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Joe Franco Garza, Jr., sentenced to death for 1998 murder, found dead in cell

Joe Franco Garza, Jr. at Lubbock County Courthouse, March 2006
Joe Franco Garza, Jr. at Lubbock County Courthouse, March 2006(KCBD Video)
Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 1:33 PM CST
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LIVINGSTON, Texas (KCBD) - An inmate sentenced to death for a 1998 murder was found dead in his cell on Tuesday.

Joe Franco Garza, Jr. was charged in the strangulation death of 71-year-old Silbiano Rangel. Police say Garza also stole Rangel’s truck, and then forged checks on his account. Rangel’s body was found in a field in the 7300 block of King Avenue. Garza was arrested and charged with the murder less than a month later.

He was convicted of capital murder in 2000 and sentenced to death, but his death sentence was reversed in 2006. Garza claimed he was a troubled teen and that his legal team at the time did not do a good enough job using that evidence in his defense.

He lost his appeal in 2008 and was set to die in September of 2015.

This execution date was withdrawn to allow for DNA testing of evidence.

Garza was being held on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, TX. Garza did not comply when a guard ordered him to come to his cell door and was found unresponsive inside.

Additional security and medical staff arrived and began life-saving measures. He was transported to Livingston Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 5:01 a.m. The Office of the Inspector General is conducting an investigation into Garza’s death. At this time, no foul play or self-harm is suspected.

Garza was 49.

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