Tuesday, April 15, 2014
AUSTIN – Pursuant to a court order by the 319th District Court of Nueces County, Jose Luis Villegas is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on April 16, 2014.
In 2002, a Nueces County jury found Villegas guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Erida Salazar, her three-year old son, Jacob, and Erida’s mother, Alma Perez.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit described the facts surrounding the murder of Erida Salazar, Jacob Salazar, and Alma Perez as follows:
A jury convicted Villegas of capital murder for killing his girlfriend, Erida Perez Salazar, her three-year-old son Jacob, and her mother, Alma Perez. At approximately 9:15 a.m. on January 22, 2001, Lionicio Perez returned home after being excused early from jury service. Mr. Perez found his wife[’s] bruised body lying lifeless in a pool of blood. He ran to a neighbor’s house, asked his neighbor to call the police, and returned to find the bodies of his daughter and grandson. When the police arrived, a neighbor said that she saw Villegas leaving the Perez home at approximately 8:45 a.m.
At approximately 9:30 a.m., the police spotted Villegas in Ms. Salazar’s vehicle. The police apprehended Villegas after a high-speed chase and foot pursuit. Villegas had three baggies of cocaine in his possession when arrested. After being advised of his rights, Villegas confessed to the three murders.
Villegas described how he arrived at the Perez home at 5:00 a.m. that morning. He and Ms. Salazar consumed around $200 of cocaine. After Mrs. Perez returned home from taking Ms. Salazar’s daughter to school, she discovered Villegas[’s] presence in the home. Mrs. Perez had previously warned her daughter not to let Villegas enter the house. When Mrs. Perez ordered Villegas to leave, he stabbed her several times with a kitchen knife. Villegas then went to a bedroom and stabbed Ms. Salazar and her son to death. Villegas left in Ms. Salazar’s vehicle, pawned a television he stole from the Perez home, and bought more cocaine. Villegas told the police that he wanted to return to the Perez home to commit suicide by overdosing on cocaine, but fled when he saw police already in the home.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
During the penalty phase of Villegas’s trial, jurors learned that Villegas was previously convicted of possession of inhalant paraphernalia, burglary of a building, assault, and terroristic threats. Following Villegas’s conviction for capital murder, he was convicted of two counts of indecency with a child that Villegas committed prior to the capital murder.
On Jan. 25, 2001, a Nueces County grand jury indicted Villegas for murdering Alma Perez, Erida Perez Salazar, and Jacob Salazar during the same criminal transaction.
On May 9, 2002, a Nueces County jury convicted Villegas of capital murder. After a separate punishment proceeding, the same jury sentenced Villegas to death on May 16, 2002.
On Feb. 18, 2004, Villegas’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on direct appeal. Villegas did not appeal the state court’s decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. Instead, he filed an application for habeas corpus relief which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on Sept. 14, 2005.
On Sept. 14, 2006, Villegas filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division. The federal court denied Villegas’s petition on July 31, 2007.
On April 16, 2008, the Fifth Circuit rejected Villegas’s appeal and affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief.
Villegas filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court on July 15, 2008. The Supreme Court denied certiorari review on Oct. 20, 2008.
On Nov. 7, 2013, the 319th state district court issued an order setting Villegas’s execution date for April 16, 2014.
On March 21, 2014, Villegas filed in the 319th state district court a motion to withdraw or modify the execution date.
For additional information and statistics, please log on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.