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Texas set to execute Justen Hall for murder of woman in El Paso



Jenevieve Robbins for Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas is set to execute Justen Hall on Wednesday night for the 2002 slaying of a woman in El Paso.

Hall, 38, is scheduled to be the eighth person executed in Texas in 2019. His lawyers filed a motion last month asking an El Paso court to push back Hall’s execution date until experts can evaluate his competency. The motion states Hall has refused contact with counsel for at least two years and argues that signals a drastic decline in his already troubled mental state.

Hall has stated he is competent to represent himself — and two doctors agreed in 2017. He has asked courts to waive his appeals and schedule an execution date.

“I do not like the person I have become, and I need to be put down like the rabid dog that I am,” he wrote to a trial judge on Oct. 6, 2016.

But Hall’s attorneys have questioned his competency, pointing to a history of delusion, paranoia and suicidal behavior. In January, a court ruled against reconsidering Hall’s competency.

“Mr. Hall’s campaign to drop all appeals and cut off all communication with his counsel for the past two and a half years further confirms that he is being driven by his paranoid delusions to seek to use the State’s power to facilitate his own self-destruction,” the attorneys wrote in their motion to an El Paso district court.

Hall, identified in court documents as a district captain of a white nationalist gang, was convicted in the strangling of Melanie Billhartz in El Paso.

On Oct. 28, 2002, Billhartz and Ted Murgatroyd, an alleged gang prospect, got into an argument near a drug house, according to court documents. After Billhartz threatened to call the police — drawing authorities to the gang’s meth lab — she disappeared with Hall in her truck. Murgatroyd said Hall came back hours later with Billhartz’s body in the back of the cab, according to court records. Hall told Murgatroyd to get a shovel and machete to bury Billhartz. The two drove to New Mexico, where Hall told Murgatroyd to cut off the victim’s fingers to prevent DNA from being found before dumping Billhartz’s body, records state.

Weeks later, Murgatroyd led investigators to the body. Hall, then 21, was arrested later that day and confessed to the killing on Nov. 25, 2002.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2005.

In 2013, the Texas state defender’s Office of Capital and Forensic Writs filed a motion asking for “touch” DNA testing on the electrical cord used to strangle Billhartz. Attorneys argued the new evidence could “show that someone other than [Hall] used the ligature to strangle the victim.” They contended that Hall’s confession “should be viewed in light of his mental state at the time” and alleged a lack of concrete evidence tying Hall to the crime scene.

The motion prompted a battle between Hall and his attorneys. In 2016, Hall filed two motions on his own to withdraw the state defenders’ DNA testing motion and to set an execution date.

“These walls 24/7 have broken me. It is taking every last ounce of will to even make it from day to day,” Hall wrote.

That December, he told the trial court he would not file any more appeals or motions, and that anything filed on his behalf “should be disregarded.”

At a hearing the following spring, Hall’s attorneys told the court their client had attempted suicide in November 2016 and that his psychiatric health was worsening. Hall said a test would reveal his DNA on the electrical cord, adding that he was competent to represent himself.

The trial court denied the DNA testing motion and ordered Hall to be reevaluated for competency. Two doctors determined Hall was competent enough to waive representation.

After his attorneys appealed the denial, Hall filed a declaration stating he wished to waive any further appeals and have his sentence carried out. He admitted his guilt and added that the DNA motion was a “stall tactic.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals in January upheld the trial court’s decision to deny DNA testing and ruled against reconsidering Hall’s competency.

Hall’s execution is set to be carried out in Huntsville after 6 p.m. Seven other executions are scheduled in Texas through April.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at


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Former police officers accused of providing false information that caused deadly drug raid



Houston Police Department

HOUSTON, Texas — A thorough investigation has led to the arrest of two former Houston police officers accused of providing false information that caused a deadly drug raid earlier this year.

Sources from FOX News say former officers Gerald Goines (left) and Steven Bryant (right) were arrested in connection with the drug raid that occurred on January 28.

A civilian identified as Patricia Garcia was also arrested due to her alleged involvement in the incident.

Reports say 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas and 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle were killed in their home during the drug raid.

Five officers were wounded as well, according to FOX, including Goines who was shot during the raid.

Goines is reportedly being Charged with seven counts, including lying in a search warrant and making up an informant who he allegedly said had bought drugs from the home.

He allegedly confessed to buying the drugs himself.

Bryant has been Charged with falsifying records, having allegedly claimed he identified a substance bought from the home as heroin.

FOX says Garcia was Charged with providing false information.

Garcia allegedly called 911 and claimed the people inside the home were drug dealers that were using crack and heroin.

According to the DOJ, she reportedly told police that she could see her daughter inside the home.

Reports say police went to the residence after receiving the call from Garcia.

Gunfire erupted inside the home, leaving Rhogena and Dennis dead and five officers injured.

One of the officers was left paralyzed after the raid, according to FOX.

Goines and Bryant were reportedly relieved of duty after the raid and retired.

Police say they realized Goines had made up the informant when they could not find him during the investigation into the incident.

Authorities reportedly found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine inside the home, but no heroin.

FOX says family and friends of Rhogena and Dennis told police the two never sold drugs.

Goines is reportedly facing up to life in prison.

Sources say Bryant is facing up to 20 years if he is convicted.

Garcia is facing up to five years in prison.

Sources say the former officers are facing state Charges as well.

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Deputy accused of stealing from tornado-damaged Home Depot he was guarding



Dallas County Sheriff's Office

DALLAS, Texas — A Dallas County Deputy was arrested earlier this afternoon for allegedly stealing from a Home Depot that had been badly damaged by a tornado last month.

The deputy’s mugshot and bond information are currently unavailable.

Sources with CBSDFW say the Deputy, identified as Joseph Bobadilla, had been working off-duty as a guard at the Home Depot located on Forest Lane.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department said Bobadilla has been Charged with Theft of Property worth $750 to $2,500, which will be enhanced due to him being a public servant.

Bobadilla allegedly took products from the damaged store, exchanged them at a different Home Depot for store credit, and used that credit to purchase items.

CBSDFW says police removed a new laundry machine from Bobadilla’s home after executing a search warrant at his residence.

“The Dallas Sheriff’s Office does not condone or support employees that break the law,” said Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown. “Our core values are integrity, professionalism and accountability and as a result, we will follow the proper procedures and guidelines in place to uphold the law and ensure the deputy is held responsible for his actions.”

Texas Breaking News will update you once more information on this ongoing investigation is available.

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Gun owner shot and killed while trying to stop robbery



Houston Police Department

HOUSTON, Texas Houston Police are searching for two male suspects who shot and killed a man while robbing a pawn shop.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the robbery took place Wednesday night in southwest Houston when two masked men entered the EZ Pawn store located in the 6000 block of Bellaire Boulevard.

Police say the masked men forced employees onto their knees and rushed to the back of the store while a citizen with a licensed concealed handgun waited for them to return to the front of the store.

Once the suspected robbers went back to the front, the citizen drew his gun and reportedly exchanged gunfire with the two suspects.

Sources say the citizen was struck several times and fell to the floor.

The suspects then fled the scene; Police are not sure if either of them was shot.

The injured gunowner was rushed to a nearby hospital where sources say he was pronounced dead.

The two suspects are still at large and are currently wanted by law enforcement.

They are only described as black males in their early to mid-20s.

One suspect was wearing a white jacket and grey hood, blue sweatpants, white shoes and a black mask.

The other suspect wore a grey hoodie, white pants, white shoes and a red mask.

If you have any information on the suspects, contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.


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