Johnny Frank Garrett

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Ellis Unit, where Garrett was held on death row
Huntsville Unit, where Garrett was put to death

Johnny Frank Garrett (December 24, 1963 – February 11, 1992) was a death row prisoner executed by the State of Texas.[1] Garrett vehemently denied committing the crime. In 2004, DNA evidence linked Leoncio Perez Rueda to the crime. Rueda admitted to sexually assaulting a "nun" four months prior to the rape and murder of another elderly woman, Narnie Box Bryson, for which Rueda was convicted. Physical evidence also linked Rueda to the crime, such as hairs found at the scene and on a white T-shirt formerly said to be that of Garrett's.[2]

Early years[edit]

Murder of Benz[edit]

Garrett was accused of the murder of a Catholic nun that took place on October 31, 1981, when he was 17 years old.[1] According to the prosecution, that morning, Garrett raped, strangled, and killed 76-year-old Sister Tadea Benz in the St. Francis Convent. On November 9, 1981, Garrett, who lived across the street from the convent, was arrested.

Trial and execution[edit]

He was tried and convicted for the crime.[3] He was held at Ellis Unit, north of Huntsville, Texas, which at the time held men on the State of Texas's death row.[4] He was originally scheduled to be executed on January 6, 1992, but after Pope John Paul II asked for clemency, Governor of Texas Ann Richards gave him a temporary reprieve. After Richards's reprieve, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles held a hearing on whether Garrett should receive a commutation to life in prison but the death sentence was retained by a 17 to nothing vote. He was ultimately executed at age 28 at Huntsville Unit on February 11, 1992 by lethal injection.[5][1]

His final meal request was ice cream.[6] The TDCJ website has stated since at least 2012 that "this offender declined to make a last statement."[7] However, there are last words of Garrett reported from the time of execution re-quoted frequently, and reported by APBnews as: "I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. The rest of the world can kiss my ass."[8][9][verify]

Director Jesse Quackenbush, a man from Albany, New York who graduated from the University of Houston Law School in 1987 and, that year, moved to Amarillo, made the documentary The Last Word which argues that Garrett was in fact innocent of the crime. He argued that Garrett was the victim of overzealous prosecutors and poor defense attorneys.[3] It was adapted into the semifictional horror film Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Johnny Frank Garrett – Offender Information". Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Death Row Information. 1982-12-15. Retrieved 2016-04-01. Includes scan of original inmate record cover page.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Aaron (2008-08-10). "'The Last Word': A film by Jesse Quackenbush Documentary seeks truth". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  4. ^ "Death Row Facts". Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Death Row Facts. 2007-03-06. Archived from the original on 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  5. ^ "Texas Executes Killer Of A Nun". The New York Times. 1992-02-12. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  6. ^ "Final Meal Requests". Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Death Row Information. 2003-09-12. Archived from the original on 2003-12-02. Retrieved 2007-11-22. Note that Texas ceased offering Last Meals in September 2011.
  7. ^ "Executed Offenders". Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Death Row Information. 2017-12-15. Retrieved 2017-01-14. See also 2012 TDCJ site.
  8. ^ Phillips, Robert Anthony (2000-01-12). "Those Who Died for Juvenile Crimes". Archived from the original on 2002-02-09. was a criminal-justice-centered newsmagazine whose journalistic standards were respected by The New York Times.
  9. ^ The quotation with additional words – "everloving" and "because I'm innocent" – is presented without additional verification in The Last Word (2008 film) by Jesse Quackenbush; Wrongfully Accused #2 (2013 book) by William Webb; and in Let the People in: The Life and Times of Ann Richards (2012 biography) by Jan Reid.
  10. ^ Harvey, Dennis (2016-03-15). "SXSW Film Review: 'Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-03-22.

See also[edit]