A stay of execution was granted for a Dallas man who was scheduled to die for killing his two daughters in 2001. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton must now decide whether to challenge that decision. VPC
DALLAS — A federal appeals court Wednesday granted a stay of execution for a Dallas man who was scheduled to die Wednesday night for killing his two daughters.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton must now decided whether to challenge that decision.
John Battaglia was scheduled to be executed Wednesday night for the 2001 murders of his daughters — ages 6 and 9.
Attorneys for Battaglia, 60, argued he deserved a court-appointed attorney to investigate and a fair hearing to determine claims he may be mentally incompetent for execution.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, halting the punishment about seven hours before Battaglia’s trip to the Texas death chamber.
On May 2, 2001, the little girls — Liberty and Faith — were visiting Battaglia, their father, in his apartment near downtown Dallas when the unthinkable happened.
“He tried to kill the children!”
Those are the chilling words from a 911 recording on the night that Liberty and Faith were murdered.
The little girls were on the phone talking to Mary Jean Pearle, their mother, when Battaglia shot them.
Pearle described the horror when Battaglia went on trial for murder one year later.
“And then I hear Faith go, ‘No, daddy! Please don’t do it!’ And I heard [gunfire], and I hear him yell: ‘Merry F—ing Christmas!'”
Evidence showed that Battagalia, an accountant, shot each of his daughters six times.
Pearle rushed to the apartment and paced while police entered. They told her the little girls were dead.
In court, Mary Jean Pearle recounted the horror of hearing her daughters being shot and killed by her estranged husband. (Photo: WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth)
In an interview with ABC News, Pearle talked about that moment. “It’s the most empty feeling you could ever have in your life. They are everything. All your hopes and dreams … everything is gone,” she said.
Battaglia was arrested hours later outside a tattoo parlor where he had just had two roses — one for each girl — inked on his arm.
Before his arrest, Battaglia left this chilling message on his daughters’ answering machine:
“Goodnight, my little babies. I hope you’re resting in a different place.”
There had been a long history of domestic violence between Battaglia and Pearle, but no one thought he would kill the children, so he was allowed to have unsupervised vistits.
The murders sent shock waves through the community. Lawmakers were outraged, and a law was changed. It is now mandatory for judges to ask about a history of violence during divorce proceedings.
“In a lot of cases, it was not brought up that there had been domestic violence in that relationship that was dissolving … or there had been some danger to the child,” explained Paige Flink, director of The Family Place, which offers assistance to abused spouses.
Battaglia, 60, was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday inHuntsville. But a brighter lasting image will remain.
After the little girls were slain, The Family Place opened Faith and Liberty’s Place, where parental visits are supervised by armed off-duty police officers.
Liberty and Faith Battaglia were shot and killed by their father on May 2, 2001. (Photo: Submitted)
It’s also a place where estranged parents can exchange children safely.
“I am certain Faith and Liberty’s Place has helped prevent children from being kidnapped, children being harmed,” Flink said.
Tiffany Ratcliff and her abusive ex-husband were ordered to go to Faith and Liberty’s Place by a judge to exchange their son.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to live or if I was going to die.”
After eight years of supervised exchanges and visits, Ratcliff said she and her ex built an amicable relationship and things changed.
This center helps more than 100 families every month. Ratcliff has a message for Faith and Liberty’s mother.
Faith and Liberty’s Place provides a safe setting for parents to exchange children. (Photo: WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth)
“I’m sorry for your loss, but I am grateful — and I don’t mean to be selfish. I don’t because I had another chance at life, and I am so sorry for your loss,” she said.
Source USA TODAY COM 4/26/16