Killer's girlfriend testifies in murder retrial

May 11, 2009 5:19:15 PM PDT
It's been an emotional day in the courtroom in the capital murder re-trial of Robert Fratta. He's the former Missouri City cop accused in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his own wife. On the stand was the girlfriend of one of the men now on death row for Farah Fratta's murder. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Mary Gipp spent most of her time on the stand crying. In 1994, her boyfriend was Joseph Prystash, a man already convicted of capital murder and sent to death row for his involvement in the murder of Farah Fratta. Gipp testified in Robert Fratta's first capital murder trial. Today she was just as tearful as she was 15 years ago.

Prosecutor Denise Bradley asked Gipp, "Did Joseph Prystash tell you what his role would be in the murder?"

"Yes," answered Gipp.

Bradley continued, "What did he tell you his role would be?"

"He was the driver," testified Gipp.

Gipp began to break down when she testified about what happened next.

Bradley asked, "Did you do anything to warn Farah Fratta this murder would happen?"

"Yes," said Gipp.

"What did you do? Did you call her?" Bradley wanted to know.

"No, I didn't," said Gipp.

Bradley asked, "Did you try to talk Prystash out of it?"

"No, I didn't," testified Gipp.

Gipp went on to testify that on the day of Farah Fratta's murder, Prystash came to her apartment with a gun.

"He unloaded the gun," said Gipp. "He threw the shells in the kitchen garbage can."

Prosecutors allege Robert Fratta hired Prystash and Howard Guidry to kill Fratta's wife, Farah. Prystash drove the getaway car. Guidry, also already convicted and on death row, fired the gun. Since Prystash and Guidry have invoked their right against self-incrimination, it's Gipp's testimony prosecutors are relying on to convict Fratta. However, much of Gipp's testimony was ruled hearsay and inadmissible, meaning she heard about the plot secondhand. But the judge granted an exception.

"If everybody is in a conspiracy together and you can prove that it's a conspiracy to kill, then statements made in course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy, are allowed," explained KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy.

Gipp spent much of her time on the stand crying with prosecutors and being argumentative with the defense. At one point she had to excuse herself to the restroom during her testimony because she was starting to become ill on the stand.

Gipp had intentionally been charged with tampering with evidence, but that charge was later dismissed because she cooperated with prosecutors in Robert Fratta's first trial years ago.

Fratta is charged with capital murder, and if he is convicted in this retrial, he would face the death penalty.

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