Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, June 12, 2000

Media Advisory:


AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Paul Nuncio who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, June 15th.

In March of 1995 a jury convicted Paul Nuncio of capital murder for killing 61-year-old Pauline Farris. Nuncio was sentenced to death in June 1995.


On the evening of Dec. 2, 1993, Paul Nuncio went out drinking with several friends and acquaintances at clubs in Plainview, Texas. The group consisted of: Nuncio, Isabel Barrios, Oralia Medrano, Efrain Garcia, Enrique (Henry) Navarro, Angela Ruiz, and Olga Villalon. Shortly after midnight, December 3, the group got a ride with a relative of one of the group's members and, apparently, rode around for a while looking for a "bootlegger" before finding themselves on Beech Street. At this point, an argument between Nuncio and the driver resulted in the driver stopping the car and "kicking" Nuncio and the others out in the pouring rain. The group then ran to the porch of the house at 708 Beech Street, a house which was owned and occupied by Pauline Farris, the 61-year-old victim.

Oralia Medrano, one of the seven present, used to rent a small house located directly behind the victim's residence and Nuncio visited Medrano frequently during that time. Nuncio stated in his confession that he knew who Pauline Farris was, but "hadn't really ever met her." The group members' testimony differed as to how long they remained on the porch: one testified that it was as little as 10 to 15 minutes, while others thought it was as long as an hour and a half to two hours. However, all generally agreed that they were making a lot of noise talking while they were on the porch, but none of them ever saw any lights come on or heard any sounds from inside the house. Several persons claimed to have knocked on either the front or back door, but each stated that there was no answer. At one point, Nuncio left the porch and unsuccessfully attempted to hot-wire Farris's vehicle which was parked in her driveway. When the rain subsided somewhat, everyone except Nuncio left the house; one member of the group asked Nuncio where he was going, but Nuncio did not answer. Others in the group testified that Nuncio was not intoxicated at the time they left the porch of the house.

Sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on Dec. 3, Nuncio visited a room at the Warrick Inn, where he sold a television for $50 When the buyer observed blood on Nuncio's shirt and arm, Nuncio gave an explanation along the lines that he had been helping a friend with some sheep, one of which had been pregnant. After he sold the man the television, Nuncio left and returned about 45 minutes later with a camera, a stereo and some rings.

The man did not want the rings so Nuncio threw them in a nearby trash can. At the buyer's request, Nuncio wrote out a receipt for the sale of the items and confirmed his identity by showing the buyer his driver's license and writing the number on the receipt.

About 4:25 a.m., Plainview police officer Steven Cook saw Nuncio on the corner of Carver Street. Thinking it rather strange for a person to be hanging around a street corner at that time of morning, officer Cook approached Nuncio and asked him for identification. Nuncio claimed not to have any identification on him, but he verbally identified himself as Joe Nuncio from Frederick, Oklahoma. Officer Cook testified that Nuncio appeared somewhat disoriented and confused, so he administered a series of field sobriety tests. However, the officer concluded that Nuncio was not intoxicated and he noticed no odor of alcohol on Nuncio's breath. At Nuncio's request, officer Cook later gave Nuncio a ride to the Givens Street Apartments and dropped him off.

Shortly thereafter, Nuncio encountered an acquaintance, Kenneth Brooks. Nuncio asked Brooks to take him to "his house" to pick up a television and directed him to the victim's house on Beech Street. Nuncio picked up a television from Pauline Farris's porch and then asked Brooks to take him to the Warrick Inn, where Nuncio attempted unsuccessfully to sell the television. The prospective buyer noticed fresh blood on Nuncio's arm. After his unsuccessful effort to sell the television, Nuncio and Brooks went to the Airport Motel.

Between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m., Nuncio went to the room at the Airport Motel where Henry Navarro and Angela Ruiz were staying. Nuncio asked Navarro if he wanted to go drinking, but Navarro declined and Nuncio left. Ruiz noted that Nuncio "was all drunk," which she said was distinctly different from when she had been with him on the porch of the victim's house earlier that morning. Nuncio then went to the motel room of his friend Patricia Lopez about 6:30 a.m. and offered to sell her the television. She told him to come back later when her husband was home. Nuncio subsequently sold the television to a friend of Olga Villalon. When Nuncio went back over to Lopez's room a little later, she confronted him about what appeared to be blood on his boot. In response, Nuncio simply stared at her and left. When Lopez went to her mother's room to talk to her about the blood, Nuncio walked in and began cleaning off his boot, explaining that it was not blood, but ketchup.

Around 11:00 a.m., Dec. 3, Nuncio asked Lopez and her husband for a ride to Lubbock but they refused. Later that afternoon, Nuncio told Villalon that he needed money to leave town and that he was going to a loan company to get some.

Later that afternoon, Nuncio applied for a $150 loan at the Sun Loan Company, listing a TV, a VCR, a stereo, and a four-wheeler as collateral. Nuncio initially told the loan officer that he needed the money for "newborn stuff," but he also wrote on the application that he was single. When confronted by the loan officer, he admitted that he really wanted to take a trip, but thought he would not get the loan if he had told him that. Furthermore, Nuncio put on the application that he was employed at M & S Videos. Upon learning that Nuncio had, in fact, never been employed there, the loan company refused to grant his loan request.

Meanwhile, also around 11:00 a.m., Pauline Farris's neighbors found her dead on the living room floor of her home. When investigators arrived at the scene, they found Farris lying face down and nude, with a blouse or pajama top pulled up around her shoulders. A pair of ladies' slacks or pajama bottoms and women's underwear were next to her right foot. Investigators observed that the victim was not wearing any rings, and that her bottom denture plate was lying several feet from her body under the corner of a small coffee table, while the top denture plate was still in her mouth.

Farris's daughter testified that her mother wore her dentures at all times, including when sleeping. She also testified that she knew of at least one ring her mother wore constantly, including to bed. In addition, a vacuum cleaner was observed next to the victim's body with the cord lying underneath her and there was a variety of evidence indicating that the house had been ransacked, either during the struggle or after.

The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy noted that the injuries to the victim included: numerous bruises on the face, neck, shoulders, arms, legs and scalp, as well as in the groin area; hemorrhaging of both eyes and bleeding in the white of the right eye; marks on the neck consistent with manual strangulation. The pathologist also testified that a number of bruises on the victim's legs, hands, and arms were consistent with defensive wounds and, on the front part of her scalp, the victim had many bruises caused by a blunt object. The record further reflects that the victim had numerous bruises on her upper thighs consistent with her legs being violently forced apart.

On Dec. 5, 1993, the police received an anonymous tip that resulted in Nuncio becoming a suspect in the murder. It was later discovered that the tip came from Olga Villalon. After the police recovered a television, which was identified by Pauline Farris' daughter on Dec. 6, a warrant was issued for Nuncio's arrest. Two days later, police arrested Nuncio after finding him hiding in the closet of a house in Plainview.

At the Plainview Police Department, Nuncio was informed of and voluntarily waived his constitutional rights.

Nuncio then gave police both oral and written statements in which he stated that he had been "messed up" on drugs and alcohol the night of the crime and had decided to break into the Farris's house in order to steal items that he could sell to get money for more drugs. Nuncio stated that he did not think anyone was home because no one had answered the door earlier. However, after he broke in the back door, he saw the victim and they began fighting. Nuncio confessed that he hit the woman, kicked her, and kept knocking her down until she no longer attempted to get up. Nuncio then stated that he put two television sets and a stereo on the front porch and found some rings which he put in his pocket. Nuncio claimed that he looked back at the victim at some point, saw that she was naked, and decided to "have sex" with her. Nuncio also stated in his confession that he was an addict and that he had been molested as a child.

Nuncio further asserted that he did not mean to kill the victim and that he did not know she was dead until he heard about it sometime later. Detective Michael Carroll testified that Nuncio was emotional and crying somewhat during the two-hour period of his post-arrest interview. After obtaining Nuncio's confession, investigators were given consent to search a house in Plainview where they recovered clothing and boots worn by Nuncio on the night of the murder. A DNA analysis on a blood sample from Nuncio's boot revealed a 98.8 percent probability of a match to the victim's blood.


A Hale County grand jury indicted Nuncio on Dec. 21, 1993, for the capital offense of murder of Pauline Farris in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of burglary of a habitation, in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of aggravated sexual assault, and in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery. Nuncio entered a plea of "not guilty," and following a trial in the 64th District Court of Hale County, Texas, a jury convicted Nuncio of capital murder on March 2, 1995. The jury answered the first special punishment issue affirmatively and the second special punishment issue negatively on March 4, 1995. In accordance with Texas law, the trial court assessed Nuncio's punishment at death on June 30, 1995.

Nuncio automatically appealed his conviction and sentence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and it was affirmed on Feb. 5, 1997. Nuncio did not file a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

On Nov. 27, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals appointed counsel to represent Nuncio in a state habeas proceeding. After filing an application for writ of habeas corpus in the 64th District Court of Hale County, Texas, on Aug. 20, 1997, Nuncio filed a motion for evidentiary hearing on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court granted the motion and conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 3, 6, and 8, 1998, and April 1 and 7, 1998. On July 15, 1998, the court forwarded its recommendation to deny relief to the Court of Criminal Appeals. On Sept. 23, 1998, the Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the lower court's findings of fact and conclusions of law and denied Nuncio relief on all claims.

Nuncio filed a federal habeas petition on March 1, 1999, and it was denied by the federal district court on May 13, 1999. The district court denied permission to appeal on June 14, 1999. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied permission to appeal on Jan. 24, 2000, and denied rehearing on Feb. 18, 2000. Nuncio has not filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court.


At the punishment stage of trial, the State showed that Nuncio had previously been convicted of felony theft in 1990. The State further showed that Nuncio was subsequently convicted for misdemeanor thefts in both Hale and Tarrant Counties. Nuncio's original probation officer, Jim DeWese, characterized Nuncio as a "sorry" probationer who was unable to maintain meaningful employment. DeWese also testified that Nuncio was a dishonest, passive-aggressive type who never learned to obey rules.

Elsa Martinez, who lived with Nuncio for two-and-a-half to three years and had two children by him, testified that Nuncio had a bad temper when he was drunk, which she described as occurring "all the time." She also testified that Nuncio had once struck her.


Nuncio's own confession indicated that he was "messed up" on drugs and alcohol the night of the crime. It was also established that Nuncio had a history of drug and alcohol problems.


06/22/2000 Gary Graham (Harris County)
06/28/2000 Joe Lee Guy (Hale County)
06/29/2000 Jessy Carlos San Miguel (Dallas County)


If this execution is carried out, it will be the 222nd execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 58th since General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Wymer of the Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050