Johnny Garrett

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Johnny Garrett
Born (1963-12-24)December 24, 1963
Died February 11, 1992(1992-02-11) (aged 28)
Huntsville, Texas
Criminal status Executed
Conviction(s) rape and murder

Johnny Frank Garrett (December 24, 1963 – February 11, 1992) was a Texas inmate executed for the October 31, 1981 rape and murder of 76-year-old nun Tadea Benz. Years after his execution, serious doubts about his guilt were raised.


The federal court of appeals (5th Circuit) summarized the evidence against Garrett as follows:

"The evidence against the accused was overwhelming. Garrett was seen running from the direction of the convent on the night of the murder. Prints found on the handle and blade of the kitchen knife recovered from under the victim's bed and prints from the bed headboard matched Garrett's. Pubic hairs recovered from the scene were determined to have the same individual characteristics as Garrett's. The steak knife found in the driveway of the convent was of the same manufacture, design and make, and had the same degree of use as another steak knife recovered from Garrett's residence.

"The state also offered the testimony of Lonnie Watley, an inmate and trustee of the Potter County Jail during Garrett's pretrial incarceration. Watley testified that Garrett originally denied committing the offense, but eventually admitted to breaking into the convent and killing the nun.

"Garrett testified in his own defense and denied raping or murdering Sister Benz. Garrett testified that he entered the convent two days before the murder looking for items to steal. According to his testimony, he entered the convent through the front door shortly after noon and proceeded into the medication room and the cafeteria, where he picked up the kitchen knife. He testified that he then went into several of the bedrooms. In one bedroom he bent the knife in prying open a locked drawer. He explained his fingerprints on the headboard of Sister Benz' bed by stating that he grabbed the headboard so he could lean over and reach a cross on the wall. He testified that he heard a noise in the convent and fled. Garrett testified that he went to his mother's house at approximately 10:20 p.m. on October 30 and did not leave until later the next morning.

"The state sought to impeach Garrett with an oral statement that he allegedly gave the police shortly after his arrest on November 9, 1981. Two police officers testified that, after they reduced Garrett's statement to writing, Garrett agreed that it was true but refused to sign it until after he consulted counsel. After consulting counsel, Garrett declined to sign the statement. In the statement attributed to Garrett by the police, Garrett admitted breaking into the convent by knocking out a window on the bottom floor. He admitted going into a nun's room. He stated that:

"There was a nun in bed and she acted as if she was going to scream. I covered her mouth so she couldn't make any noise. I started choking her until she passed out. I had sex with her. I left the convent the way I came in."

Garrett denied making the statement. He testified that the police officer would "say something, and I would say, ‘put it down,’ he would say something else and I said ‘go ahead and put it down.’ Then he said ‘sign this.’ I said, ‘I ain't signing nothing.’

On rebuttal, Sister Bernice Noggler testified that, contrary to Garrett's testimony, the front door of the convent is ordinarily locked and no one could enter the cafeteria around the noon hour without being noticed. She also denied that any of the chests in the convent were locked or that any valuables had been reported missing. She also denied that Sister Benz ever had a cross hanging above her headboard. The state also presented rebuttal witnesses who lived near Garrett's mother. One neighbor testified that Garrett was seen prowling around an elderly woman's home in the neighborhood on the night of the murder. The second neighbor testified that Garrett came to his house at approximately 11:00 the same evening. [1]

His defense brought in forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis to examine him. She found him to have severe childhood trauma and significant brain damage. He also had multiple personalities, one of which, "Aaron", Dr. Lewis claims described committing the rape to Dr. Lewis, but still repeatedly denying that either personality committed the murder. The confession described in Dr. Lewis' book consists of a claim by Lewis that Garrett stated that one personality (Johnny) wanted sex, and so the other personality (Aaron) found a woman and raped her. Garrett also denied making any confession, and no recordings of the supposed confession exist.[2]

Garrett stood by his claim of innocence from the time of his arrest until his execution. In 2004, attorneys for Garrett's family requested a reexamination of physical evidence involved in the case, using DNA testing and other forensic techniques not available at the time. The Amarillo District Attorney responded that police had destroyed any evidentiary materials in their possession after Garrett's execution. She further maintained that evidence of Garrett's guilt was "compelling", and that any allegations implying otherwise were "unsubstantiated".[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garrett v. Lynaugh, 842 F.2d 113 (5th Cir. 1988).
  2. ^ Lewis, Dorothy Otnow. Guilty by Reason of Insanity. Ivy Books, 1999. ISBN 978-0-8041-1887-3
  3. ^ Photo Gallery, FBI Documents Gallery, Police Reports Gallery, Crime Scene and Evidence Gallery, Correspondence Gallery, Videotape Interviews, and Full Case Documentation, by Bloodshed Books Corporation,

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