HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas man convicted of abducting and strangling a 5-year-old girl who was taken from a Walmart store while her family was doing their Christmas shopping in 2001 was executed Thursday evening.
David Renteria, 53, was pronounced dead at 7:11 p.m. CST after a chemical injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the deat of Alexandra Flores. He prayed, sang and asked for forgiveness before the drugs began flowing.
“I’m sorry for all the wrongs I have done. And for those wo have called for my death, who are about to murder me, I forgive you,” he said in a final statement.
Prosecutors said Flores, the youngest of eight children, was with family on a shopping excursion to the El Paso store on Nov. 18, 2001, when she was led from the store by Renteria, strangled and her body set on fire. The child's remains were found the next day in an alley some 16 miles (25 kilometers) away.
Renteria’s execution proceeded after the U.S. Supreme Court declined two separate defense requests for a stay earlier in the day.
One request stemmed from efforts by Renteria’s attorneys to gain access to evidence they said could have shown he was not responsible for her death. Another appeal rejected by the high court without comment late Thursday focused on claims the state’s supply of pentobarbital, the execution drug, had degraded and would cause him “terror” and “severe pain" in violation of the Eight 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 at 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 put over the girl's head before her body was set on fire.
Renteria was accused of patrolling the store for about 40 minutes before zeroing in on the 5-year-old girl. Grainy surveillance video showed her following Renteria out of the store.
The execution was one of two carried out Thursday in the U.S. In Alabama, Casey McWhorter received a lethal injection Thursday evening for fatally shooting a man during a 1993 robbery.
Renteria’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that authorities had violated his constitutional rights by denying them access to the prosecution’s file on the inmate as part of their efforts to bolster his claims he didn’t kill the girl.
Renteria had long claimed that members of a gang called Barrio Azteca, including a person going by the nickname “Flaco,” forced him to take the girl by making threats to his family — and that it was the gang members who killed her.
The claims by Renteria’s lawyers were based on witness statements released by El Paso police in 2018 and 2020 in which a woman told investigators that her ex-husband, a Barrio Azteca member, was involved in the death of a girl who had gone missing from a Walmart.
A federal judge in 2018 said that the woman’s statement was “fraught with inaccuracies” and was “insufficient to show Renteria’s innocence.”
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.
On Tuesday, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 against commuting Renteria’s death sentence to a lesser penalty.
In 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Renteria’s death sentence, saying prosecutors provided misleading evidence that gave jurors the impression Renteria was not remorseful.
During a new resentencing trial in 2008, Renteria was again sentenced to death.
Renteria was the eighth inmate in Texas put to death this year. There have been 23 executions this year in the U.S., including Thursday's executions of Renteria and McWhorter on Thursday.
Lozano reported from Houston.
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