After nearly 22 years and a number of denied appeals, Arnold Prieto was executed in Huntsville’s Walls Unit on Wednesday night.
For months, police searched for leads in the stabbing deaths of Virginia and Rodolfo Rodriguez and Paula Moran, until an interview with Jessie Hernandez implicated the 16-year-old, along with his brother Guadalupe and their mutual friend Arnold Prieto.
According to the Austin Chronicle, after four hours of interrogations, Prieto submitted a statement to police detailing his connections to the Hernandez brothers and the lengthy road that led them to breaking into the Rodriguez’s home.
According to Prieto’s statement, the Hernandez brothers introduced him to cocaine, leading to financial troubles and the eventual decision to rob his great aunt and uncle.
On the night of Sept. 11, 1993, the trio broke into the Rodriguez home intending to rob the couple when Virginia Rodriguez let the boys in willingly.
Shortly after arriving, the trio murdered the three seniors by stabbing each one to death with a screwdriver, before making their way through the home stealing jewelry and valuables, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to Prieto, while he and Jessie were in a bedroom, Guadalupe attacked Virginia Rodriguez with a screwdriver, stabbing her 31 times.
Hearing his wife’s screams, Rodolfo got out of bed, at which time Prieto attacked and stabbed him 17 times, killing him.
During the night, Moran awoke and emerged from her room, she was then stabbed eight times with a knife by Jessie, before dying from her injuries.
The murders of the Rodriguez’s and Moran went to trial in 1995 ending in a conviction for both Jessie Hernandez and Arnold Prieto.
While Prieto was sentenced to death, Jessie received a lesser sentence of life in prison due to his juvenile status at the time of the murders. Guadalupe, however, did not stand trial due to insufficient evidence, resulting in the charges against him being dropped.
Prieto, has served more than 21 years of his life behind bars and on death row.
According to court records, while Prieto has not appealed the verdict of his 1995 trial, he has filed a number of other appeals.
In 2002, Prieto argued that he should not be put to death, due to his attorney’s misrepresentation of evidence that could have led to him being found not in control of his executive functions. Ultimately, an appellate court found that the ruling would stand and that the attorneys in charge of Prieto’s case had done a sufficient job.
In 2009, the United States Supreme Court refused to review his case.
Now 41-years-old, Prieto has not filed another appeal since the 2009 refusal and has spent the last few years focusing on his artwork, earning a cult following among some death-row-watchers.
In a submission to Minutes to Six, a blog dedicated to watching death row and receiving submissions from death row inmates, Prieto calls into question the morality of the death penalty, while awaiting his final moments.
“My dearest friend Bro Wayne said something to me today out in our visit that was very interesting…” Prieto said. “I believe he had quoted a condemned prisoner about to be put to death in Florida back in the days when the chair was still alive. He said, ‘The death penalty is for those that have no capital. They are the ones that get punished.’”