On October 31, 1981 somebody entered the St. Francis Roman Catholic Convent in Amarillo, Texas and raped, beat, and stabbed a 76-year-old nun named Tadea Benz to death. After the crime, police soon turned their attention to a 17-year-old teenager named Johnny Frank Garrett.
On November 9, 1981 Garrett was arrested by the police for the murder of Benz after circumstantial evidence was gathered against him, including his fingerprints at the scene. During his interviews, it was soon realized that Garrett was mentally slow because he was viciously abused by his stepfather and experienced severe brain damage.
During the interrogation of Garrett, police said he gave a written confession detailing the murder of Benz. However, Garrett refused to sign the confession and later recanted any responsibility in the crime. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial, conviction, and death by way of execution. During the trial, Garrett took the stand and denied raping or murdering Sister Benz. However, he said that he entered the convent two days before the crime looking for items to steal. He said that he entered multiple rooms and left fingerprints. After a short deliberation, Johnny Garrett was found guilty of the murder of Sister Benz and sentenced to death.
On February 11, 1992 he was executed in the state of Texas. Johnny Garrett was scheduled to be executed in early January of 1992, but was given a month reprieve due to the urging of Pope John Paul II. Despite fingerprint evidence against Garrett, a large amount of important facts were ignored by the jury, including statements where multiple witnesses saw a dark skinned man near the convent at the time of the murder. Also, Garrett’s case involved a pathologist named Ralph Erdmann who was later accused of evidence tampering and perjury. Erdmann discarded valuable semen samples during the autopsy of Benz.
In the years following her son’s execution, Johnny Garrett’s mother attempted to get him exonerated due to DNA evidence found at the scene that didn’t match her sons. However, the state of Texas has refused and even threatened her with a lawsuit.
In 2004, the entire case against Garret was turned upside down when it was revealed that DNA evidence identified a man named Leoncio Perez Rueda as the rapist and murderer of another elderly woman named Narnie Box Bryson, who was killed near Amarillo four months prior to Sister Benz. Immediately, the investigators knew the cases were connected because the killer used the same type of murder weapon, inflicted similar wounds, and left black hairs on both bodies. After a DNA test, it was proven beyond a doubt that Rueda’s black hairs were found on the body of Sister Benz. Rueda’s fingerprints were also found in the convent where Sister Benz was murdered. Rueda was arrested by the police and admitted to the murder of Narnie Bryson and the attack of a nun in Amarillo. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Despite the DNA evidence, the state of Texas refuses to exonerate Johnny Garrett for the murder. His final words were reported: “I’d like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my ass.”
Source Credits: Listverse