July 24th, 2024

Texas man executed for 2001 abduction and killing of 18-year-old woman

By Juan A. Lozano And Michael Graczyk, The Associated Press on June 26, 2024.

This image provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Texas death row inmate Ramiro Gonzales. The Texas man convicted of fatally shooting of an 18-year-old Southwest Texas woman whose remains weren’t found until two years after she vanished is facing execution. Gonzales is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday, June 26, 2024 at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) – A Texas man who admitted he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and fatally shot an 18-year-old woman in 2001 was executed Wednesday evening.

Ramiro Gonzales, 41, was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m. CDT following a chemical injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the January 2001 killing of Bridget Townsend, authorities said.

Gonzales kidnapped Townsend from a rural home in Bandera County, northwest of San Antonio. He later took her to his family’s ranch in neighboring Medina County, where he sexually assaulted her before killing her. Her body wasn’t found until October 2002, when Gonzales led authorities to her remains in southwest Texas after he had received two life sentences for kidnapping and raping another woman.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined a defense plea to intervene about 1 and 1/2 hours before the execution was scheduled to start. The high court rejected arguments by Gonzales’ lawyers that he had taken responsibility for what he did and that a prosecution expert witness now says he was wrong in testifying that Gonzales would be a future danger to society, a legal finding needed to impose a death sentence.

“He has earnestly devoted himself to self-improvement, contemplation, and prayer, and has grown into a mature, peaceful, kind, loving, and deeply religious adult. He acknowledges his responsibility for his crimes and has sought to atone for them and to seek redemption through his actions,” Gonzales’ lawyers had written Monday in their unsuccessful request to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution. After re-evaluating Gonzales in 2022, Gripon said his prediction was wrong.

Earlier this month, a group of 11 evangelical leaders from Texas and around the country asked the parole board and Gov. Greg Abbott to halt the execution and grant clemency. They had said Gonzalez was helping other death row inmates through a faith-based program.

In video submitted as part of his clemency request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gonzales admitted responsibility.

“I just want (Townsend’s mother) to know how sorry I really am. I took everything that was valuable from a mother,” said Gonzales, who was 18 years old at the time. “So, every day it’s a continual task to do everything that I can to feel that responsibility for the life that I took.”

The victim’s brother wasn’t persuaded. In various petitions and posts on Change.org, David Townsend criticized efforts to portray Gonzales as anything other than a convicted murderer who committed “unforgivable acts.”

“Our family seeks not revenge, but closure and a measure of peace after years of heartache – a quest that is hindered, not helped, by decisions that allow the perpetrator of our pain to remain in the public eye,” he wrote.

On Monday, the parole board voted 7-0 against commuting Gonzales’ death sentence to a lesser penalty. Members also rejected granting him a six-month reprieve.

Prosecutors described Gonzales as a sexual predator who told police he ignored Townsend’s pleas to spare her life. They argued that jurors reached the right decision on a death sentence because he had a long criminal history and showed no remorse.

“The State’s punishment case was overwhelming,” the Texas Attorney General’s Office said. “Even if Dr. Gripon’s testimony were wiped from the punishment slate, it would not have mattered.”

Gonzales’ execution was the second this year in Texas and the eighth in the U.S. On Thursday, Oklahoma is scheduled to execute Richard Rojem for the 1984 abduction, rape and killing of a 7-year-old girl.

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Lozano reported from Houston.

Follow Juan A. Lozano on X: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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