A child killer sentenced to death for the brutal murder of a five-year-old girl has been executed after more than 20 years on death row.
David Santiago Renteria, 53, spoke his final words on the evening of November 16, before being put to death by lethal injection in the ‘execution chamber’ at Huntsville Unit prison in Texas.
He was convicted of luring Alexandra Flores from the toy aisle at a Walmart department store in El Paso when she was Christmas shopping with her family in November 2001.
Grainy surveillance footage showed Flores leaving the store with Renteria at 5.15pm.
It was the last time she would ever be seen alive.
Her naked and burnt body was found in a carport at 7.10am the next day, about 30km away from where she was kidnapped.
Renteria allegedly strangled Flores before lighting her body on fire, in a bid to destroy any evidence of his heinous crime.
He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in September 2003.
Renteria has maintained that he did not kill Flores throughout the years and appealed the death penalty multiple times, however his sentence upheld each time.
Chilling final words
On the day of his execution, the victim’s family sat and watched the lethal injection being administered until Renteria was pronounced dead.
His family was also in attendance, but watched the execution in a different room, with glass windows separating the witnesses from Renteria.
His sister Cecilia Esparza reportedly collapsed when she walked into the viewing room, and prison officials brought her a chair to sit on.
Renteria told his sister through the glass, “I love you.”
One of his victims from a different criminal incident, along with her mother, also attended the execution. Renteria was previously convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for indecency with a child in El Paso.
There were 14 state law enforcement and governmental officials also present.
He prayed before singing a hymn in English and another in Spanish, while asking for forgiveness from his family.
Renteria acknowledged the victim’s family, stating that where was not a day that went by that he did not think about what he did.
“No words can describe what you are going through,” he said as he was strapped to a gurney, according to the El Paso Times.
“I’m sorry for all the wrongs I have done.”
The very final words he said have shocked many around the world.
“And for those who have called for my death, who are about to murder me: I forgive you.”
Renteria grew up in Texas and was a tribal member of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.
While in prison, he reportedly rededicated himself to his Roman Catholic faith.
Lured from the toy aisle
Renteria’s execution came just two days before the 22nd anniversary of when he kidnapped Alexandra Flores.
She had been admiring the toys at Walmart when Renteria approached and lured her outside. How he did this remains unknown.
He parents quickly realised she was missing and frantically searched the store, but could not find her.
Alexandra, who was the youngest of eight children, was strangled to death by Renteria.
Her body was set on fire, with court documents stating there was no sign of sexual assault.
A palm print on a plastic bag found over her head was determined to be from Renteria.
Police also tracked down his car, which had been parked outside the Walmart at the time and date of Flores’ disappearance.
He went to trial for her death in September 2003, but claimed that gang members forced him to kidnap the girl.
While he admitted to abducting Flores, he has always maintained that it was not him who killed her.
Day of execution
In the days leading up to his execution, Renteria met with visitors, laid in bed, watched TV through a cell door and spent a lot of time sleeping.
According to prison officials, the day of his execution Renteria sat on his bed and began writing in the early hours of the morning, before he began packing up his property.
He sat on the floor reading a book, before cleaning the floor and talking to some of his fellow inmates.
Renteria then met with visitors for three and a half hours, before being transported to the execution unit to await his fate.
El Paso Country Sheriff, Richard Wiles, explained that he was assistant chief in the area when the crime took place, and expressed his support of the execution.
“I’ve always been a supporter of the death penalty and from a law enforcement perspective, I just think some people are too dangerous to be in our society,” he said.
“That is certainly one individual who I think that the death penalty is absolutely appropriate. It’s a long time coming.
“I think it’s been what? Twenty-one years. I was actually the assistant (El Paso police) chief, (Carlos) Leon was the chief when that horrific crime occurred.
“It was really tough on everybody. I can’t even imagine what that family went through and what they’re still going through today.
“Hopefully, this will give them a little bit of relief to help them in their recovery that is going to take the rest of their lives.
“I can’t even imagine losing my five-year-old daughter to such a horrific crime.”
Carlos Leon – who was the police chief at the time of the murder – remembered the devastating case.
“I think that during my five years as chief that was one of, I think one of the deepest cuts that we had in El Paso, because the entire community was very distraught about what had just happened,’” he told KFOX14.
“I wish I had a button where I would delete a certain memory. And that sure would have been one of them.
“I promised the mum that we would find the killer and the reason I did that was because I had so much confidence in the great detectives we had.”
‘Now you can rest’
Alexandra Flores’ siblings – older sister Sandra Frausto and brother Ignacio Frausto – witnessed the execution.
“Baby sister, we are two days short of your anniversary,” Sandra said during a press conference.
“Twenty-two years ago, you were robbed of what would have been a beautiful life at 27 years old. And as we stand here today, now you can truly rest in peace.
“Your contagious laugh, your perfect smile, and your mischievous but sweet, innocent personality will forever echo and live in our hearts.”
Flores’ brother also made a touching speech in honour of his sister.
“I just want to emphasise by holding our sister’s photos, the happy moments,” he said, as he cried and pointed to a collage of Alexandra’s photos.
“This is who my baby sister was right here. I want to emphasise that. I want to recognise her, not forget about her.”
The execution was one of two carried out on that day in the United States and Renteria was the eighth inmate in Texas put to death this year.
In Alabama, prisoner Casey McWhorter was put to death the same day for the fatal shooting of a man during a 1993 robbery.
There have been 23 executions in the US this year.