A Texas death row inmate apologized to his victim's sobbing family before he was executed on Tuesday night for killing a man in a $8 robbery.
Juan Martin Garcia, 35, was convicted of capital murder for the September 1998 killing and robbery of Christian Missionary Hugh Solano. Solano had moved his family from Mexico to Houston so his children could be educated in the U.S. only weeks before his death.
No last-minute appeals were filed on Garcia's behalf ahead of the execution. Before his death on Tuesday, he apologized to his victim's wife and daughter.
"The harm that I did to your dad and husband I hope this bring you closure," he said in Spanish as they cried. "I never wanted to hurt any of you all."
The women told him that they loved him.
He then added to his sister and friends: "No matter what, I will always be with you."
He received the lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 6.26pm.
Before his death, Garcia insisted he was being unfairly punished for the murder, which he admitted to committing, because he didn't testify on his own behalf during the trial. He said he should not die for his crimes.
"I got railroaded since I didn't take the stand," Garcia told The Associated Press in September in a prison interview near Livingston.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused in March to review Garcia's case. His request for clemency was refused by the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole in a 5-2 vote.
Garcia, a divorced father of three, described his actions on a website that connects inmates to pen pals "stupid, foolish, mistakes that I made in my life."
"I was sentenced to Texas death row on February 25th 2000 and I am still fighting," Garcia wrote on FriendOnline.org, where he appealed for an open-minded and non-judgemental woman to correspond with.
His death by lethal injection in Huntsville was the 11th this year in Texas. The state carries out the most capital punishments in the country and has three more executions scheduled in upcoming weeks.
"If it's God's will, it's his will," Garcia said to AP.
Garcia, two cousins and another man had carried out a carjacking when they spotted Solano getting into his van to go to work early on September 17, 1998.
Eleazar Mendoza, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 55 years in prison, testified that Garcia pointed a gun as he approached Solano, saying in Spanish to give them his money. Garcia shot Solano when he refused, Mendoza testified.
But Garcia told the AP said it was Mendoza who made the decision that the group would rob Solano and that Solano escalated the confrontation by resisting.
"He punches me," Garcia said. "First thing that came through my mind is that the dude is going to try to kill me. He grabbed the gun with both of his hands and it discharged."
Solano was shot four times in the head and neck.
Garcia, who had an extensive record beginning when he was 12, was arrested more than a week after the killing, when he dropped the murder weapon as he was getting out of a car that was pulled over for a broken headlight, according to court records. He was released and was rearrested after the gun was matched to Solano's murder.
Garcia was linked to at least eight aggravated robberies and two attempted capital murders in the weeks before and after Solano's death during his trial, the AP wrote.
One accomplice, Raymond McBen, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was paroled a year ago. The fourth man charged, Gabriel Morales, went to trial and was sentenced to life on a capital murder conviction.
"At least I'm going home and I won't have to suffer this pain anymore, because I know that as the Bible says there is an afterlife with no problems and no sorrow," Garcia told the AP. "And that's all I look forward to."