John Battaglia's capital murder trial ended in 2002.
John Battaglia's capital murder trial ended in 2002.
Mark Graham

Dallas Child Killer John Battaglia's Execution Set — for the Third Time

Barring another appeal, the state of Texas will execute notorious Deep Ellum child killer John Battaglia early next year, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Tuesday. Battaglia shot his two daughters, Mary Faith and Liberty, in 2001 as their mother listened on the telephone. He's been on death row in Livingston since his capital murder trial ended in 2002.

The state of Texas initially set Battaglia's execution for March 30, 2016. That month, Battaglia received a temporary stay of execution from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals so doctors could evaluate his mental state. In Texas, death row inmates must understand both the reasons for execution and that their death is imminent in order to be executed.

Over the next couple of years, Battaglia's lawyers argued that their client suffered from delusions that made him believe he did not kill his daughters. A psychiatrist testified for the state of Texas in November 2016 that he believed Battaglia was either playing up his symptoms or faking. On Dec. 5, Battaglia again dodged execution when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered further arguments on Battaglia's mental state, halting a lower-court ruling that set his execution for Dec. 7. 

In September, the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal court, finally dismissed arguments regardning Battaglia's sanity, paving the way for his execution, now scheduled for Feb. 1, 2018.

If Battaglia is executed that day, he'll die almost 17 years after killing his kids. In 2001, Battaglia shot his two daughters eight times in his Deep Ellum loft shortly after his divorce from his wife, Mary Jean Pearle. Pearle, in the midst of an attempt to get Battaglia's probation for assault revoked because her husband was harassing her on the phone, was speaking with Battaglia as he shot their daughters, according to court testimony.

After killing Liberty and Mary Faith, as detailed in a 2002 Dallas Observer feature, Battaglia drove to an East Dallas tattoo parlor and got two rose tattoos to represent his daughters. He then left an answering machine message for his ex-wife: "Goodnight, my little babies. I hope you are resting in a different place. I love you."

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