HUNTSVILLE — James Edward Martinez, condemned for ambushing a woman he once dated outside her west Fort Worth apartment and killing her and a friend, was executed Tuesday night.
From the gurney in the death chamber, Martinez thanked his mother and sister and told them that he loved them.
"I hope you can move on after this," Martinez said. "I’ll be fine. I'll be OK. I love you, too."
Moments later, as the drugs took effect, Martinez took two deep breaths and closed his eyes.
His mother, Marta Martinez, clawed the glass window, wailing and screaming.
"Don't go, James! You can't die. I need you," she cried. "You died for a lie. James! James, come back!"
Minutes later, Marta Martinez collapsed and was taken away in wheelchair. She and her daughter, Nancy Grulke, were not present when the doctor put James Martinez's time of death at 6:17 p.m.
Martinez, 34, did not acknowledge the family of the people he killed — Sandra "Sandy" Walton and Mike Humphreys — who watched through a window in a separate room.
Later, Humphreys' stepmother, Carol Humphreys, said Martinez's death was "too fast and too easy."
"He was lying all peaceful and calm, but I knew that inside was a raging killer," she said. "Yet he was allowed to die very easily."
Mike's father, Brad Humphreys, was in Huntsville for the second time to witness the execution of the killer of a family member.
"It is a shame to think all of this could have been avoided," he said.
Martinez and Sandy Walton, 29, dated briefly, but he began stalking her and threatening to kill her, according to testimony in his 2002 capital-murder trial. Martinez demanded that she repay $1,000 he gave her.
Walton had filed numerous police reports against Martinez, but under law, she could not get a protective order because she had never married, lived with or had a baby with Martinez.
Early Sept. 21, 2000, a group of people were at Walton's apartment when she and Humphreys, 20, of Arlington, decided to make a quick run to a nearby Wendy's, according to trial testimony.
When the pair returned to Walton's apartment complex just after 1 a.m., a man dressed all in black and armed with a rare assault rifle sprayed them with at least 27 bullets before trotting away.
Authorities said Martinez then drove to a Parker County ranch and left a duffel bag containing the murder weapon and black clothing with a friend, who buried it. The friend later told detectives about the bag.
Martinez declined a recent request for a Death Row interview. But his mother maintained his innocence, saying that her son was with her at the time of the killings and that the friend committed the crimes.
"I don’t want my son to die over a lie," Marta Martinez said recently. "He is innocent."
James Martinez spent his final hours sleeping, reading, drawing and visiting with his friends and relatives. He requested a final meal of three chili cheese hot dogs with extra cheese on the side, fried okra with ketchup on the side, french fries with ketchup on the side and vanilla Coke or regular Coke.
Just after 6 p.m., Martinez's mother and sister filed into the witness room reserved for them.
When the warden asked Martinez whether he had any final words, he said: "Yes, sir. I want to tell my mom that I love her and thank her for everything she has done for me. Tell my sister that I love her, too, and thank her for everything she has done for me."
After the execution, Sandy Walton's mother, Dorinda March, said she was moved by Marta Martinez's sobs, which could be heard through the walls. But, she said, "I was very glad to see him take his last breath," March said.
March and her daughter Sheila Lomprey successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature to strengthen domestic-violence laws so people in dating relationships can obtain court orders if violence is threatened.
Calling James Martinez a "coward," Lomprey said she is glad that laws are now in place to protect people like Walton.
"If it helped just one life," she said, "then it was good. I think [Sandra] would have been happy about that."
In addition to Brad and Carol Humphreys, the witnesses from Mike Humphrey's family included his mother, Lois, and brother Brandon Humphreys.
Twenty years ago, Brad Humphreys' father was gunned down in a bizarre robbery committed by ex-con Jeffery Tucker. Humphreys was there when Tucker was executed Nov. 14, 2001.
On Tuesday, after Martinez's execution, Brad Humphreys said he was struck by the senselessness of it all.
"Think about your consequences and the lives you are going to ruin," he said. "I feel terrible about, not only the senselessness of Mike and Sandra's death, but my father's death.
"I’m a rare statistic."
Tonight, Death Row inmate Luis Salazar is scheduled to die for fatally stabbing a San Antonio woman in 1997.