Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, April 8, 2002

MEDIA ADVISORY

Jose Santellan, Sr. Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Jose Santellan, Sr., who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, 2002.

On March 10, 1995, Jose Santellan, Sr., was sentenced for the capital murder of Yolanda Garza, which occurred in Fredericksburg, Texas, on Aug. 22, 1993. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On Aug. 22, 1993, Santellan confronted his former girlfriend, Yolanda Garza, as she left her job as a nurse assistant at the Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, Texas. Garza was walking through the parking lot with Norma Hoffman, a co-worker. As the two women parted, Santellan approached Garza as she was walking toward her car. She changed directions and walked with Santellan. Hoffman watched Garza and Santellan talking, but at a distance of 70 feet, she could not understand what was being said or whether the two were arguing. When Hoffman last saw her standing, Yolanda was about five feet from Santellan and about 20 feet from where she had first encountered him.

Hoffman heard Garza scream, "Think of my kids!" She saw Santellan standing over Garza's body with his pistol drawn. Hoffman heard two shots and saw Santellan shake his gun as if to dislodge a jam, but she acknowledged that other shots might have been fired before she took notice. Hoffman left in her vehicle to go get help.

A second eyewitness, hospital housekeeper Guadalupe Noriega, entered the parking lot and saw Garza bleeding and motionless. Noriega rushed back into the hospital to seek help. When she returned to the parking lot, Noriega saw Santellan's car parked next to Garza as he loaded her into the passenger seat, grabbed her backpack and drove away.

Santellan later confessed that he absconded with Garza because he "just wanted to get away and be with her and spend some time together." Santellan drove west for several hours before checking into a motel in Camp Wood, Texas. He carried Garza's body into the hotel room and engaged in various sex acts with the corpse. He poured perfume on the body to alleviate the growing stench of decomposition. Santellan also drafted several letters to family members, asking their forgiveness for the murder. The police found and arrested Santellan at the motel on August 24. Santellan confessed voluntarily.

Additional evidence at trial indicated that Santellan and Garza had been in a relationship but had a "big fight" in July 1993. Subsequently, Garza had written a resignation letter to the hospital indicating an intent to move due to a "domestic problem endangering my welfare and possibly that of my children."

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

April 26, 1994 - A grand jury indicted Santellan in the 216th Judicial District Court of Gillespie County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Yolanda Garza while in the course of attempting to commit kidnapping.

March 8, 1995 - Although Santellan entered a plea of not guilty, a jury found him guilty of capital murder.

March 10, 1995 - Following a separate punishment hearing, the court assessed a sentence of death.

January 29, 1997 - His conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed in a published opinion.

February 17, 1997 - Santellan filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court.

October 7, 1997 - The trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending the denial of habeas relief.

March 18, 1998 - The Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the findings and conclusions and denied habeas relief in an unpublished order.

August, 13, 1998 - The trial court set Santellan's execution for Dec. 8, 1998.

September 18, 1998 - The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, stayed Santellan's execution.

December 1, 1998 - Santellan filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court.

March 10, 2000 - The federal district court partially granted habeas relief and ordered a new trial.

March 15, 2000 - The Attorney General of Texas appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

October 17, 2001 - The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court and denied habeas relief in a published opinion.

November 14, 2001 - The Fifth Circuit denied Santellan's petition for rehearing.

January 11, 2002 - The trial court set Santellan's execution for April 10, 2002.

February 12, 2002 - Santellan filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

February 13, 2002 - The federal district court stayed Santellan's execution.

March 15, 2002 - The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's stay of execution.

March 25, 2002 - Santellan filed a second certiorari petition in the Supreme Court, which is pending.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

The evidence at Santellan's trial revealed a long history of criminal violence.

  • In March 1987, Santellan received five years probation for burglary.
  • In July 1987, Santellan's probation was revoked after he was convicted of assault for beating up another man. He was sentenced to two years in TDCJ and paroled a year later.
  • In September 1988, a month after Santellan was paroled, he was arrested for criminal trespass; this incident involved a verbal altercation with his girlfriend.
  • A little over a month later, Santellan was arrested for assault and resisting arrest.
  • In April 1989, he was returned to TDCJ without new charges due to his trespass, assault and resisting arrest. He was released to mandatory supervision in May 1989 and discharged in July 1990.
  • After he moved to Fredricksburg and then to Michigan, Santellan was arrested for shoplifting a pack of cigarettes in November 1990.
  • A few days later Santellan was arrested for breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.
  • While in jail, Santellan broke a window and was charged with malicious destruction of police property.
  • Santellan was also involved in a violent escape attempt. In July 1991, he was convicted of escaping from jail through violence, assault of a prison employee and assault with a deadly weapon, and sentenced to 2-4 years in Michigan state prison. He was paroled in 1992 and moved to Texas.
  • In November 1993, while being held pending his capital murder trial, Santellan assaulted a jailer, punching him in the face and ribs and stomping on his glasses.
  • In October 1999, Santellan attacked a male and female TDCJ guard. He was later convicted of two counts of assault of a public servant.
  • While awaiting trial, Santellan set his cell on fire and then assaulted the correctional officers who attempted to rescue him from the burning cell.
  • Santellan threatened and assaulted several correctional officers by throwing his urine and brandishing a broken mop handle.
  • Santellan smashed the television in his cell and threatened officers with the jagged shards of glass.

In addition to these criminal offenses, TDCJ reports additional attacks on guards as well as on inmates. Santellan also admits to choking a girlfriend in 1986 and robbing a Uvalde store at gunpoint while on the run after the murder.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please log on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

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