Texas man who murdered immigrant set to die - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Texas man who murdered immigrant set to die

Samuel Bustamante Samuel Bustamante

By MICHAEL GRACZYK Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Condemned Texas inmate Samuel Bustamante looked to the U.S. Supreme Court to spare him from the Texas death chamber Tuesday evening for the fatal stabbing of an illegal immigrant from Mexico during an attempted robbery a dozen years ago.

Bustamante, 40, would be the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

He was convicted of the 1998 slaying of Rafael Alvarado, 27, a Mexican man in Fort Bend County, just southwest of Houston, who became a target on what Bustamante and some of his friends called "shopping trips" where they would hunt illegal immigrants, then beat and rob them.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, refused an appeal Monday from Bustamante, sending the case to the Supreme Court. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined a clemency request.

In their appeal, attorneys said Bustamante "clearly suffers from mental retardation" and should be spared under a Supreme Court ruling that bars execution of the mentally impaired. They also argued earlier appeals lawyers were unconstitutionally deficient in not raising the claim.

"We are all human, and make mistakes, yet do we not deserve the benefit of the doubt?" Bustamante, who declined to speak with reporters, said on a website where prisoners seek pen pals.

Fred Felcman, a Fort Bend County assistant district attorney who was the lead prosecutor at Bustamante's trial in 2001, said the condemned killer's sentiment was "a classic thing."

"I'm thinking: 'You killed who you wanted to kill,'" he said. "There's no mistake here."

In a taped confession to detectives, Bustamante said he and three friends — Dedrick Depriest and brothers Walter and Arthur Escamilla, all from El Campo — spent the day in January 1998 eating and drinking and then decided to go "shopping" in Rosenberg, 40 miles to the northeast, as bars were closing at 2 a.m. Alvarado, after leaving a Rosenberg bar, approached the pickup driven by Arthur Escamilla and offered to pay for a ride home to nearby Richmond.

Alvarado joined Walter Escamilla and Bustamante in the bed of the truck and they drove off. After a few minutes, Bustamante told officers he pulled a knife and began stabbing Alvarado as Escamilla held him down. Alvarado managed to break free and bail out of the speeding truck. Bustamante ordered the truck stopped so he could steal Alvarado's boots, but they couldn't find the victim in the dark.

Police following a trail of blood the next morning found Alvarado's body in a ditch. He'd been stabbed at least 10 times.

Two months later, with Bustamante jailed on an unrelated charge in his home Wharton County, authorities notified Rosenberg police after receiving a tip he was involved in Alvarado's slaying.

"I don't need a judge and I don't need a jury to tell me I'm guilty," Bustamante, a former oil field worker, told detectives.

Sid Crowley, one of his trial lawyers, said there never was a question about his guilt.

"He confessed to it," Crowley said.

Felcman said he remembered Bustamante telling authorities how his brother would use a baseball bat to beat victims but how he was "the one who stabs the guy."

"Bustamante liked killing" Felcman said. "He enjoyed it. He bragged about it... He meets all the qualifications of a classic serial killer.

"Of all the people I've tried, he was the one I would least like to meet on the street. I think if he wanted you dead, there was nothing to it. He'd get up close and he liked that."

At the time of his arrest for Alvarado's murder, Bustamante and his brother, Bill, were charged with the beating and stabbing death of Lloyd Harold Turner, a 63-year-old man who lived under a highway overpass near El Campo. Bill Bustamante told authorities of other "shopping trips" and took a 40-year prison term in a plea deal in the Turner case.

Depriest and the Escamilla brothers each received eight-year prison terms for aggravated robbery related to Alvarado's death.

At least nine other condemned Texas prisoners have execution dates approaching soon.

Up next is Kevin Varga, 41, a Michigan native and South Dakota ex-con set to die May 12 for fatally beating a North Carolina man with a hammer and tree limb. One of his accomplices, Billy Galloway, 41, is scheduled to die the following day.

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