Johnny Frank Garrett

Potter County, Texas
Date of Crime:  October 31, 1981
Executed February 11, 1992

Johnny Frank Garrett was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 76-year-old Sister Tadea Benz, a Roman Catholic nun. Benz had been found dead in her room at St. Francis Convent, 4301 N.E. 18th Ave. in Amarillo, TX. The DA's office and the police linked the crime to the rape and murder of another woman, Narnie Box Bryson, in the same neighborhood four months earlier. They claimed there were too many similarities between the two crimes for them to be coincidental.

Police initially arrested a man named Fernando Flores for Benz's murder. Flores had been caught peeping into the window of an elderly woman two weeks before. A witness identified him from a photo lineup as being seen near the convent on the night of the murder. However, FBI testing of crime scene evidence failed to reveal any matches to Flores and he was released. The DA publicly apologized for his premature optimism in solving the case.

Subsequently, a clairvoyant named Bubbles, who had previously worked with the police, claimed to have seen the killer in a vision and identified Garrett as the killer. Garrett lived near the convent, on the same street. When police compared Garrett's fingerprints to many unidentified prints taken from the convent, two prints were found to match. Garrett said he robbed the convent two days before the murder, but denied raping or murdering Sister Benz. A 14-year-old boy testified (without a jury present), that he had been with Garrett two days prior to the murder and that they had entered the convent to steal necklaces. Necklaces were found in Garrett's house following his arrest. A foreign bloody T-shirt was found at the convent, as well as blood on a wall and exit door. Police claimed none of the blood evidence was submitted for serological testing. Semen evidence was submitted, but an analyst testified that the sample was too small to test and that he disposed of the sample because no one told him to keep it. A nun gave testimony that disputed Garrett's story of burglarizing the convent.

A cop and a jailhouse snitch seperately claimed Garrett confessed to Benz's murder. The cop wrote out a written confession, which he said Garrett refused to sign. (The written confession contained details inconsistent with the crime). Garrett denied confessing to anyone. Police did not try to link Garrett to the Bryson murder. Garrett was sentenced while still a juvenile and executed by lethal injection at age 28 on Feb. 11, 1992. His reported last words were, “I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my everloving ass, because I'm innocent.”

In 2004, DNA linked Leoncio Perez Rueda to the rape and murder of Bryson. After Rueda's arrest, he gave an on-camera interview for a documentary in which he admitted to sexually assaulting both Bryson and “a nun,” but claimed he was forced to do so by his friend Fernando Flores. Flores was the man initially arrested for Benz's murder. Rueda did not admit to killing either woman, but suggested that Flores killed both.  [12/11]


References:  Skeptical Juror, The Last Word, Halloween Story

Posted in:  Victims of the State, West Texas Cases, Defendants Executed by Texas