Several minutes before his Tuesday night execution Mark Anthony Soliz apologized to the son and daughter-in-law of one of his victims and to his own family.
Soliz, 37, on Tuesday became the sixth Texas death row inmate to be executed. He was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m., 13 minutes after the process of his lethal dosage of Pentobarbital began at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit.
Johnson County jurors in the 413th Court sentenced Soliz to death on March, 23, 2012, for the June 29, 2010, shooting death of Nancy Hatch Weatherly, 61, in her home near Godley.
Soliz earlier that same day shot Ruben Martinez, a delivery man, in the parking lot of a Fort Worth convenience store.
Soliz was apparently upset that Martinez only had $10 in his wallet when he robbed him. Martinez remained hospitalized for 13 days, able only to communicate by blinking his eyes, before he died. His wife was eight months pregnant with the couple’s second son at the time.
During the 2012 trial, prosecutors detailed Soliz’ eight-day crime spree covering Tarrant and Johnson counties during which he shot at, struck and/or robbed several people, stole guns from a west side Fort Worth house, burglarized others and stole several vehicles. Jose Clemente Ramos, who participated in several of the crimes with Soliz pleaded guilty to capital murder in 2012 and received life in prison without parole.
“Mr. Warden I’m ready,” Soliz said toward the conclusion of his nearly five minute last statement before his execution process began.
Huntsville Item Editor Joseph Brown, who attended the execution, said Soliz became emotional as he delivered his at times rambling last statement.
“Oh man I didn’t know if y’all would come or not, but I am glad y’all did so I could talk to y’all,” Soliz said to members of Weatherly’s family present.
None of Martinez’ family members attended the execution.
“I wanted to apologize for the grief and pain that I caused ya’ll,” Soliz said to Weatherly’s son and daughter-in-law. “I’ve been considering changing my life. It took me 27 years to do so. Man, I want to apologize. I don’t know if me passing will bring ya’ll comfort for the pain and suffering I caused y’all. I am at peace. I understand now the pain that I caused y’all man.
“I don’t know what else to say It took a while to drag these years out. I am going with a humble heart.”
Soliz admitted that he’s made wrong decisions but said he’s forgiven himself not because of himself but because of everyone else.
Soliz spoke of the pain he caused his family.
“Oh man, thank you Jesus,” Soliz said. “I love y’all, but glad you brought Jesus into my life. Mom and dad throughout the years I turned my back on God for the wrong that I thought he committed. Now that I have found him, let everyone know that I love them because he is there.”
Toward the end of his statement Soliz thanked his “supporters out there” and told those with people on death row to love and support them.
Three — two family members and a third either a family member or a friend — also attended the execution. Soliz’ half brother at one point became emotional and attempted but was not allowed to exit the viewing chamber.
“Execution Watch,” a radio show covering Texas executions, reported that Soliz refused his last meal and that 18 protestors were on hand outside Huntsville’s Wall’s Unit during his execution. The same outlet reported that he met with a spiritual advisor and family members beforehand and that family members said Soliz told them he was at peace with what was about to happen to him because he’s accepted the Lord in his life and know where he’s going.
Former Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford also attended the execution and sat with members of Weatherly’s family.
Alford said that although he’s seen people die during his long tenure as a law enforcement officer he had never witnessed an execution until Soliz’. Alford described the experience as shocking and sobering.
“Everybody was shocked,” Alford said. “That’s not the man I brought down here seven years ago. He looked [Weatherly family members in the eye] and asked for forgiveness. He told [Weatherly’s son] that he remembered what he had said to him during the victim impact statement after the trial and told him that stuck with him and changed his life. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice people there told me that’s not typical, that most of them are self serving right to the end. So he died right, asking forgiveness from the Lord and from the victims.”
Alford called Soliz’ 2010 string of murder and other infractions a “heinous two-county crime spree but added that it was sad and sobering to watch him die.
“Like I said, I’ve seen people die before on the side of the road from car wrecks and from other crimes,” Alford said. “But I’d never seen someone die like that before tonight. Definitely it was a somber, sad time for everyone involved tonight. Now he deserved to die. Make no bones about that. He made his choices and did what he did on his own. But that doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about what’s happening when you see someone put to death. It was peaceful with no suffering. Basically he went to sleep.”
Alford said that death row inmates scheduled for execution are often brought to the Wall’s Unit one or even two days beforehand but that Soliz was transported earlier Tuesday morning from the Polunsky Unit about 35 miles from Huntsville where death row inmates are housed.
Alford said he personally transported Soliz from the Johnson County Jail to Huntsville seven years ago.
“I had a driver,” Alford said. “I rode in the front passenger seat with Soliz in the back seat behind me and there was another deputy back there to guard him.”
Soliz didn’t talk much during the trip down, Alford said.
“We took him to intake at Huntsville,” Alford said. “They shaved his head, gave him his uniform and had him headed out to [Polunsky Unit] within about 15 minutes. That was the first time I saw him show any remorse. He had a tear on his cheek. I think that was the wake up call, the moment he realized this is real.”
Alford said the members of the Weatherly and Martinez families remain in his thoughts and prayers and mused that but for the fact that Soliz was a bad shot a lot more people would likely have been killed during his crime spree.
Forgiveness both ways
Ben Davis, Weatherly’s son said he declined to speak to the media before Soliz’ execution because he did not feel like discussing the situation. Davis said he and his wife, Kila Davis, experienced miracles on Tuesday, however, and the beginning of a new chapter thanks to God’s grace.
Soliz was already strapped down with fluid IVs started when both entered the viewing chamber. Though separated by glass, the Davises were three feet from Soliz when he looked over and nodded to acknowledge them being there.
Davis said he had been told that the last words of death row inmates are usually 20 to 30 seconds and to expect nothing.
Soliz instead called them by name, apologized and said he hopes they have forgiven him.
“One last time, he looked over at Kila and me and said, ‘I hope y’all forgive me and I think you do,’” Davis said. “His eyes started to fade. I could tell he was at peace. No sign of pain at all which I am truly grateful for.”
The headline of the event came from Alford, Davis said.
“He said, ‘Ben, that isn’t the same monster that I drove down to prison. I am shocked. But that was a genuine remorseful man that spoke to you and Kila.’” Davis said. “[Alford] is 100 percent correct. Mark was absolutely a changed man!”
Davis said that since 2010 he has wanted to sit down with Soliz simply to ask why he did what he did.
“I was told, ‘Ben, you’re probably not going to get that.’” Davis said. “I’m here to tell you God had a plan all along. That plan wasn’t for me to ask Mark questions. You see, I didn’t have to. Mark told me all that I needed to know without me asking questions. Thank you Lord for answering another prayer that I prayed without even really knowing what it was that I needed.”
Davis said he feels as if a new chapter has begun and that Soliz’ final words will change someone’s life.
“I will tell you what I truly felt,” Davis said. “First, I wanted to hug Mark. Second, I knew what was happening had to happen. I knew that this was way bigger than me. I know that his family needed to know that Mark was a changed man. I do believe that this entire tragic event that started over nine years ago was in its final chapter.”
Davis said his wife pointed out a peach colored cloud surrounded by white clouds as the pulled into Huntsville earlier that day. A downpour followed. As they left the prison following Soliz’ execution Davis noticed and pointed out a rainbow in the now cloudless sky.
“Some of you may know that my mom loved the Weatherford Peach Festival,” Davis said. “She loved volunteering to help make that event happen. She owned an antique and craft sop on York Avenue in Weatherford. It was named appropriately Grannies Attic.”
Davis said he and his wife also stopped for peach milkshakes while in Huntsviille, something Davis gave no thought to at the time.
“It wasn’t until I saw that rainbow that I connected the dots,” Davis said. “The peach milkshake, that was my mom’s doing. The peach colored cloud, that was my mom’s doing. The thunder and the quick shower was, I believe, a symbol from God and my mom representing a cleansing. And, of course, the rainbow was her allowing me to walk back through the last few hours and connect that she was with us all along. It was powerful. I often say to people, ‘I can’t make this stuff up.’ It’s true. It’s all true. I can’t make this stuff up.”
Soliz’ attorneys in the years, months and days leading to his execution made numerous attempts to spare him from the death penalty. Among other arguments put forth, Soliz’ attorneys that he has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and should therefore be classified as intellectually disabled and exempt from capital punishment.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of the mentally disabled. Greg Westfall, Soliz’ attorney during his original trial, argued that Soliz had a terrible childhood of little or no adult supervision, a mother involved in prostitution and drug addiction and that he and his siblings and cousins at a young age witnessed his aunt stabbed and killed in front of him. All such arguments proved of no avail. Soliz’ attorneys on Tuesday chose not to file a last-second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Prosecuting attorneys during Soliz’ trial argued that he is more clever, and dangerous, than painted by his defense attorneys. Former Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Christy Jack, who assisted the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office during the trial, noted that Soliz tended to put his glasses on when jurors were not in the courtroom and read through the “Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.”
Given Soliz’ gang affiliation and fears of possible retaliation, security measures were enhanced during his trial. In spite of that Soliz somehow obtained and memorized the address of a potential juror.
Johnson County Jail staff intercepted a romantic letter he sent her way. Soliz also - probably with a paperclip — scratched Kilo, his gang name, into the left front leg of the defense table. The etching remains and has become a piece of Guinn Justice Center history.
Soliz’ was Johnson County’s longest and most expensive trial. Johnson County District Attorney Dale Hanna and Assistant District Attorney Martin Strahan said they hope never to have to try another death penalty case.
TDCJ on Tuesday released a curious document titled “Death Watch,” which recounts the minutia of Soliz’ last days. Such documents are typically released the day of a death row inmate’s execution. Three pages in mundane detail record Soliz’ time sleeping, eating, walking around, packing his belongings and receiving his mail.
Huntsville Item Editor
contributed to this article.