Rolando Ruiz, Jr., 44, pictured here in 1995, was put to death Tuesday night at the maximum security prison in Huntsville, Texas, for the 1992 contract murder of 29-year-old Theresa Rodriguez. Image courtesy Texas Department of Criminal Justice
March 8 (UPI) -- After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal, condemned contract killer Rolando Ruiz, Jr., was executed Tuesday night by the state of Texas -- its third lethal injection in the past two months.
Prison officials at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville administered the lethal drugs at around 10:30 p.m., not long after the Supreme Court's decision. He was pronounced dead 29 minutes later.
Ruiz previously received two stays of execution from federal and state appeals courts. Monday, a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit denied another request for a stay and the United States' highest court followed suit late Tuesday.
Ruiz, 44, was tried and convicted of the 1992 contract killing of Theresa Rodriguez, which was orchestrated by her husband, Michael, and his brother, Mark, in order to collect on her $400,000 life insurance policy.
Ruiz showed remorse for the 29-year-old woman's death in his final statement Tuesday night.
"I would like to say to the Sanchez family how sorry I am. Words cannot begin to express how sorry I am and the hurt that I have caused you and your family," he told the woman's relatives just moments before his execution began. "To my family, thank you for all your love and support. I am at peace. Jesus Christ is Lord. I love you all."
Two of Theresa Rodriguez's sisters and two brothers in-law witnessed the execution, as did an acquaintance and half-brother of Ruiz's.
Rolando Ruiz, Jr., had previously received two stays of execution from federal and state courts. A federal judge, however, denied a request for another this week. Photo courtesy Texas Department of Criinal Justice
"There's never closure," the victim's father, Eddie Sanchez, said Monday. "It's not going to bring my daughter back."
Detectives found during their criminal investigation that Ruiz was paid $2,000 to kill Rodriguez when she returned home from an outing with her husband and brother in-law, who were in on the plot, on July 14, 1992. She was shot once in the face by Ruiz, who ambushed her while she sat in a car in the driveway of her San Antonio home.
The Rodriguez brothers pleaded guilty in the case and received life in prison. Ruiz, who was 20 at the time of the crime, was given a death sentence after a jury found him guilty of capital murder in May 1995.
Michael Rodriguez was later a member of the Texas Seven, a group of prisoners who escaped from a prison in east central Texas in 2000. He was executed eight years later for killing a police officer during the escape.
The issue weighed by the Supreme Court Tuesday night was whether Ruiz had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by spending 17 years in solitary confinement. Ruiz's attorneys argued in their petition that he had been, which would constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The high court disagreed.
Ruiz's execution follows the lethal injections of two other convicted killers in Texas this year -- Christopher Chubasco Wilkins and Terry Darnell Edwards on Jan. 11 and Jan. 26, respectively. It is the fifth death sentence carried out in the United States this year.
Historically, Texas is the most active state when it comes to executing inmates. Nearly 550 Texas prisoners have been put to death since a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1976. By contrast, California -- which holds a death row population nearly three times the size of Texas' -- has executed 13 people. Florida, which incarcerates the nation's second-largest group of condemned inmates (396), has executed less than 100 in that same time span. In 2016, though, Georgia carried out the most executions (nine) in the country, followed by Texas (seven).
Earlier this year, Texas filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for preventing the state from importing drugs that are used in lethal injections. Several other states are also having difficulty obtaining the drugs traditionally used in a three-step process. Last week, Arkansas scheduled the executions of eight prisoners on four days in April, purportedly because its supply of one drug will expire in May.