A Murder in Texas
Epilogue – The Fight to Clear Johnny’s Name
From the time of his arrest, until his last words before his execution, Johnny protested his innocence.
Johnny’s mother has asked that the State of Texas exonerate her son with the DNA evidence that was found at the scene. The state has refused, and in fact the state threatened a lawsuit against the family.
After 30 years of torment his sisters Jeana Weaver and Janet Dobbins say they are still hoping to clear Johnny’s name.
In March, 2004, cold-case DNA testing identified Leoncio Perez Rueda as the rapist and murderer of Narnie Box Bryson, the elderly Amarillo victim killed four months prior to the murder of Sister Benz.
Immediately following Sister Benz’s murder, prosecutors and police were certain the two cases were committed by the same assailant. In both cases, the killer left behind a white shirt at the crime scene. In both cases, black curly head hairs were found on the victims and linked to Rueda. Previously unidentified fingerprints in Sister Benz’s room were matched to Rueda. In both cases, the victims suffered matching cuts and stab wounds. And in both cases, witnesses identified dark-skinned men in white shirts at the scene shortly before the killings.
The men linked to Bryson’s murder were initially arrested and identified by witnesses in the Sister Benz case, and in fact prosecutors originally planned to charge one of them with Sister Benz’s murder. Leoncio Perez Rueda had been caught peeping in a window of another elderly woman two weeks before Sister Benz’s death.
Back in his native country, Cuba, Rueda was a former prison inmate who served a sentence for rape and murder.
Twelve years after Garrett’s three injections, in March 2004, the Amarillo police department was informed by the Texas Department of Public safety that a random DNA match was made between semen samples collected from the body of Narnie Box Bryson, the woman killed four months before Sister Benz, and Leoncio Perez Rueda, the man caught peeping in the window of an elderly woman just two weeks prior to Sister Benz’ murder. At the time of the murder, Rueda had been receiving assistance from Catholic Family Services and living with a Catholic family.
Five months after he was arrested, Rueda gave a jailhouse interview to Jesse Quackenbush, an attorney hired by the Garrett family to clear Garrett’s name. In that interview, Rueda admitted to sexually assaulting Narni Box Bryson and [insert dramatic drum roll here] a nun. He claimed, however, he was forced to rape the women by none other than [another drum roll here] Fernando Flores, his long time friend and occasional room mate.
Rueda also admitted that she (Sister Tadea) had previously given him a white, V-neck T-shirt, possibly the very T-shirt found near her body.
Upon his transfer to Texas for trial in the Bryson murder, Rueda was interviewed and admitted not only to the rape of Ms. Bryson, but to having also raped a nun in a later attack in Amarillo. He made the admissions on camera during an interview for the documentary film “The Last Word” detailing the trial and execution of Johnny Garrett. Also on camera, Rueda admitted to recognizing his own shirt in the police photo of the shirt left at the scene of Sister Benz’s murder.
To be exonerated, 47th District Attorney Randall Sims says there are steps that would have to be taken.
“They are going to have to demonstrate to the court that the substance to be tested is still capable of being tested for DNA, it hasn’t been tampered or altered with,” said Sims.
On top of that, his attorneys have to present even more evidence showing he’s not guilty.
Blackburn says easier said than done.
When asked if Blackburn thought anything would be able to clear Garrett’s name, he said, “I doubt it, I doubt it, this is going to be one of those unsolved mysteries of the criminal justice system although it’s really not that unsolved.”
Janet says she will continue to fight to have Johnny cleared.
“Thirty years later, oh my God, it’s a long time, it’s a long time, but I’ll be here in 40 years too still crying for his name to be cleared, that’s all I want,” said Janet.
So, there you have it, folks.
You can draw your own conclusions, but as for myself, I still say there was a murder in Texas.
And an unwillingness on the part of the state to admit that it was a mistake for fear of being sued.
Keep looking for future
HEINOUS CRIMES OF THE 20TH CENTURY