A 50-year old man who was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a grandmother in 1986 was put to death on Wednesday in front of nine members of the victim's family, a first for the state of Arizona.
The inmate, Samuel Villegas Lopez, was sentenced to death by lethal injection and had been unanimously denied clemency by board members last week due to the brutal nature of his crime. He has been called "the worst of the worst" by those familiar with the murder.
Lopez said he lost entire days around the time of the murder because he was heavily into huffing paint, and has no memory of committing any wrongdoing. His victim, 59-year old Estefana Holmes, was viciously raped and stabbed multiple times in various parts of her body, including her face. The DNA sample police obtained from her body matched one taken from a rape victim just a week later, which tied Lopez to the murder.
Holmes' family members sat silently and watched the execution on video monitors just outside the death chamber, where Lopez received two IVs which injected him with a lethal dose of drugs. Her brother, Victor Arguijo, spoke about the long and painful process afterward.
"It's been a long and difficult and frustrating road," Arguijo said. "We now know and have confidence that the judicial system works for victims and their families even though at times our faith has wavered."
Arizona currently has 125 inmates on death row, and five of those have been in longer than 20 years. Still, the state has one of the highest records for executions, with three more set to occur this year.