HUNTSVILLE, TX — Texas put an inmate to death on Wednesday who was convicted of killing two men over a $20 drug deal gone wrong in the first U.S. execution of 2017.
Christopher Wilkins, 48, was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital and declared dead at 6:29 P.M. at the death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a press release.
On October 28, 2005, Wilkins killed Willie Freeman, 40, and Mike Silva, 33. According to court records, Freeman and an unidentified drug supplier duped Wilkins into paying $20 for a piece of gravel he thought was crack cocaine.
Wilkins also said during his trial that he had shot and killed another man, Gilbert Vallejo, 47, outside a Fort Worth bar in a dispute over a pay phone — and later used a stolen car to try to run down two people because he believed one of them had taken his sunglasses.
The execution was the 539th in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state — and Wilkins is the first of nine Texas inmates currently scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.
Twenty convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s.
Main photo: Christopher Wilkins [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]