AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A registered sex offender in Texas convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl was executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, state prison officials said.
In 1999, Guadalupe Esparza abducted Alyssa Vasquez from her San Antonio home when her babysitter was at a neighbor’s place, authorities said. Her strangled body was found in a nearby field.
On the night Alyssa died, Esparza had called and visited her home, looking for her mother, according to an account of the case by the Texas attorney general’s office. DNA testing showed the sperm found on Alyssa’s body belonged to Esparza.
“To the family of Alyssa Vasquez, I hope you will find peace in your heart,” Esparza, 46, said in his final statement, according to Jason Clark, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.
“My sympathy goes out to you. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. I don’t know why all this happened.”
Esparza had a long criminal record, including a 1985 aggravated sexual assault conviction for beating a woman with a loaded gun and forcing her to have sex with him. And in 1984, he was convicted of assault causing bodily injury for hitting a man with a metal pipe and a baseball bat.
Alyssa’s mother, Diana Berlanga, attended the execution with a few other family members, Clark said.
“The day he gets his death, I’ll be smiling,” Berlanga said earlier this year, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I cannot forgive. I’ll tell God, ‘Forgive me for not forgiving him.’”
Two of Esparza’s friends attended the execution, and just before he died, he asked them to say goodbye to his family, Clark said.
“Jesus, take me home; take me away from this place,” Esparza said in his final statement, according to Clark.
Esparza was the 42nd person executed in the United States this year and the third this week. Executions were carried out in Ohio and Florida on Tuesday. A fourth is scheduled for Friday in Idaho.
Esparza was the 13th person executed this year in Texas, which has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
There are no more executions scheduled in Texas this year.
Editing by Greg McCune and Jerry Norton