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Inmate executed for San Antonio lovers' lane killing

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(AP Photo/Mike Graczyk). This May 9, 2018 photo shows Juan Edward Castillo at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. Castillo who is convicted of killing Tommy Garcia Jr. is set for execution Wednesday, May 16, 2... (AP Photo/Mike Graczyk). This May 9, 2018 photo shows Juan Edward Castillo at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. Castillo who is convicted of killing Tommy Garcia Jr. is set for execution Wednesday, May 16, 2...
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By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A condemned Texas inmate who insisted he wasn't involved in a San Antonio "lovers' lane" killing more than 14 years ago was executed Wednesday evening for the slaying.

Juan Edward Castillo, 36, received lethal injection for the fatal shooting and robbery of a 19-year-old man that testimony showed was carried out by Castillo and several friends on a secluded road where the victim was enticed by the promise of drugs and sex.

Castillo became be the 11th convicted killer executed this year in the U.S. and the sixth in Texas.

He gave a brief final statement before receiving the lethal dose of pentobarbital, thanking "everyone."

"You know who you are. I love you all," Castillo said. "That's it."

As the powerful sedative took effect, he lifted his head off the gurney and used an expletive to say he could taste the drug and that it burned. He took several quick breaths that became snores and then stopped all movement.

Castillo was pronounced dead 23 minutes later at 6:44 p.m. CDT.

The victim's mother and stepmother were among the people watching through a window. After a doctor pronounced Castillo dead, one of the other relatives exclaimed: "We've got justice. Thank you."

Castillo never looked at them and offered no apology.

"For him to look over and not even acknowledge, I mean it was tough," Mark Garcia, whose brother, Tommy Garcia Jr., was killed by Castillo, said. "But we weren't expecting him to apologize."

He said carrying out the punishment nearly 15 years since the crime was frustrating and that Castillo "got off easy."

"My brother didn't get a second chance, my brother didn't get to file any appeals or ask for forgiveness," Mark Garcia said.

Castillo lost appeals earlier this week at the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court. No last-day appeals were filed in the courts to try to block his punishment and Gov. Greg Abbott declined a request from his lawyers for a 30-day reprieve.

Castillo's appeals lawyers contended no physical evidence tied him to Garcia's slaying and argued in appeals that trial testimony from witnesses who said he either told them about the slaying or they heard Castillo talk about committing the crime was false or misleading.

At his trial, two eyewitnesses testified they saw Castillo shoot Garcia, three people said they heard him talk about the killing and another witness testified he was wearing jewelry that belonged to the victim, prosecutors said.

Castillo in an interview last week from outside death row denied any involvement in Garcia's Dec. 3, 2003, killing and said he had "no idea" who fatally shot the San Antonio rapper with a reputation for carrying a lot of cash and wearing flashy jewelry.

"I was offered a plea bargain three times," Castillo told The Associated Press. "I refused to plead guilty. ... I don't want to die but at the same time I would hate myself every day if I did that."

Testimony at Castillo's 2005 trial showed Castillo's girlfriend, Debra Espinosa, offered Garcia drugs and sex if he'd take her in his car to a San Antonio lovers' lane. Garcia didn't know he was being set up.

Once they were parked, testimony showed Castillo smashed a car window with the butt of his pistol, opened the door and demanded Garcia's money. But Garcia, also known as rapper J.R., refused and was shot.

Espinosa and Francisco Gonzales, who authorities said accompanied Castillo to the ambush, accepted 40-year prison terms in plea agreements. A fourth person, Teresa Quintero, pleaded no contest to a robbery charge and received 20 years. Testimony showed she was the driver who took Castillo and Gonzales to the dark San Antonio road for what was supposed to be a simple robbery.

Relatives said Castillo talked about the killing and a witness said she saw him a day later wearing a distinctive medallion on a thick gold chain that had belonged to Garcia. Castillo said last week from prison the jewelry was his, not Garcia's, and said Espinosa was not his girlfriend.

Castillo was 22 and already had been in prison on a two-year sentence for deadly conduct with a firearm when he was arrested for Garcia's killing. At his trial, the mother of Castillo's son told of repeated domestic violence incidents. Other witnesses linked him to shootings, robberies, assaults and drug dealing.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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