Crime

Texas Executes Gustavo Garcia

| by Robert Fowler
Death row inmate Gustavo GarciaDeath row inmate Gustavo Garcia

The state of Texas has executed 43-year-old Gustavo Garcia, who was convicted for the 1990 murder of Craig Turski. The overturn of his plea for a stay of execution was the final action of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 1990, an 18-year-old Garcia and his friend, 15-year-old Christopher Vargas, went on a crime spree that resulted in the deaths of two store clerks in Plano, Texas.

The first victim was 43-year-old Turski. On Dec. 9, 1990, the two accomplices raided Turski’s convenience store. Garcia held a sawed-off shotgun to the store clerk while Vargas carried beer to their car.

When a female customer entered the store, Garcia fired on Turski, reported The Dallas Morning News. The store clerk was horribly wounded and tried to flee. Garcia fired another round, this time striking Turski in the back of the head, killing him.

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“We never had Christmas after that,” the victim’s brother, Kevin Turski, told The Dallas Morning News. “It was just too hard to remember.”

While Garcia and Vargas evaded capture that day, they were caught a month later when they robbed another store, murdering 18-year-old clerk Gregory Martin. The victim had been on the phone with his girlfriend and asked her to call the police right before he was shot in the head with the same shotgun that killed Turski.

Police apprehended the two accomplices on the scene. Garcia was sentenced to death for the murder of Turski in 1991. Vargas, being a minor, was not eligible for the death penalty and was instead sentenced to life in prison.

On Thanksgiving in 1998, Garcia attempted to flee with five other death row escapees but was captured, according to CBS News.

He remained on death row for 25 years, his sentence fluctuating after a series of appeals and flaws that emerged in his original trial. For instance, a psychiatrist who had testified against Garcia and Vargas said that they were a danger to society largely because they were Hispanic, ThinkProgress reported.

However, after a second punishment trial in 2001, Garcia was again placed on death row. On Feb. 10, Justice Scalia denied Garcia’s plea, sealing his fate.

Garcia was executed on Feb. 16 by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 6:26 p.m. CST, according to CBS News.

His family was not present for his final moments. Neither was Turski’s family.

“He was just a callous murderer,” Turski's brother said, reported The Dallas Morning News. The victim’s mother, Connie Turski, said that she was not relieved that Garcia “had to pay with his life," and added, "All I want is justice.”

Garcia’s final words were: “God bless you. Stay strong. I’m done.”

Sources: CBS News, The Dallas Morning News, ThinkProgress / Photo credit: CBS News

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