John Joe Amador, 32, was executed by lethal injection on 29 August 2007 in Huntsville, Texas for the robbery and murder of a taxi cab driver.
Before dawn on 4 January 1994, Amador, then 18, and his cousin, Sara Rivas, 16, hailed a taxi on a San Antonio street. The driver, Reza "Ray" Ayari, 32, was accompanied by a friend, Esther Garza. Amador and Rivas got in the cab and asked to be driven to Poteet, a town approximately thirty miles southwest of San Antonio. Ayari told Amador he required twenty dollars in advance. After stopping at Amador's girlfriend's house to get the payment, they proceded toward Poteet. When they reached rural Bexar County, the passengers directed Ayari to stop in front of a house with a long driveway. As Ayari drove toward the house, Amador shot him in the back of the head without warning. Rivas then shot Garza, hitting her in the left side of her face. They then pulled the victims out of the car, rifled through their pockets, and stole Ayari's cab.
Ayari was dead when law enforcement officers arrived at the scene of the shootings. Garza was alive, bleeding from the head and face. She told officers that she feigned death after she was shot. Officers found .380 and .25-caliber shell casings on the ground. Garza was taken to a hospital, where a .25-caliber bullet was removed from her nasal cavity.
On 24 January, acting on an anonymous tip, a Bexar County sheriff's deputy picked up Amador and his girlfriend, Yvonne Martinez, from a San Antonio school and took them in to his office for questioning. Both denied any involvement in the shootings. While this was happening, Detective Robert Morales brought Esther Garza in for a "show up" and had her look into the room where the deputy was questioning Amador and Martinez. Garza said that she recognized Martinez from work and that she was definitely not the woman in the cab. She was uncertain whether Amador was the male passenger. Garza informed officers that on the morning of the shootings, she was drunk and upset over an argument with her boyfriend and was not paying attention to the passengers.
On 16 March, Garza called Detective Morales and informed him that a friend told her she overheard Martinez talking about the crime, and said that the names of the assailants were John Joe Amador and Sara Rivas. Garza was shown a photo lineup and identified Amador as the gunman, although she had failed to identify him previously in photo lineups or at the show up. Arrest warrants were then issued for Amador and Rivas. Amador was located in California and brought back to Texas.
On 13 April, Rivas confessed to shooting Garza at Amador's instruction, using a gun that he gave her. She also stated that Amador shot Ayari. Amador then gave a statement in which he attempted to clear his cousin by discussing her involvement in the crime in hypothetical terms. His statement read, in part:
"They say I shot and killed a taxicab driver and my cousin Sara Rivas shot a young woman in the face. If this is true, Sara would have shot the young woman because I would have ordered her to do it. She is from Houston and was visiting here in San Antonio when all of this shit happened. She wanted to visit her grandma who lives near Poteet, Texas, but she never made it there. In this situation I would have handed her a gun and I would have ordered her to shoot the woman with that gun."
In a trip to the crime scene, Amador stated that if he had committed the crime, he would have used .25 and .380-caliber handguns.
At Amador's trial, Yvonne Martinez testified that early in the morning of 4 January, Amador awakened her by knocking on her window, asking for money for a taxi ride, and that later that afternoon, Amador told her that he and his cousin had shot some people. Martinez testified that Amador described the murder to her in great detail, and subsequently wrote her a letter pressuring her not to testify against him.
Martinez also testified that a few days before the shootings, Amador told her he wanted to do something crazy involving a taxi.
Esther Manchaca testified that on the morning of 4 January, while driving to work, she saw an abandoned taxicab on a freeway median, and observed two people resembling Amador and Rivas walking away from it.
At age 16, Amador pleaded guilty as an "accessory after the fact" to the fatal stabbing of his stepfather in California. He was sentenced to three years in youth prison. He was paroled in 1993.
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