Appeal refused for condemned man

June 23, 2008 3:06:03 PM PDT
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review the capital murder conviction of a San Antonio man sent to death row for fatally stabbing a woman after crawling through a window into her home.The decision from the high court moves Luis Cervantes Salazar closer to execution for the slaying more than a decade ago of Martha Denise Sanchez at her northwest San Antonio home. He does not yet have a death date.

The woman's 10-year-old son was wounded in the attack, but survived to identify Salazar in court as the killer.

Sanchez was stabbed six times, including once in the throat, in what prosecutors said was an intended sexual attack. Two other children were asleep with her in bed at the time, a 6-month-old boy and 2-year-old girl, but were not hurt. The victim's husband was at work.

The 10-year-old, who was awakened by his mother's screams, testified how his mother called out Salazar's first name, asking him why he was attacking her. The boy also testified he was stabbed in the chest as he tried to fend off the attack on his mother and showed a jury at Salazar's 1998 trial the scar from his injuries.

The wounded child ran to a neighbor's house so police could be called. Salazar fled but later called police and turned himself in.

Defense lawyers had urged a Bexar County jury to be compassionate with Salazar and give him a life sentence because he had an abusive childhood. The jury deliberated more than nine hours before deciding on the death penalty.

Salazar testified he had been drinking and using drugs when he entered the home, believing it was his, and thought Sanchez and her children were the intruders. So he picked up a knife and stabbed her, he said.

Besides acknowledging he stabbed her to death, he testified "that he found her attractive, he desired to have intercourse with her and he had recently propositioned her," according to a December 2007 appeals court ruling upholding his conviction.

"Salazar also admitted that he told his wife before the murder that violence made him feel good and that he had dreams about killing people," the court documents said.

He had lived in the house next door for about three years until a month before the slaying and testified he was too drunk to make it to his new place. Salazar was known to his victim and her family. Court records showed her husband had helped him get a job at a K mart store where he worked.

Prosecutors, under cross examination, tried to discount Salazar's version of the killing by saying police found the phone lines cut at the woman's home. He denied cutting the wires.

In earlier appeals, Salazar argued unsuccessfully his trial lawyers were deficient.

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