Convicted murderer Lonnie Earl Johnson was executed Tuesday evening for the fatal shootings of two Harris County teenagers 17 years ago.
Johnson expressed love to a friend. "It's been a joy and a blessing. Give everybody my regards. I love you and I'll see you in eternity," he said in a brief final statement. "Father, take me home. I'm gone, baby. I'm ready to go."
Johnson never looked at six relatives of the victims, including the mothers of Sean Fulk Schulz, 16, and his friend Leroy McCaffrey Jr., 17.
He was pronounced dead at 6:44 p.m. CT, eight minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.
Johnson, 44, didn't deny killing Schulz and McCaffrey and taking their pickup truck, but had insisted the slayings were in self-defense after the pair pulled a gun and made racial threats against him. Johnson is black, his two victims white.
The execution was the 19th this year in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state.
'I was sold out'
Lawyers for Johnson went to the federal courts to halt the punishment, contending prosecutors withheld evidence favorable to him. Harris County prosecutors and state lawyers denied the allegations.
After a brief delay beyond the 6 p.m. CT scheduled execution time, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeals, clearing the way for the lethal injection.
"What I got wasn't justice," Johnson told The Associated Press from death row last week. "I feel like I was betrayed. I feel like I was sold out. They threw me to the wolves."
Johnson contended the teens offered him a ride home from a convenience store in Tomball in northwest Harris County and he accepted. During the ride, Johnson said they pulled a gun on him and when he wrestled with the pair to grab the weapon, they were shot.
"You do what you have to do," he said. "If I could have run, I'd have done that."
'I was not thinking clearly'
The bodies of McCaffrey, known as "Punkin," and Schulz, known to his family and friends as "Bubba," were spotted the next morning by a motorist. Johnson acknowledged taking their pickup truck and driving to Austin to see his girlfriend, who worked at a topless club. He traded the gun to buy some drugs, he said.
"I did a few knucklehead things," he said. "When things like this are going on, you're not going to think clearly. I was not thinking clearly."
He was arrested about two weeks later in Austin.
McCaffrey and Schultz attended Magnolia High School in Montgomery County. The night of Aug. 15, 1990, McCaffrey met his friend getting off work as a grocery store stocker, and the pair stopped at the convenience store to see a girl they knew. According to the store clerk, Johnson said he needed a lift because his car had broken down.
"He was such a non-racist person, such a gentle person," said Chris Schulz, whose son was killed. "He would just help anybody, and that's what this is all about."
"In no way were they racists," added Laura McCaffrey, who also lost her son. "They were friends with anybody."
Both women witnessed the execution.
"I won't say we're looking forward to it, but it's something we've been wanting to be done," Schulz said. "I do believe he's a very vicious man that chose to do this, so he deserves his punishment. He deserved it a long time ago.
"He's scratching for his life, but he didn't give my son and his friend the same chance."
'A grim milestone'
Johnson had no previous prison record, but evidence at trial indicated a history of aggressive behavior, primarily fights with women. He also got into numerous fights with other inmates at the Harris County Jail while awaiting trial. Johnson said he was just trying to keep safe from other inmates.
Death penalty opponents noted Johnson would be the 100th person executed after being given a death sentence by a Harris County jury. The total for the county is more than any other state except Texas, where Johnson would be 398th convicted killer to receive lethal injection since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982.
"A grim milestone for a system that is costly, racially biased and may have put innocent men to death," said Jared Feuer, southern regional director for the human rights group Amnesty International, which opposes capital punishment in all instances.
The next Texas inmate scheduled to die is Kenneth Parr, convicted of the January 1998 rape-slaying of Linda Malek, 28, at her Matagorda County home. The Aug. 15 punishment is one of five lethal injections set for the month in Huntsville.