January 10, 2014
Rigoberto Avila Jr.’s execution was scheduled for 6 pm CST, on January 15, 2014, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. The execution has been stayed. Forty-one-year-old Rigoberto was to be executed for the murder of 19-month-old Nicholas Macias on February 29, 2000, in El Paso, Texas. Rigoberto was sentence in July of 2001, and has spent the past 12 years on death row.
Between 6:00 and 6:15 pm on February 29, 2000, Marcelina Macias left her home to attend a class. Her 19-month-old son Nicholas, and her 4-year-old son Dylan, were left in the care of Rigoberto Avila, a former member of the United States Navy and Marcelina's boyfriend of four months. Roughly one hour later, police received an emergency call from Avila saying that one of the children he was babysitting had stopped breathing.
Paramedics arrived a short time later and began treating the boy. Once at the hospital, doctors attempted to surgically repair damage done to Nicholas’ intestines and other abdominal related injuries, but were unsuccessful and Nicholas died that night.
An autopsy later revealed that several major organs in Nicholas’ body had been split in two by considerable blunt force trauma. The autopsy reported noted that Nicholas had “died of internal bleeding due to massive abdominal trauma resulting from blunt force injury.” Also found was an oval shaped bruise on Nicholas’ abdomen.
Police questioned Avila that night. In his first signed statement, which Avila initialed every paragraph and signed at the end, Avila said that he was watching television while the boys played in another room. The boys often played roughly and Dylan liked to mimic the moves he saw wrestlers performing on television. About one hour later, Dylan came out to living room and told Avila that Nicholas had stopped breathing, at which point Avila called the paramedics. A second statement was signed by Avila early the next morning, in which Avila confessed to killing Nicholas. Unlike the first statement, which had every paragraph initialed, Avila only placed his signature at the end. According to Avila, he was unaware that the detective had added a confession to the second statement. He simply signed at the end of the statement, without reading, because he trusted the detective and was tired.
At Avila’s trial, medical personnel testified that it would have been impossible for a child of Dylan’s size to inflict the severe injuries that killed Nicholas. Further testimony at the trial compared Nicholas’ injuries to those caused by jumping from an automobile traveling 60 miles per hour or being dropped twenty feet. Additionally, the oval shaped bruise was speculated to be shoe print, which, due to its size, did not belong to Dylan. Avila maintained his innocence at his trial, repeated that he did not know he was signing a confession.
Now, the scientific evidence of the case, or lack thereof, is being question. Under a new Texas law, inmates are allowed to appeal if newer science contradicts the science presented at an inmate’s original trial. Avila and his attorneys claim this law applies to him. Avila’s case is unusual. Unlike a majority of cases, there is no DNA evidence to point to the murderer. Avila was convicted because it was determined that there was no possible way Dylan could have caused the severe internal damage that ultimately led to Nicholas’ death. Now, there is evidence which shows that a child of Dylan’s size could have caused the severe internal damage. Avila and his attorneys wish to use this evidence to garner a new trial.
This is not the first time Rigoberto Avila has had his execution stayed. Rigoberto first faced execution on December 12, 2012. For unknown reasons, the execution was rescheduled for April 10, 2013. The second execution was postponed until July 10, 2013, to allow his attorney additional time to explore the possibility the Rigoberto was innocent. The July execution was postponed to explore the possible evidence of Rigoberto’s claim of innocence. His January execution has been postponed due to Texas’ new law.
Please pray for peace for the family of Nicholas Macias. Please pray for strength for the family of Rigoberto. Please pray for wisdom for all those involved in Rigoberto’s case and that justice will prevail. Please pray that Rigoberto may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.