 11 March 1997, Gutierrez, then 18, Christopher Suaste, 18, and Randy Arroyo, 17 drove to an apartment complex in San Antonio where a red Mazda RX-7 was parked. Suaste parked his vehicle a short distance from the Mazda and stayed in his vehicle while Gutierrez and Arroyo got out and waited for the owner to come outside to leave for work. When Air Force Captain Jose Cobo came to the car, Gutierrez, who was carrying a .357-caliber handgun, forced him to move to the front passenger seat. Gutierrez climbed in the back, and Arroyo sat in the driver's seat. They drove out of the apartment complex and onto the I-410 loop, where the morning rush-hour traffic moving was moving slowly. Cobo pleaded for his life and offered his wallet. Gutierrez assured Cobo that he would be released, but Cobo nevertheless attempted to escape the vehicle. He was caught on his seat belt, however, and then Gutierrez grabbed him and shot him twice. Arroyo then slowed the car down while Gutierrez shoved the victim out of the car. The shooting was witnessed by other motorists. Cobo was pronounced dead at a hospital about 2 hours later.
The crime was reported on that evening's news. Afterward, Arroyo went to the police and confessed. He led police to the .357-caliber handgun Gutierrez used to kill Cobo, as well as the .25-caliber handgun he was carrying while committing the crime. The guns were recovered from the San Antonio River. The vicitm's abandoned car was also recovered.
At Gutierrez's trial, Suaste testified that the evening before the murder, Gutierrez, Arroyo, and several others met at his home to discuss Arroyo's desire to steal a Mazda RX-7 for parts for his own RX-7. He testified that after he dropped Gutierrez and Arroyo off at the apartment and was driving back home, he saw the victim lying on the shoulder of the highway, with blood on his shirt. Several hours later, he met back up with Gutierrez and Arroyo. Suaste noticed that Gutierrez was wearing different clothing, including a pair of gym shorts with the USAF logo. Gutierrez explained that his clothes had blood on them, so he obtained the new clothing from the back of the stolen vehicle.
Suaste testified that Gutierrez laughed as he told him about the murder. That evening, while Gutierrez and others watched the television news report of the crime, Gutierrez again described the murder and laughingly said that the victim got what he deserved for trying to escape.
Other witnesses testified to seeing the car being driven erratically, a man struggling inside, and the shooting. Witnesses also testified seeing the 5' 6" Gutierrez, who was known as "Flaco" - Spanish for "skinny" - awkwardly wearing the much larger victim's clothing.
The state also presented evidence matching bloodstains on Gutierrez's clothing with Cobo's blood.
Gutierrez had previous convictions for burglarizing three homes in February and March 1996. He received concurrent 10-year prison sentences for those convictions, but he was given probation 7 months into his sentence after he completed boot camp. He murdered Jose Cobo 13 days after his release. The state also presented evidence that Gutierrez was expelled from school for threatening to kill another student and attempting to obtain a gun on campus. Numerous police officers, correctional offers, and other state workers testified that Gutierrez showed never showed remorse for any of his wrongdoings.
A jury convicted Gutierrez of capital murder in March 1997 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in April 2000. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
Randy Baez Arroyo was also convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison in June 2005 after the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that executing prisoners who were under 18 on the date of their crimes is unconstitutional.
Christopher Suaste was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison. He remains in custody as of this writing.
In an interview from death row given in November 2006, Gutierrez said that he was afraid of going to prison if Cobo escaped and could identify him. "So I went ahead and shot him twice," Gutierrez said. He said he felt no remorse over Cobo's death. "In order for me to be remorseful, I have to feel for somebody, and I didn't know him, so I don't feel for him."
In the interview, Gutierrez also warned that if he got out of prison, "I'd create havoc in Texas."
Sister Doris Moore, a nun who corresponded with Gutierrez as a pen pal, said in an interview that such statements from Gutierrez are either false bravado, or possibly a symptom of undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The "real" Gutierrez, she said, prays, talks about the Bible, and writes smiley faces on his letters.
"I'd like to tell everybody I'm sorry the situation happened. My bad. Everybody is here because of what happened," Gutierrez said in his last statement, without looking at the victim's relatives who witnessed his execution. Media witnesses reported that it was unclear whether his remarks were intended to be an apology, and if it so, to whom it was offered. Gutierrez then thanked his friends and relatives and expressed love to them. He laughed as said to his brother, Phillip, "My brother, where's a stunt double when you need one?" He said a brief prayer as the lethal injection was started. He was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m.
"That's a good man, right there. A damn good man," Phillip Gutierrez said afterward. "He paid his debt like a man."
Sister Moore added, "This is so inhuman. We're just like terrorists."
By David Carson. Posted on 29 March 2007.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Huntsville Item, San Antonio Express-News, court documents.