Ex-gang member Christopher Vialva, 40, murdered a pair of youth ministers in 1999 as a teenager – with his final words before receiving a lethal injection being: “I’m ready, Father”
A former gang member who murdered two married Christian youth ministers at an army base when he was a teenager has been executed after 21 years.
Convicted killer Christopher Vialva became the first black man to suffer the federal death penalty since the punishment resumed this summer after a 17-year hiatus.
The death row inmate was just 19 when he and fellow gang members in Killeen, Texas, killed Todd and Stacie Bagley, a white couple from Iowa, at Fort Hood in 1999.
In a last statement, Vialva, aged 40, asked God to comfort the families of the couple he had killed, saying, “Father…heal their hearts with grace and love.”
His final words were: “I’m ready, Father.”
He was pronounced dead at 6.46pm on Thursday after US Department of Justice officials injected him with pentobarbital, a barbiturate, at the execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to reporter serving as a media witness.
According to court records, Vialva and his accomplices were looking for someone to rob when they found Todd Bagley using a payphone at a convenience store, and he agreed to give them a ride in his car.
In the back seat, Vialva pulled out a gun and ordered Bagley and his wife to get into the car’s trunk.
After forcing Bagley to disclose his PIN, Vialva withdrew cash from Bagley’s account at an ATM, though there was less than $100 on deposit.
He used the cash to buy fast food and cigarettes, among other items.
During the several hours they spent in the trunk, the Bagleys could be heard telling their kidnappers to embrace Christianity.
Eventually, Vialva parked the car in an isolated part of Fort Hood, opened the trunk and shot both Bagleys in the head, killing Todd and rendering Stacie unconscious.
Accomplice Brandon Bernard then set the car on fire, and an autopsy showed that Stacie Bagley died from smoke inhalation.
It was the sixth federal execution this year, and the second this week, after the practice was resumed by US President Donald Trump’s administration.
Under Trump, the Justice Department has now executed twice as many men this year than all of Trump’s predecessors combined going back to 1963.
The last time the US government executed six or more people in a single year was in 1942, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) in Washington.
The execution of Vialva, 40, comes as the nation grapples with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with daily protests occurring in US cities against police brutality against black people.
Of the 56 people on federal death row, 26, or 46%, are black, and 22, or 39%, are white.
Black people are only 13% of the US population.
DPIC published a report this month concluding that racial bias persists in the US system of capital punishment.
The report said the killers of white people were more likely to face the death penalty than the killers of black people.
And a study in North Carolina found that qualified black jurors were struck from juries at more than twice the rate of qualified white jurors.
At Vialva’s trial in the US District Court for Western Texas in 2000, a jury of 11 white people and one black person found him and Bernard guilty of carjacking and murder, and voted for them to receive the death penalty.
Bernard’s execution date has not been set.