Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Denial of review

This was a horrible crime.

She was by all accounts a wonderful teacher and woman.

He is now one step closer to having his sentence carried out.
U.S. Supreme Court refuses review of case
By Michael Graczyk - Associated Press

HOUSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the conviction of a man sent to death row for the rape and slaying of a San Antonio high school teacher.

Ronnie Joe Neal, 38, was condemned for the 2004 fatal shooting of Diane Tilly, 58. She was missing from her Alamo Heights home for nearly two weeks when police found her body in a rural area of Bexar County.

The Supreme Court refusal is an early stage of Neal's appeals. His lawyers could file another round of appeals.

Neal does not have an execution date.

Neal's then 16-year-old daughter, Pearl Cruz, also was involved in the slaying. Testimony showed she knocked on the victim's door under the pretense of needing to use the phone, and when Tilly let her in both she and her father barged in. Neal raped the teacher while the teen held a gun on her.

They also robbed the woman of jewelry, forced her to divulge the password to her ATM card so they could take money from her bank account and then took her away in her own car, which later was set on fire. Evidence showed Neal shot Tilly six times.

Cruz testified against her father in exchange for a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. She testified her father had sexually abused her for years before the murder and sold her to other men for cash and drugs. Cruz gave birth to a son who was fathered by Neal.

At his trial, Neal's attorneys argued he was mentally retarded and should be spared the death penalty. A Bexar County jury disagreed.

Evidence showed Neal tried but failed to use a condom when he raped Tilly, then doused her with hydrogen peroxide in hopes of destroying his DNA. He also used Tilly's .357-caliber pistol for the murder weapon instead of his own gun, which would have discharged casings.

The pair was arrested after using the victim's credit cards.