September 25, 2019 / 10:12 AM / 3 months ago

Texas man executed for stabbing wife and two stepsons to death in 2007

(Reuters) - The state of Texas on Wednesday executed a man convicted of stabbing his wife and two stepsons to death, then sexually assaulting his two stepdaughters in their home in 2007, later telling police his wife was poisoning him.

Robert Sparks, 45, was put to death by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 6:39 p.m. at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement.

According to an official transcript of his last statement before execution, Sparks professed his love for “all the family” and said he was “sorry for the hard times.” He then declared, “I am ready.”

His final petition for a reprieve was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court about 90 minutes before the execution.

A Dallas jury convicted Sparks of capital murder in 2008 and sentenced him death for the slayings of his wife, Chare Agnew, and his two stepsons, Harold, 9, and Raekwon, 10.

Sparks was accused of stabbing Agnew 18 times while she slept in their Dallas home on Sept. 15, 2007, before waking the boys up, bringing them into the kitchen and stabbing them to death.

Sparks then proceeded to wake up his two stepdaughters, LaKenya Agnew, 14, and Garysha Brown, 12. He tied them up and sexually assaulted them. He then told the girls their mother tried to poison him, according to court documents.

Sparks locked his stepdaughters in a closet and left the home, stopping at his mother’s house to borrow her car, and then his ex-girlfriend’s home, where he told her he had killed his wife and two stepsons. He then called police and confessed, court records showed.

After traveling to Austin for a few days, Sparks returned to Dallas and was arrested, telling police his wife had been poisoning him. He provided blood, hair and fingernail samples, as well as a cheek swab to be tested for evidence of poisoning, but investigators were unable to find a lab capable of that type of test, according to court papers.

He had appealed his death sentence on the basis of his claim that a prosecution expert gave false testimony and that a courtroom bailiff may have prejudiced the jury’s sentencing decision by wearing a homemade necktie depicting a syringe to show his support for capital punishment.

In a statement “respecting” the high court’s denial, Justice Sonia Sotomayor decried allegations about the bailiff’s necktie as “disturbing” but said insufficient evidence was found to conclude that jurors saw the tie.

Sparks became the 16th inmate in the United States and the seventh in Texas to be executed in 2019, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Texas has executed more prisoners than any other state since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney

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