A woman pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the beheadings of her three young children and was spared the death penalty in a deal with prosecutors.
Angela Camacho, 25, will receive three concurrent life prison sentences and will be eligible for parole in 40 years. Had she been convicted and sentenced to death, she would have become the first female Mexican national on Texas' death row.
Camacho and 24-year-old John Allen Rubio, her common-law husband, were accused of strangling and decapitating 3-year-old Julissa Quezada, 1-year-old John Esthefan Rubio and 2-month-old Mary Jane Rubio in 2003.
Mental health a factor
A relative who came upon the scene called police, who found the girls stuffed in a trash bag and the boy's body on a bed. The couple told police they thought the children were possessed.
Rubio was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death after he requested that sentence. He has since decided to fight it, and in February he was found competent to choose his attorney for the appeal.
According to evidence during Rubio's trial, he had inhaled so much spray paint that he had damaged his brain and might have been psychotic.
Camacho, whose case was tied up for more than two years because of questions about her mental health, answered state District Judge Benjamin Euresti's questions in Spanish as he accepted her guilty plea.
"Culpable," she said, the Spanish word for "guilty."
"I hope that God will touch your heart and that you ask for forgiveness," Euresti said. "Good luck to you." She appeared to nod.
Deportation after serving jail time?
Alberto Pullen, one of Camacho's attorneys, said she would face deportation after she serves her sentence. He said she wants to stay in the U.S. Prosecutors said they doubted Camacho would ever be set free.
Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who has been in office since January, said the plea deal was better than a costly fight for a death sentence that might later be commuted to life. He estimated such a trial and appeals would cost $6 million.
The Mexican government opposes the death penalty and had confirmed to prosecutors that their lawyers were ready to appeal a death sentence.
"The decision to remove the death penalty in our plea-bargaining was truly the most agonizing decision of my first six months of office," Villalobos said. "However, we felt that the real battle would be in the 12 to 15 years after the jury trial, that would take place in the appellate and supreme courts of Texas and the United States."
He said Camacho would be transferred to a state prison in Huntsville, and probably would be kept in isolation for protection from inmates.
"She murdered children, babies," Villalobos said. "As odd as it may seem, the prisoners have their own hierarchy."
Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia said the crime was the most gruesome the department had seen and that he felt "justice has been served."
Ernesto Gamez, another Camacho attorney, said he was pleased with the sentence.
"Angela Camacho accepted life," he said.