A Texas accountant set to die by lethal injection for brutally killing his two young daughters in 2001 was granted a last-minute reprieve, according to Yahoo News.
The El Paso Times reports 60-year-old John David Battagila was convicted of killing his children in 2001. The girls, 6-year-old Liberty, and 9-year-old Faith, were shot multiple times. The killings reportedly happened while their mother was forced to listen helplessly to their last waking moments on the phone.
NBC News says Battagila had two appeals pending with the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Battagila reportedly killed his girls because he was “enraged” over his ex-wife going to police about harassment. Mary Jean Pearle reportedly recalled a phone call she received from one of her daughters around Easter that year.
The El Paso times said Pearle called her ex-husband and he put their eldest daughter Faith on speaker phone. The child was prompted to ask her mother, “Why do you want Daddy to go to jail?”
Only a few moments later, the little girl cried out, “No, Daddy, please don’t, don’t do it.” There was nothing Pearle could do. The report said she yelled into the phone for her daughters to run, but it was too late, and gunfire rang out.
Pearle said after the shootings Battagila said into the phone, “Merry…. f—— Christmas.” The only thing Pearle could do was call 911. The man then immediately went to a tattoo parlor to get tattoos of two roses on his body in memory of his children.
The El Paso Times said Liberty was shot five times, and Faith was hit with three bullets. They were both murdered with a semiautomatic pistol. In an interview with the publication in 2014, Battagila told a reporter, “I don’t feel like I killed them. I am a little bit in the blank about what happened.”
Although an attorney for Battagila claims he is mentally ill, an assistant Texas attorney general claims Battagila does understand what is going on and why he was set for execution. Dryden told the publication, “His last-minute appeal amounts to a fishing expedition.”
After Battagila’s trial, he was convicted after only 19 minutes of deliberation. A jury also decided life in prison would not be enough, and they handed down the sentence in 2002 for Battagila to die by execution.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Howard Blackmon, said, “To think a father could just gun down his little girls, it was just unbelievable. It was such a compelling case for the death penalty.”
A federal appeals court granted the stay just hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday after his lawyers asked for a hearing about his mental competency.
Read more: El Paso Times
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