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Texas executes man for murder during 2002 robbery attempt

(Reuters) - Texas executed John Manuel Quintanilla Jr. by lethal injection on Tuesday for the 2002 murder of a man during an attempted robbery of a gaming room.

Quintanilla, 36, was declared dead at 7:32 p.m. CST in Huntsville, Texas, the state department of criminal justice said.

Quintanilla, a criminal with six burglary convictions on his record, was sentenced to die for the shooting death of Victor Billings in Victoria, Texas, about 120 miles southwest of Houston, in November 2002.

His execution was the 19th in the United States and the ninth in Texas this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Another inmate is scheduled for execution in Texas on Thursday.

Texas has executed more inmates than any other state since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the United States in 1976.

Quintanilla's execution brought the number of people put to death in Texas to 501 since capital punishment was reinstated there in 1982, according to the information center.

His final statement was: "I would like to tell my wife that I love her and thank her for all the years of happiness. That will be all, warden."

On the night of the murder, Quintanilla and another man, Jeffrey Bibb, entered the game room carrying rifles and wearing masks made from pantyhose, according to a report by the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Quintanilla pointed the rifle at Billings' wife and an employee of the game room and demanded money, the report said.

When Billings, a retired sheriff's deputy, approached his wife, Quintanilla shot him twice in the torso, the report said.

Billings tried to disarm the gunman by grabbing the rifle, but Quintanilla shot the former lawman a third time as he was on his knees, the report said.

Quintanilla and Bibb escaped with $2,000, the report said. Bibb is serving 60 years in prison for his part in the crime.

Quintanilla declined to allow his attorneys to present mitigating evidence in his defense during the trial's punishment phase and was sentenced to death in 2004, according to the attorney general's report.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks and Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune, Tim Gaynor and Peter Cooney)

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