Texas death row inmate set to be executed for 2002 strangling death

7 days ago

Houston news, Texas news.

A Texas gang member on death row since his sentencing in 2005 will be executed on Wednesday evening for killing 29-year-old Melanie Billhartz over fears she would report his drug activity to police.

Justen Hall, 38, was sentenced to death for the October 2002 murder of Billhartz who was strangled to death with an extension cord in her car in El Paso. The suspect also, with the help of a friend, cut off the victim's fingers with a machete to prevent any DNA from being recovered from the fingernails before burying the body in the New Mexico desert.

Hall's defense team had asked to stop the execution claiming that their client was not competent and has a history of mental illness. But during a March 2017 court hearing, Hall acknowledged killing Billhartz and said that he was "100% competent."