HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A Texas man convicted of strangling a 5-year-old girl taken from a Walmart store nearly 22 years ago and burning her body was executed Thursday night.
David Renteria, 53, was pronounced dead at 19:11 CST after an injection at the state prison in Huntsville for the killing of Alexandra Flores. Renteria prayed, sang and asked for forgiveness before his execution.
“I am sorry for all the mistakes I have made. And for those who have demanded my death, who are about to assassinate me, I forgive you,” he told those present in a loud, clear voice. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative.
Renteria sang a hymn in Spanish, then prayed with a spiritual adviser beside him, and sang another hymn in English after witnesses, including relatives of his victim, entered the death chamber and looked through a window a few meters from him.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fateful events of that day and what happened,” he said, looking at his victim’s relatives. “There are no words to describe what you are going through and I understand.”
He told his sister and a friend, looking through another window, that he was “good … strong.”
“I love you all, I really do. I’ll see you in the next life.”
He then began reciting the Lord’s Prayer as the drugs began to flow. “Our Father which art in heaven” is as far as he got. “I taste it,” he said of the substance, muttering something, taking two deep breaths and snorting twice before all movement stopped.
Ignacio and Sandra Frausto held a photo collage of their slain sister, the baby of eight children in their family, as they spoke to reporters after watching Renteria die.
“I want to recognize her, not forget her,” said Ignacio Frausto, sobbing. “It took 22 years, but the time came. It’s done. We can finally and truly begin to heal – 22 years of wondering what was going to happen.”
Prosecutors said Flores was at the El Paso store on Nov. 18, 2001, during a Christmas shopping trip when she was abducted from the store, strangled and her body set on fire. The body was found the next day in an alley about 10 miles away.
Renteria’s execution continued after the US Supreme Court rejected two separate defense requests for a stay earlier in the day.
One request stemmed from efforts by Renteria’s lawyers to access evidence they said could have shown he was not responsible for her death. Another appeal, dismissed by the high court without comment late Thursday, focused on claims that the state’s supply of pentobarbital, the execution drug, had deteriorated and would cause him “terror” and “severe pain” in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Authorities said evidence showed Renteria, a convicted sex offender, carried out the abduction and killing alone and that his lawyers did not raise that defense during his trial. Blood found in Renteria’s van matched the slain girl’s DNA, according to prosecutors, who added that his palm print was found on a plastic bag placed over the girl’s head before her body was set on fire.
Renteria was accused of patrolling the store for about 40 minutes before grabbing the 5-year-old girl. Grainy surveillance video showed her following Renteria out of the store.
The execution was one of two carried out on Thursday in the United States. In Alabama, inmate Casey McWhorter received a lethal injection Thursday night for a murder conviction in the fatal shooting of a man during a 1993 robbery.
Renteria had long claimed that members of a gang called Barrio Azteca, including one who went by the nickname “Flaco,” forced him to take the girl by making threats against his family — and that it was the gang members who killed her.
In August, state District Judge Monique Reyes in El Paso granted a request to stay the execution and ordered prosecutors to turn over their files in the case. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later overturned Reyes’ orders.
In 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Renteria’s death sentence, saying prosecutors presented misleading evidence that gave jurors the impression that Renteria was unrepentant.
During a new appeal in 2008, Renteria was again sentenced to death.
Renteria was the eighth Texas inmate executed this year. There have been 23 executions in the United States this year, including the two carried out Thursday.