Texas executes carjacker for 1992 Houston slaying of man in federal Witness Protection Program

Thursday, November 9th 2006, 6:14 am
By: News On 6

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Texas executed a man convicted in the 1992 carjack slaying of a vacationer who had been living under an assumed identity in the federal Witness Protection Program.

Willie Shannon, 33, received a lethal injection Wednesday for the fatal shooting of Benjamin Garza in a Houston parking lot.

Garza, 38, had brought his family to Houston from their home in Lubbock for a vacation. He was trying to catch a quick nap inside the family station wagon while his wife and children were shopping nearby. Shannon jumped inside, pulled his gun and demanded the family's 15-year-old Ford, according to arrest records. A struggle ensued and Garza was shot.

Shannon, then 19, didn't know that Garza, who had testified at drug trials in the Rio Grande Valley, had been in the witness protection program for a decade.

Shannon has insisted the carjack-slaying was unintentional and that he didn't deserve the death penalty. He continued to insist the shooting was accidental in the death chamber.

Garza' widow, two children and brother attended the execution. They declined to speak to reporters.

``If my life could bring your father back, then let it be,'' Shannon told the family before he received the lethal injection. ``Don't take my smile for disrespect.''

He acknowledged that he ``took a father from his family'' and said he was expecting to go to heaven.

``If I see your father, I will ask him for forgiveness. I'm not sad. I'm going home,'' Shannon told them.

Then he urged them: ``Go home, have fun, smile.''

Ten minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

Shannon was the 24th Texas inmate executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.