A Texas inmate who fatally shot his wife, two children and two other relatives in a drug-fueled rage was executed Thursday at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit.
Abel Ochoa, 47, received a lethal dose of pentobarbital for the August 2002 murder in his Dallas home. Prosecutors say Ochoa was high on crack cocaine and looking for money to buy more drugs when he started shooting.
He received the death sentence in 2003 for killing his wife Cecilia, 32, along with his two daughters, Crystal, 7, and Anahi, 9-months. His father-in-law Bartolo Alviso, 56, and sister-in-law Jacqueline Saleh, 20, were also killed, while his sister-in-law Alma Alvizo was shot and seriously injured.
Ochoa was apologetic to the family in his final statement.
“I want to apologize to my in-laws for causing all this emotional pain,” Ochoa said. “I love y’all and consider y’all my sisters I never had.”
He was declared dead at 6:48 p.m., becoming the third inmate to be put to death this year in the US, and second in Texas. Seven more executions are scheduled this year in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
“After 17 years, me, my family, my grandfather, my aunts and my uncles can finally say that we got closure … we got justice,” said Jonathan Duran, who was the son of Cecilia. “We’re not an animal like that. It’s not blood on our hands, it’s just bringing balance to our situation all over again. We are living in this moment and justice was served.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the execution late Wednesday, after his attorneys requested time, so a lawsuit can be resolved over whether Ochoa's rights were violated because he initially wasn’t allowed to film a prison interview with his legal team for his state clemency petition. Lower courts have ruled against Ochoa on the issue.
Ochoa's appellate attorneys previously said in court documents that his death sentence should be commuted to a life sentence because of “his deep and sincere remorse.”
Prosecutors said that Ochoa spent up to $300 a week on cocaine, prior to the murders, and took out loans to support his habit.
According to court records, Ochoa went to church with his wife and children on the morning of the slayings. On the way home he asked his wife for $10 to buy some cocaine, which he would later smoke in the backyard of his home.
“While I was lying on the bed my body started wanting more crack. I knew if I asked my wife for more money to buy some more crack she wouldn't let me have it,” Ochoa said in his confession to police.
He told police that he grabbed his handgun, walked into the living room and started shooting until he ran out of bullets. He then went and got more ammunition and returned to the living room, where his 7-year-old daughter was still alive, he said.
“Crystal saw me with the gun and she started running away. I chased after her and I shot her,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa was arrested at a shopping center after he tried to get money from an ATM with his wife’s card. At trial, Ochoa’s attorneys argued that he shot his family in a cocaine-induced delirium and had brain damage from drug abuse. Ochoa testified that he didn’t remember shooting his family.
“I accept the fact that as a child at 12-years-old when I buried my mother, my sisters, my aunt and my grandfather that nothing is going to bring them back, and it’s up to me to keep their memory alive,” Duran said when asked if he accepted Ochoa’s apology. “I can’t ever replace my mothers or my sisters, but through future generations my goal is to keep their names alive.”