By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Texas is scheduled to execute by lethal injection on Thursday a man who shot dead his wife on the day she tried to leave him, and killed a policeman who came to the home to check out a domestic disturbance call.
Texas officials said Frank Garcia, 39, gunned down Jessica Garcia in 2001 after she tried to leave her abusive husband. He killed police officer Hector Garza, 49, when he arrived at the home to check out a disturbance.
The Garcia's 5-year-old daughter witnessed both murders, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Frank Garcia shot Garza first, three times, and then shot his wife six times. He also shot and wounded his wife's uncle, according to the Department.
Shots he fired outside the house damaged a nearby elementary school, according to the Texas Attorney General's office. Garcia gave a formal statement in which he admitted intentionally killing his wife and Garza, the attorney general's office said. Evidence presented in the trial showed that Jessica Garcia had once sought help from a battered women's shelter, according to the attorney general's office.
Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, who prosecuted the case, said she plans to attend the execution in Huntsville, Texas. She called the murders "a huge tragedy."
"If there was ever a poster child for the death penalty, this is the case," Reed said. "Hector Garza, a fine officer; Jessica Garcia, a woman who is trying to leave an abusive situation, and this huge tragedy happens to all of them."
The San Antonio Police Department said in a statement on behalf of Garza's family that the officer was a devoted husband and father who was committed to protecting his community.
"Though the execution does not bring complete closure to Hector's family, as we all miss him dearly, it comforts us to know that Frank Garcia will never destroy another family," the statement said.
Garcia's execution would be the 12th this year in Texas, which has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There have been 38 executions this year in the United States, according to the Center.
Texas last month abolished the long-held tradition of allowing condemned inmates to order what they want for their last meal. Instead, inmates are to receive what other prisoners are served.
(Writing by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune)