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A jury found Wardlow guilty of capital murder in February 1995 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in April 1997.
A Texas public record search on Tonya Michelle Fulfer indicates that she was released from prison on 22 May 2009. No other information was available for this report.
Wardlow waived his remaining appeals in 1997, then hired a lawyer and rescinded his waiver. He waived his appeals again in 1998. His lawyer filed another appeal without his consent, which was dismissed. All of his appeals in state and federal court were denied.
In a letter Wardlow sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in June, Wardlow stated that he was a changed man. "I came to death row a scared boy who made poor choices;" he wrote. "I will leave death row a man that others admire because I weathered the storms of life with the help of people that loved me. We should all be so fortunate."
The parole board also received letters from 57 Texas lawmakers who, citing people identified by the Texas Tribune only as "neuroscientists," asserted that 18-year-old murderers should not be eligible for the death penalty because their brains were not yet fully developed when they became killers. They asked the board to delay Wardlow's execution for nearly a year to give them a chance to change the law in the 2021 session of the state legislature. The parole board denied these requests in a 6-1 vote.
Face masks and other hygiene precautions were used in the witness rooms adjacent to the death chamber because of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Wardlow did not make a last statement at his execution. The lethal injection was given, and he was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m.
Wardlow was the first prisoner executed in Texas since the pandemic originating in China spread to the United States. The scheduled 18 March execution of John Hummel was stayed because of so-called "lockdown" orders restricting or limiting people's ability to go to work and be out in public. After that, three more scheduled executions in March, April, and early May were stayed because of the public health crisis. State and local officials began gradually lifting restrictions in the first half of May. The execution of Randall Mays, scheduled for 13 May, was stayed, but the coronavirus was not given as one of the reasons. Ruben Gutierrez's scheduled execution on 10 June was also stayed for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. Wardlow's lawyers' included the coronavirus among their reasons for requesting a stay of execution, but those requests were denied.
By David Carson. Posted on 9 July 2020.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, Texas Tribune.