Moments away from death one night in March 2000 in the desert near northeast El Paso, Sophia Martinez asked her assailant to let her hold a picture of a younger brother.
On Thursday afternoon, Martinez’s family witnessed the execution of her killer, William Josef Berkley, in Huntsville, Texas. It wasn’t something they needed to do to receive closure. Witnessing the execution was about Martinez’s murder.
“The night she was murdered she had no fanfare. There was no witness list, no chaplain to pray for her, no appeals, (and) no last meal.” Martinez’s sister, MaryAnn Martinez said after witnessing the execution. “We weren’t there the night she died, the night she needed us the most. That’s why we had to be here to represent her.”
Berkley, 31, was convicted in 2002 in Martinez’s murder. Evidence presented in the case showed he robbed, raped and murdered 18-year-old Martinez. Berkley maintained his innocence to the very end.
“I didn’t kill her,” Berkley told ABC-7 the day before his execution. “My heart goes out to her family. I hope they get the closure they’re looking for. I feel for them. I hope the truth comes out, eventually it will.”
Berkley addressed his girlfriend and a friend in his last words before dying, but he did not say anything to the Martinez family. El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza also witnessed the execution.
Berkley’s last words were for the warden to “let ‘er rip.”
Berkley was pronounced dead at 5:18 p.m. El Paso time.
“Today is not about revenge, it’s not about closure,” MaryAnn Martinez said after the execution. “Making peace with her death only comes from God. Today is not about anyone else other than my sister.”
Written for the Web by Web Producer Leonard Martinez