Inmate to be executed for San Antonio lovers' lane killing

  • Juan Edward Castillo, 36, is set to be executed by lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Wednesday at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas
  • The former cook was found guilty in the 2003 murder of 19-year-old rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. 
  • Garcia was lured to a 'lover's lane' in San Antonio by Castillo's girlfriend
  • Castillo then confronted him with a gun and demanded money
  • When Garcia refused, Castillo shot him seven times 
  • Castillo continues to deny he was involved with Garcia's death  

By Ashley Collman For Dailymail.com and Wires

Published: 00:14 EDT, 16 May 2018 | Updated: 10:23 EDT, 16 May 2018

Texas on Wednesday plans to execute a man dubbed the 'Lovers' Lane' killer who was convicted of a 2003 ambush attack on a remote road in San Antonio where he tried to rob another man in a parked car and then fatally shot him.  

Juan Edward Castillo was condemned for the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man in a robbery plot that testimony showed was carried out by Castillo and several friends. Castillo e continues to insist he is innocent, and wasn't even present the night that Tommy Garcia Jr. was shot. 

The 36-year-old will be the 11th convicted killer put to death this year in the U.S. and the sixth given a lethal injection in Texas - which has executed more inmates than any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Castillo is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection at 6pm Central Time, at the Huntsville State Penitentiary.

Juan Edward Castillo, 36 (pictured on May 9), is set to be executed by lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Wednesday at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas 
Juan Edward Castillo, 36 (pictured on May 9), is set to be executed by lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Wednesday at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas 

Juan Edward Castillo, 36 (pictured on May 9), is set to be executed by lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Wednesday at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas 

His appeals lawyers contended no physical evidence tied him to the slaying of Garcia 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.

The former cook was found guilty in the 2003 murder of 19-year-old rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. (pictured)
The former cook was found guilty in the 2003 murder of 19-year-old rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. (pictured)

The former cook was found guilty in the 2003 murder of 19-year-old rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. (pictured)

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.

The Texas parole board on Monday refused a clemency request and the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, both refused appeals that focused on witness trial testimony that implicated Castillo.

Matthew Howard, an assistant district attorney in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, argued that Castillo's lawyers had been unable to explain why Castillo, 'a supposed innocent, was implicated in the robbery-murder by so many people.'

It wasn't clear if additional appeals for Castillo would be filed. His lawyers didn't respond to messages left by The Associated Press. Howard said late Tuesday he wasn't aware of any new petitions.

Castillo, in an interview last week from outside death row, denied any involvement in Garcia's December 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 AP. '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, who was then 22, 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 seven times. 

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.

Castillo is pictured above in his 2003 mugshot
Castillo is pictured above in his 2003 mugshot

Castillo is pictured above in his 2003 mugshot

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.

Gonzales was arrested as she fled the scene, and Espinosa was caught soon after as well. Both agreed to testify against Castillo in exchange for reduced charges and prison sentences.

They both claimed that Castillo organized the murder and pulled the trigger.

Castillo had 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.

Castillo's execution was originally scheduled for September 7, 2017, but it was delayed when his lawyers were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The execution was pushed back to December, but was delayed again so that an investigation could be done about an informant's testimoney that was later recanted.

The informant later recanted and said he lied to help himself, court documents showed.

Before he was sent to prison, Castillo worked as a cook and laborer.  

 

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