Texas executes man caught years after crime by DNA
Texas executed a convicted murderer by lethal injection on Thursday, administering the ultimate punishment to a man who had been paroled for an assault in Michigan when his DNA linked him to a years-old murder in San Antonio.
Rodrigo Hernandez, 38, was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling Susan Verstegen in 1994, leaving her body in a San Antonio trash can.
The execution, which a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said was carried out at a prison in Huntsville, was the second in the United States this year after Oklahoma executed Gary Welch on January 5 for stabbing a man to death during a drug dispute.
Hernandez’s victim was a 38-year-old Frito-Lay worker who was stocking snacks at a grocery store when she was attacked in 1994, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Hernandez’s DNA wasn’t matched to the crime until 2002, when Michigan officials took a sample from him as he was paroled for a separate crime and put it into a national database.
Hernandez was the first person executed this year in Texas, which executed 13 people in 2011 and has put to death more than four times as many people as any other state since the United States reinstated capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Hernandez told the San Antonio Express-News in an interview published this month he didn’t kill Verstegen and will “take that to the grave.”
But Verstegen’s mother, Anna Verstegen of San Antonio, said this week she hopes Hernandez will, before he dies, feel sorry for what he did to her daughter, who left behind a 15-year-old son.