Texas prisoner set to die for killing cellmate - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Texas prisoner set to die for killing cellmate

By MICHAEL GRACZYK Associated Press Writer

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Rogelio Cannady looked to the federal courts Wednesday to grant him a last-minute reprieve from the Texas death chamber for killing his cellmate while already serving two life sentences for a double murder.

Cannady was scheduled for execution Wednesday evening.

The 37-year-old from Harlingen does not deny fatally beating 55-year-old Leovigildo Bonal with a belt and padlock in October 1993, but he insists that the attack at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice McConnell Unit in Beeville was self defense from Bonal's sexual advances.

The basis for his appeal is that his confession in the 1990 murders of two teenage runaways in the Rio Grande Valley was coerced and that he should therefore have never been imprisoned in the first place.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was pending Wednesday.

The Supreme Court already rejected an appeal filed earlier this year. State attorneys say the late appeals are without merit and that questions about Cannady's confession have already been resolved.

Cannady's lawyer said the case was "clearly one that deserves more investigation."

If Cannady's execution goes ahead Wednesday, it will be the 10th this year in the nation's busiest death penalty state. Another execution is set for next week.

Cannady was sentenced to two life sentences after pleading guilty to the 1990 murders of 16-year-old Ricardo Garcia of Freer and 13-year-old Ana Robles of Brownsville — both runaways from a youth home. Garcia was stabbed 13 times. Robles was raped and strangled.

Cannady, who was 17 at the time and one of four teenagers arrested in the case, said an investigator persuaded him to sign a confession to avoid the death sentence.

"I got scared," he said from death row. "I was afraid I'd get the death penalty. Ironically, I did."

State lawyers said Cannady swore in court that he "had not been coerced or forced into pleading guilty and that his plea was entirely free and voluntary, knowing full well his rights and what he was giving up by making that plea."

Cannady said the confession was improperly taken by an investigator who gave perjured testimony at a pretrial suppression hearing. The investigator has since committed suicide.

Describing the October 1993 confrontation that led to Bonal's death, Cannady said "one thing led to another."

Speaking to The Associated Press from a visiting cage outside death row, Cannady insisted that he merely resisted a sexual pass from Bonal, who had been serving 15 years for murder.

Corrections officers found the badly beaten Bonal unconscious on the cell floor. His hands were tied behind his back with a belt. A piece of the combination lock used to beat him was hidden inside a boot. Another piece was in the toilet. Cannady was covered in blood but had no injuries.

"I think anybody would have done the same thing," Cannady said.

Cannady had a long juvenile record beginning with thefts and burglaries at age 10, and has been arrested for drug dealing, assault, theft, probation violation, felony criminal mischief, truancy, public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was disciplined twice last month for assault.

"I don't embrace sending somebody to death row, but it is absolutely necessary some time, especially this time," Herbert Hancock, the prosecutor in Cannady's capital murder case, said.

John Alba, 54, faces lethal injection in Texas Tuesday for gunning down his 28-year-old estranged wife Wendy in Allen in Collin County in 1991.

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