Guadalupe Esparza, 46, was executed by lethal injection on 16 November 2011 in Huntsville, Texas for the abduction, rape, and murder of a 7-year-old girl.
On 6 June 1999 at about 11 p.m., Diana Berlanga went out for the evening, leaving her daughter, Alyssa Vasquez, and two sons, Joel and Aaron Vasquez, in the care of Robin Wellbrock, who she had recently taken in as a roommate.
Moments after Berlanga left, Esparza, then 34, showed up. Berlanga and Esparza had seen each other socially for a few weeks, but Berlanga was friends with a woman whose sister, Connie Perez, knew Esparza as a teenager and warned her, "Stay away from him," so she had recently stopped taking his calls. Esparza came to Berlanga's west San Antonio apartment that Sunday night with three 32-ounce cans of beer to share with Berlanga and Wellbrock. Wellbrock took two of the beers and told Esparza to leave.
Later, Wellbrock went next door to visit with a neighbor. Upon her return at about 2:30 a.m., she found the front door open and noted that the television had been turned off while she was gone. She also found the green shorts Alyssa had been wearing on the floor. As she searched for Alyssa, she heard a trash bin lid close outside. She looked out and saw someone who appeared to be Esparza running down the street.
While Berlanga was still out, Alyssa's body was discovered in the tall grass behind a meat market near the apartments. She was naked from the waist down. Her legs were spread. Her face was swollen, scratched, and bruised. She had been raped and strangled.
At about 4:00 a.m., police arrested Esparza at his residence, which was a mile and a half to two miles from Berlanga's apartment. They also collected a blood-spotted shirt and boxer shorts that were in a trash can outside.
Esparza's DNA was matched to sperm found in the victim's mouth. Her DNA was also found under his fingernails.
Esparza's criminal history extended back to his teens. At age 13, he and another boy were arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a house. They were charged with attempted arson. The following year, Esparza was arrested for threatening a younger child with a knife while attempting to steal his bicycle.
Connie Perez, the woman who passed a warning along to Berlanga to stay away from Esparza, testified that he tried to rape and strangle her in the woods when she was 13, but she managed to run away.
At age 19, Esparza was convicted of assault causing bodily injury after he struck a man with a metal pipe and a baseball bat.
In 1985, Esparza received a 12-year prison sentence for beating a woman with a gun and raping her. While in prison, he joined a gang. He and three other inmates attacked another inmate, who correctional officers testified would have been killed if not for their intervention. In July 1990, he was paroled as a result of Judge William Wayne Justice's orders to relieve overcrowding in Texas' prison system.
In May 1992, while on parole, Esparza stole a car. A year later, he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and was returned to prison with an 8-year sentence. He was paroled again in January 1996.
At his trial, Esparza testified in his own behalf, against his attorneys' advice. He admitted that he was a registered sex offender at the time of the killing, but stated, "It was not with a child." When invited to elaborate by his attorney, he said, "I have nieces and nephews of my own and a 3-year daughter. I would never do that to a child, you know."
In response to Esparza's testimony, the state called Manuel and Teresa Longoria to testify. Manuel testified that in late May 1999, about one or two weeks prior to Alyssa's murder, he and his 7-year-old daughter Teresa were staying overnight at the home of Manuel's brother and sister-in-law. Esparza came to the house in the middle of the night, looking for a place to stay because his girlfriend had kicked him out. Manuel's brother and sister-in-law agreed to let him spend the night. Manuel and Teresa slept on couches in the living room, while Esparza slept on a chair in the same room.
Teresa testified that she woke up in the middle of the night to find Esparza touching her on her stomach underneath her shirt. She ran to her cousin's room. Esparza followed her into the room, offered her a dollar bill, and told her to go into the bathroom with him. Teresa then ran into the living room and woke her father to tell him what happened.
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