Luis Cervantes Salazar, 38, was executed by lethal injection on 11 March 2009 in Huntsville, Texas for the attempted rape and murder of a woman in her home.
On 11 October 1997, Salazar, then 27, crawled through a front window of Martha Sanchez's home in San Antonio in the early morning, while Sanchez and her three children were asleep. Salazar grabbed a knife from the kitchen and then entered Sanchez's bedroom. Salazar then began stabbing her in the chest. Her 10-year-old son, Erick, was awakened by his mother's screaming and ran into her room. Salazar then stabbed him once in the chest. Erick then ran to a neighbor's house for help. One of the neighbors, known in the court record only as Adrian, went to the home and removed the victim's 2-year-old daughter, Brianna, and 4-month-old son, Timothy, from the victim's bedroom to safety. Adrian also checked the victim's pulse and found that she was dead. The paramedics who arrived soon afterward confirmed that Sanchez was dead and took Erick to the hospital.
Police found Sanchez on the bedroom floor with multiple stab wounds to her chest area. A kitchen knife was lying on the floor by her head. They also observed a trail of muddy footprints leading from the front window to the kitchen, then to the bedroom. The telephone lines outside the house had been cut.
Later that day, Salazar called the police to turn himself in.
Erick's wounds were superficial.
At Salazar's trial, the medical examiner testified that the victim had bruises, contusions, and scratches on her inner and outer thighs that indicated a sexual assault had been attempted a few minutes before the victim's death. She did not suffer any genital injuries, and her clothing had not been removed.
Erick testified that he woke up and heard his mother screaming, "Luis, why are you doing this? Leave me alone!" He then went to his mother's bedroom and saw Salazar stabbing her. Erick attempted to grab the knife, but Salazar stabbed him. Sanchez then told Erick to go get help, which he did.
Sylvia Montenegro testified that she answered her door to find Erick bleeding from his chest and begging frantically for help. He told her that someone had broken into the home and stabbed him and his mother. Erick told her the attacker was Luis Salazar. Montenegro sent her daughter's fiance, Adrian, over to the house. After Adrian returned with the victim's two youngest children, Montenegro changed 2-year-old Brianna's clothes, which were covered in her mother's blood.
Salazar had lived next door to the victim and her family for about three years and was well acquainted with them. Sanchez's husband, Oscar Ochoa, had helped Salazar get a job at the retail store where he worked. Ochoa testified, however, that earlier in 1997, Salazar approached Sanchez in her home and asked if he could borrow some sugar, but "not that kind of sugar." Ochoa confronted Salazar and ordered him to stay away from the family's home. From that point on, Sanchez was afraid of Salazar. Salazar moved out of the house in September 1997.
Ochoa was working the night his wife was murdered. He testified that, as was his custom when working the graveyard shift, he called home and spoke to his wife at about 12:30 a.m.
Salazar testified that on the night of the murder, he had been at a friend's home with his brother, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, and drinking beer and liquor. Some time after 3:00 a.m., he decided to go to his old home, which his mother-in-law still owned, and where he still had some personal belongings. He testified that he mistakenly approached Sanchez' home instead of his mother-in-law's and, since he had no key, he decided to enter through the window. He said that once he was inside, her heard a frightening noise and obtained a knife from the kitchen. As he was walking out of the kitchen, he bumped into someone and began stabbing the unknown person. He then felt a pain in his arm and realized someone was behind him, so he began stabbing at that second person as well. When he heard someone say "Run, Erick!", he realized he was in the wrong house, and he left.
Salazar testified that in his blacked-out state of mind, he did not remember the victim screaming, "Luis, why are you doing this to me?" or Erick telling him to leave Sanchez alone. He also denied cutting the telephone lines outside and trying to rape Sanchez, although he admitted that he found the victim sexually desirable, that he wanted to have intercourse with her, and had propositioned her in the past. Salazar further testified that he felt good during acts of violence and that had dreamed of killing people.
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