HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A former suburban Houston police officer was executed Tuesday for hiring two people to kill his estranged wife nearly 30 years ago amid a contentious divorce and custody battle.
Robert Fratta, 65, received a lethal injection at Huntsville State Prison for the fatal shooting of his wife, Farah, in November 1994. He was pronounced dead at 7:49 p.m., 24 minutes after a lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital began flowing into his arms.
About three minutes before the execution began, Fratta’s spiritual advisor, Barry Brown, prayed for Fratta, who was strapped to the death chamber bed with intravenous needles in each arm.
Brown, his prayer book on a pillow beside Fratt’s head and his right hand resting on Fratt’s right hand, asked for prayers for “the heart that has been broken … for the people who have mourned and for those who will mourn in the days to come.” He begged God to “be merciful to Bobby.”
Asked by the administrator if he had a final statement, Fratta said, “No.”
As the lethal drugs began, Brown prayed again and Fratta took a deep breath with his eyes closed, then snored loudly six times. Then all movement stopped.
Prosecutors say Fratta orchestrated a murder-for-hire killing in which middleman Joseph Prystash hired gunman Howard Guidry. Farah Fratta, 33, was shot twice in the head in the garage of her home in the Houston suburb of Atascocita. Robert Fratta, who was a public safety officer in Missouri City, has long maintained his innocence.
The sentence was delayed for a little more than an hour while the last of a flurry of appeals in the final day made its way through the U.S. Supreme Court and the highest courts in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Fratto’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that prosecutors withheld evidence that investigators hypnotized a trial witness, leading her to change her original recollection of seeing two men at the scene of the murder, as well as the getaway driver.
Prosecutors argued that the hypnosis did not produce any new information or new identification. They also said Fratta repeatedly expressed his desire to see his wife dead and asked several acquaintances if they knew of anyone who would kill her, telling one friend, “I’ll just kill her, I’ll make time and when.” I’m going to get out, I’m going to have my kids,” according to court records. Prystash and Guidry were also sent to death row for manslaughter.
Fratta was also one of four Texas death row inmates who sued to stop the state prison system from using drugs they say are outdated and dangerous. That lawsuit also failed late Tuesday,
The Supreme Court and lower courts have previously rejected appeals by Fratto’s lawyers seeking to review claims that insufficient evidence and faulty jury instructions were used to convict him. His lawyers also argued unsuccessfully that the juror in his case was not impartial and that ballistics evidence did not tie him to the murder weapon.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles last week unanimously refused to commute Fratto’s death sentence to a lesser sentence or grant a 60-day reprieve.
Fratta was first sentenced to death in 1996, but his conviction was overturned by a federal judge who ruled that the confessions of his co-conspirators should not be admitted as evidence. In the same ruling, the judge wrote that “trial evidence showed Fratta to be egotistical, misogynistic and vile, with a callous desire to kill his wife.”
He was tried again in 2009 and sentenced to death.
Andy Kahan, director of victim services and advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston, said Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018, raised Robert and Farah Fratta’s three children with his wife.
Kahan, Fratta’s son, Bradley Baquer, and Farah’s brother, Zain Baquer, were among the witnesses who watched Fratta die. Fratta never acknowledged them or looked at them as they stood at the window to the death chamber.
“Bob was a coward in 1994 when he arranged the murder of his estranged wife,” Kahan said after the execution. at least he extended an olive branch to his son, who he knew was watching.
“And he still took the coward’s way out. He could have said, ‘I’m sorry.'”
Fratta was the first inmate executed in Texas this year and the second in the U.S. Eight more executions are scheduled in Texas later this year.
Lozano was reporting from Houston.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: twitter.com/juanlozano70