A white supremacist gang member convicted of strangling a woman nearly 20 years ago was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday night at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit.
Justen Hall, 38, was condemned for the October 2002 slaying of Melanie Billhartz in El Paso. Prosecutors said Hall killed Billhartz, 29, with an extension cord from his drug house and then buried her body in the New Mexico desert. Hall has been on death row since being sentenced in 2005.
He was declared dead at 6:32 p.m., shortly after his scheduled execution time and 19 minutes after the process began.
Hall was apologetic in his final statement.
“I want to apologize for the pain and suffering I caused … I’m truly sorry I put y’all through this,” the inmate said to two members of his family and a member of the Billhartz family. “It should have never happened.”
Hall’s attorneys had asked to stop the execution, alleging he's not competent to be executed and has a history of mental illness. But a judge in El Paso last month denied the request. No other appeals were filed.
Hall became the 19th inmate to be put to death this year in the U.S. and eighth in Texas.
Authorities said Billhartz associated with people from the drug house, including Hall, who was the district captain of the Aryan Circle gang. On the night of her murder, Billhartz accused Ted Murgatroyd, who also hung out at the house, of assaulting her.
Hall worried that if police were called, his drug operation would be discovered. In a confession to police, Hall said he killed Billhartz in her truck on a dirt road outside El Paso. Hall drove back to the drug house and got Murgatroyd to help him dispose of Billhartz's body.
She was buried in Kilbourne Hole, a volcanic crater in New Mexico located about 30 miles outside El Paso. But before burying Billhartz, Hall ordered Murgatroyd to cut off her fingers with a machete to prevent any DNA from being found under her fingernails.
At the time of Billhartz's murder, Hall was free on bond after being charged with fatally shooting 28-year-old Arturo Diaz, who identified as a transgender woman, in April 2002. El Paso police had investigated Diaz's death as a hate crime.