Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: William Berkley

William Berkley
William Berkley
Executed on 22 April 2010

William Josef Berkley, 31, was executed by lethal injection on 22 April 2010 in Huntsville, Texas for the abduction, rape, robbery, and murder of an 18-year-old woman.

At about 10 p.m. on Friday, 10 March 2000, Sophia Martinez left her home in El Paso to meet a blind date. At 10:20 p.m., she withdrew $20 from an automated teller machine at a bank near her home. While she was at the machine, Berkley, then 21, approached Martinez's car with a handgun and fired a shot into it. He then got into the rear seat behind Martinez and forced her to withdraw another $200 from her account. He then had her drive out to an isolated location near a well, where he raped her and shot her in the face, killing her. Berkley left the victim's body by the roadside. He then drove her car out into the New Mexico desert and abandoned it there.

New Mexico state police found the abandoned vehicle the next morning and discovered blood stains inside it. El Paso police found the body. An autopsy showed Martinez was shot five times in the face and head. A semen sample was collected from her body.

Bank security cameras recorded Martinez's robbery and abduction by an unidentified gunman wearing a black beanie cap.

The investigation went unsolved until September 2000, when Heather Napawoki contacted the police and reported that after the murder, she found an unfamiliar driver's license and set of car keys on the kitchen counter of her apartment. When she later saw a newspaper report of Martinez's murder, she recognized that the driver's license belonged to her. The woman implicated her estranged husband, Michael Jacques, 24, who was in jail at the time on charges that he beat her. Jacques, in turn, implicated Berkley.

Police arrested Berkley on 1 October 2000. A search of his parents' home, where he also lived, produced a black beanie cap matching the one in the bank security video. Police also found latex gloves in his bedroom and a .22-caliber revolver in his father's nightstand. Martinez's car keys were found on the roof of the apartment complex where Berkley and Jacques lived at the time of the murder. Berkley's DNA was matched to the semen sample taken from the victim's body.

Berkley gave a written confession at the time of his arrest. He stated that he approached Martinez's vehicle at the ATM with a gun. As he approached the car, the gun "went off". He then directed Martinez to withdraw $200 and drive away. Once they arrived at the secluded location, she initiated sexual intercourse with him. While they were having sex, his gun "went off" again. He passed out. When he awoke the woman was lying on the ground. He then panicked and drove her car away, then abandoned it and walked home.

Two days later, Berkley told police he wanted to amend his confession. He confessed that the murder weapon was a .22-caliber handgun he had secretly taken from his father. He also stated that he later burned the victim's driver's license in a barbecue grill and that Michael Jacques helped him in the planning and execution of the robbery and the disposal of the victim's car.

At his trial, Berkley pleaded not guilty and did not acknowledge any involvement in the crime. Regarding the DNA findings, his father testified that William had dated Martinez and once introduced her to him. In response, Martinez's mother testified that she knew the boys her daughter had relationships with, and she had never heard of Berkley until he was arrested.

Berkley had no prior criminal record, but several people testified about his violent nature. A former girlfriend testified that he once choked her to unconsciousness and threatened to kill her. Others testified that he bragged about occasions where he beat, stabbed, cut, or pushed people. Two of Berkley's friends testified, however, that many of his boasts were lies.

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