Victoria County man scheduled for execution for first time in 86 years
July 13, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.
For the first time in 86 years, a Victoria County man is set for execution.
John Manuel Quintanilla Jr., 36, is to be put to death Tuesday by lethal injection after his conviction in the capital murder case of Victor Billings, 60, of Edna. The execution will be carried out at the state prison in Huntsville.
Billings was at Action Amusement Center, a game room, in the 3800 block of North John Stockbauer Drive on Nov. 24, 2002, with his wife, Linda Billings, when Quintanilla and another man, Jeffrey Alan Bibb, attempted to rob the store, said Dexter Eaves, the Victoria County district attorney when the case was tried.
Billings was a former chief deputy for the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
"Victor stepped in front of the ladies and put himself in danger," Eaves recalled. "He grabbed the rifle and pulled it toward himself and said, 'If you are going to do anything, it is me you are going to get.'
"And John, very cold, just pulled the trigger. Not once, not twice, but gave him the last shot when he was on the ground."
A Victoria County district attorney had not pursued a death penalty case originating in Victoria County since 1927, when Ed Joshlin, a 19-year-old black man, was electrocuted on a rape conviction, according to information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice..
"That decision was a very, very difficult decision to make," Eaves said about Quintanilla. "I made no bones about it to the jury - straight up, I am asking you to kill this guy. And that is hard to do; I'm sitting 6 feet away from him."
Eaves said there were multiple eyewitnesses identifying Quintanilla as the murderer, forensic and physical evidence and a confession by Quintanilla.
Bibb, also convicted of capital murder, received life in prison because he did not pull the trigger, Eaves said. Bibb will be eligible for parole after he serves 40 years of his sentence.
The jury unanimously convicted Quintanilla in December 2004, and he has since exhausted all appeal options, said Steve Tyler, current Victoria County district attorney, who filed the death warrant for the execution.
Quintanilla also shanked, or prison-style stabbed, a guard while awaiting trial for the murder in the Victoria County Jail and was convicted of attempted capital murder, according to Victoria County Jail records.
"What was the jury to do? You have evidence, you have a confession, you have forensics, they are on a violent crime spree, and then he continues to commit violent offenses while incarcerated. You can argue a lot of things, but you can't argue he is innocent," Tyler said.
An online petition, started in Germany, is advocating for Quintanilla's innocence, but Tyler said the petition is not based on facts and was not started by an individual in this county.
Eaves said he will attend the execution Tuesday at the request of Billings' family.
"In this situation, I think the death penalty was the best thing for them. I think there is going to be such a relief after next week, and when this thing is over, they can put it behind them and get on with their life," Eaves said about the Billings family, who declined to comment for this article.
Harrison Stafford, a friend of Victor Billings, said he was not surprised when he heard Billings died protecting his wife and others.
"He was one of the good guys, and I think that was part of the community reaction was that this happened to a really good guy," Stafford said.
Quintanilla's sister, Jennifer Martinez, said her family declined to comment.
"I really, really honestly feel for the Quintanilla family. No matter how bad a thing he did at the time, they are still losing a son, a brother, an uncle, a family member or a good friend. It is a life, and life is very, very precious," Eaves said.