In doing the research for my content, I read several crime cases each day, and some of them ultimately will drop from my mind, never to be remembered again. Trust me, that's not such a bad thing...the horrors of some of these cases can make their mark on you.
What John Battaglia did in the spring of 2001, is an example of one case that will do just that. This case will stick with you. It's a heart-wrenching reminder that domestic violence has no boundaries, no limitations...and that narcissistic individuals think about one thing, and one thing only....themselves.
Faith & Liberty's Place, The Family Place: familyplace.org
Irene Pence Book: No, Daddy, Don’t!: A Father's Murderous Act Of Revenge
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Transcribed Episode / S2 EP16: Deadly Dad, John Battaglia
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[Intro Music Begins / Fades]
Welcome back to The Crime Shack! Had to take a short break due to a family matter, but I'm back with Episode 16, and this particular case, will shake you to the core. It's a story that not only demonstrates the characteristics of a violent and abusive individual, but also the devastating effects that can have on the children who are involved, and the powerful and sometimes fatal impact the abuse can have on their lives.
So let's dive into it, and talk about master manipulator, John David Battaglia.
Mary Jean Pearle, Court Testimony 1:26
And then I hear Faith going, "No Daddy please Daddy, don't do it! Daddy please don't do it!" Pew, pew! [gunshot noise]
John David Battaglia Jr. of Italian ancestry, was born on August 2 1955, into a Catholic family on a military base in Enterprise, Alabama. His father John was in the military. So as is typical in the military, the family was required to move across the country quite often, even moving to Germany for a short time. Completing his service in the military in 1970, John and his family initially moved to Oregon, where John Jr. would complete his first years of high school. The family then moved to New Jersey, and John enrolled in Dumont High School where he would graduate.
Aside from enduring the tough military life of constantly moving from place to place, John's family was dealing with another troubling issue. John's mother Julia, suffered from severe depression, alcoholism and mental illness. This illness would ultimately drive her to commit suicide in December of 1972.
After recovering from the loss of his mother and graduating high school, John thought about entering the medical field. He enrolled at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey's largest private University, where he initially applied as a pre med major before changing his mind to pursue accounting. After a friend urged John to quit college, he dropped out of Fairleigh in 1976. Without college to keep him busy, John had plenty of time on his hands and began using drugs, which got him into legal trouble. Similar to his father, John decided to join the military and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He made it to the rank of sergeant then left the Marines to again pursue accounting.
During this time, John's father had moved to Dallas, Texas. Upon leaving the military, John moved to Dallas to be near his father. He went back to school and took night classes to become a certified public accountant, earning his master's degree and did some professional modeling on the side.
In 1985, John met Michelle Ghetti, Michelle was a successful lawyer and single mother who had a seven year old son from a prior marriage. Michelle was enamored with this tall, good looking charming and successful man. The relationship moved fast, and John and Michelle decided to get married fairly quickly. They then had a daughter together, Christie, in November of 1985.
As soon as Michelle became pregnant with Christie, a hidden dark side of John started to become a parent. John and Michelle were driving in the car with Michelle's son, when John got angry at another driver on the road. So he reached for a gun that he had in the car. This of course frightened Michelle, but being pregnant with Christie, she felt trapped.
Michelle gave birth to Christie, but her hopes that John's behavior would be better once Christie was born, were soon dashed. Things only seem to get worse. During one incident, Michelle was holding Christie when John hit Michelle, causing her to drop Christie. Fearing for their safety, Michelle separated from John in September of 1986.
The separation only seemed to make John more distraught and angry. He threatened to kill Michelle and himself and told her that, “I'll cut you up and I'll scar your face.”
Once he was barred from the house, John moved into a house just a few blocks from Michelle. He would harass her by hiding out in the bushes outside her house, banging on the windows of her home and jumping in the garage when Michelle would come home. John would stalk Michelle and follow her in his car around town, and somehow managed to tap into her phone line. He would constantly call her house and her law office at all hours of the night and day.
One night after their separation, Michelle woke up after midnight to find John standing over her bed and holding her shoulders down. He demanded to have sex with her, but she told him no. When she finally got John to leave the house, she filed a police report against him. When John found out about the police report, he was livid. He called Michelle's law firm and got a hold of one of the partners. He proceeded to lie and tell them that Michelle was having an affair with another partner in the firm, and that she was carrying his child. John told the partner he would go to the press with the information unless the partner convinced Michelle to drop the charges against him. Thankfully, the partner didn't believe John, and once they spoke with Michelle, the office put security measures in place that would deny John access to their offices.
Not wanting to give up so easily. John continued to harass Michelle. In January of 1987, he drove up next to Michelle in his car and tried to force her onto the median of the freeway. He then pulled alongside her vehicle, pointed his finger at her as if pretending to hold a gun and threw a rock through his open window at her car. Michelle filed yet another report against John to be arrested on the grounds of harassment. John begged her to drop the charges, but she refused. John was arrested and spent several days in jail, and when he was released, he apologized to Michelle for his behavior. The harassment stopped, at least for a short while.
John eventually became violent again and hit Michelle while she was picking up their daughter Christie. After being hit by John and having been pushed down the front stairs of her house by John, Michelle had enough and filed charges against him. He begged her to drop the charges, but she refused to do so.
In retaliation for this when Christie was two years old, he went to Christie school and approached Michelle. As he walked towards Michelle, he had a huge grin on his face when he said to her, “If I'm going back to jail, I'm going to make it worth my while.” He then punched Michelle in the face, knocking her unconscious, breaking her nose and dislocating her jaw. Michelle would spend three days in the hospital being treated for her injuries.
In 2017, Michelle Ghetti, along with her daughter, Christie, testified before the Louisiana judiciary committee as an opposition to abolish the Louisiana death penalty, and explain what happened during her marriage to John Battaglia, and how she was able to finally escape:
Michelle Ghetti 8:52
Really what I'm here for today, is as a survivor and family member of murder. I had an attempted murder by my former husband on me, and survived that, with my daughter being two at the time. Literally fled in the middle of the night to come back to Louisiana, the only way I could have been safe.
I've certainly felt, as I can't remember now, someone said, "if that person came up to me today," I would shoot him, and I know that because I spent three days in the hospital and two days in a hotel with my parents after this happened to me...and the next thing I did the next day, especially after running into him in a grocery store because he was still free, and him threatening my eight year old son at that time, was buy a gun and carried it with me for years. I couldn't sleep by myself, for many, many months. In fact until I moved back to Louisiana. This all happened in Dallas, Texas.
Michelle knew she had to get away from John, for her own safety and the safety of her children. She packed up her stuff, grabbed her two children, and fled in the middle of the night to Louisiana.
In 1987, Michelle filed for divorce from John. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge for beating her unconscious and was sentenced to two years of probation.
It would be just a couple years later in 1990, when John would meet Mary Jean Pearle. Mary Jean was from Highland Park, Texas, a neighborhood just outside of downtown Dallas, Texas. Mary Jean and John married on April 6, 1991. Mary Jean's father graciously bought her large home in Highland Park, where she and John could start their new lives together.
Certainly from the outside, John and Mary Jean's life together seem to be picture perfect. They were happy newlyweds living in an upscale neighborhood. But inside their four walls, things were very different. Even on the first night of their marriage, Mary Jean saw a glimpse of John's darker side. She'd noticed he would get angry easily, have violent outbursts and would scream obscenities at her and call her vulgar names. At first, these outbursts were occasional. So she thought maybe he was just in a bad mood and excuse them away because honestly, they had more good times than they had bad times.
About a year into their marriage, they had their first child together, a daughter, Mary Faith in 1992. Three years later, they had another daughter Liberty May, in 1995. The two girls couldn't be more different. Mary Faith was a tomboy who loved to play soccer and the violin, and Liberty enjoyed ballet.
As the girls grew older, John and Mary Jean enrolled them both at John S. Bradfield Elementary School in Highland Park. John doted on his girls, and the girls in turn adored their dad, but John's violent outbursts continued and began to become more frequent.
With children now in the mix, Mary Jean did all she could do to keep their family and marriage together. Although as time went on, keeping the peace became more and more difficult. One night, John's verbal abuse became physical, and Mary Jean called 911 and a police report was filed. John was placed on probation, and even though he was allowed to continue to see the girls, he was not allowed back in their home.
After suffering years of abuse from John, Mary Jean realized she needed to do something to remove herself from a potentially dangerous situation, and to minimize her daughter's being exposed to that environment. So in January of 1999, she filed for a divorce. As per the conditions of the divorce and agreed protective order was issued, which prevented John from stalking threatening or harassing his daughters or Mary Jean, and he was prohibited from owning a firearm
On Christmas Day in 1999, before their divorce was finalized, John wanted to come by Mary Jean’s and pick up the girls to take them to church. Mary Jean agreed to allow John to come into her home to gather up the girls. When John arrived at the house, his daughter Christie was with him who was now 13 years old.
John and Mary Jean started to get into an argument in front of the three girls, when John grabbed Mary Jean. He pushed her to the floor, kicked her and beat her on the back of the head. He pounded on her head so savagely that he tore out chunks of her hair, all while the three girls were watching crying and begging him to stop. John left her house and Mary Jean immediately called 911.
Mary Jane's head was black and blue. She had a puncture wound in her heel and bruises on her arm, finger, shin and both sides of her head. The police arrived at John's house and arrested him. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, was given two years probation and $1,000 fine. He wasn't permitted to contact Mary or visit his daughters for 30 days.
Once the measly 30 days probation was up, John's unsupervised visitations with his daughters continued and his verbal assaults on Mary Jean started all over again.
I'm sure by now you're seeing the pattern here. John abuses women, gets probation, maybe a few days in jail, then is back at it again. Seems the only thing the slight punishment does for John is just infuriate him even more.
Although Mary Jean's divorce to John was finalized less than a year later in August of 2000, she knew that she still had to continue to interact and communicate with him because of the girls.
Now that they were divorced, John made it his mission to make Mary Jean's life miserable.
The following Easter in April 2001, Mary Jean sent John's daughter Christie an Easter gift, $50 cash. This simple gesture got John so angry, he immediately called and left a message on Mary Jean's voicemail telling her “Mary Jean, the next time you give my daughter $50, why don't you tell her how you screwed her out of her college fun, you effing pig. How does that feel? Pig.”
Mary Jean had enough. She called the police and reported the harassment to John's probation officer. Although he was absolutely horrific to her, Mary Jean was never afraid that John would do anything to hurt the girls. He'd never laid a hand on them, and was always more than gentle with them, but she was concerned that he would one day act out on those threats against her.
As a result of her call in for violating his probation. a warrant was issued for John's arrest. On Wednesday, May 2, John discovered that his probation had been revoked and that he was going to be arrested for the threatening calls and for using marijuana, which Mary Jean also disclosed to the probation officer. He was informed by a police officer that the arrest wouldn't happen in front of his children, and that he was allowed one last visitation with his daughters before peacefully turning himself in.
It was around noon that day, when John called and left a strange voicemail message for his ex-wife Michelle Ghetti, telling her that maybe Mary Jean should lose her kids.
John made his usual Wednesday night plans with Mary Jean to arrange for him to pick up the girls and take them to dinner that evening. He spoke to the girls on the phone and told them he wasn't that hungry for dinner that night, because he found out he might be arrested that night and probably wouldn't see them for over a year. When he told them that, the girls became so nervous about seeing him that Liberty hid under her bed, telling her mom that she didn't want to go with him to dinner. Mary Jean reassured the girls that it would be okay. She got the girls in the car and drove them to the normal weekly meetup spot they'd agreed upon, the Highland Park Village Shopping Center. John met Mary at the shopping center, and everything seemed normal and the exchange went without any altercation.
After Mary watched the girls get safely into John's car, she headed to her friend Melissa Lowder’s house. John was going to drop the girls off at Melissa's house after they'd had dinner. When John got the girls in the car, he didn't take them out to dinner. In fact, he had no plans of taking them out to dinner. Instead, he drove them back to his loft in downtown Dallas.
Almost immediately upon arrival to his fourth story loft, John told nine year old Faith to call her mother. Faith called her mother, but left a voicemail message to call her back when Mary Jean didn't pick up the phone. John then called his ex mother-in-law Dorris Pearle, Mary Jean’s mother, and told her he needed to talk to Mary Jean right away to ask her a question.
Mary Jean was just pulling into Melissa's driveway, when she got a phone call from her mother Dorris. Dorris told her that John had called because the girls wanted to ask their mom something. Mary Jean then noticed two missed messages on her phone. They were from Faith, telling her that she had a question and to call her back. It was around 7:30pm when Mary Jean walked into Melissa's house and began to dial John's number. John answered her call and immediately put the call on speakerphone and told Faith to quote, “Ask her.”
Faith then said “Mommy, why do you want daddy to have to go to jail?” Mary Jean, stunned at the question, started to tell John not to do this to the girls when she heard Faith begging her father, “No Daddy, please don't! Don't do it!”
Mary Jean Pearle, Court Testimony 19:59
And then I hear Faith going, "No Daddy please Daddy, don't do it! Daddy please don't do it!" Pew, pew! [gunshot noise]
John had pulled out a gun and held the gun to Faith’s head.
Mary Jean Pearle, Court Testimony 20:09
And I said, "RUN! RUN FOR THE DOOR, RUN FOR THE DOOR!"
Mary Jean heard shot, after shot, after shot. She then heard John scream into the phone...
Mary Jean Pearle, Court Testimony 20:21
And I hear him yell "MERRY (expletive) CHRISTMAS!”
More gunshots rang out. A hysterical Mary Jean hung up the phone and told Melissa, “Oh my God, I think John killed the girls.”
Mary Jean got into her car and drove to John's apartment building and called 911 on her cell phone. John had fired his .45 caliber handgun directly at his two girls, striking Faith in the back of the head and shooting her two more times. He then aimed the gun towards six year old Liberty, striking her in the back as she tried to run for the door, shooting her a total of five times.
Later that night, John left a cryptic voicemail message on Mary Jean's answering machine addressed to the girls. She retrieved the message a day after the murders:
John Battaglia (Voicemail Message) 21:18
Goodnight my little babies. I hope you're resting in a different place.
The full horrific message said “Good night, my little babies. I hope you're resting in a different place. I love you." He added, "I wish that you had nothing to do with your mother. She was evil and vicious and stupid. You will be free of her. I love you very dearly. You were very brave girls, very brave. Liberty, you are oh so brave. I love you so much. Bye.”
After John left a message for his girls. He called his ex-wife Michelle’s voicemail again, and told her that he was sending their daughter Christie money for college in an envelope, and that she should use it wisely. An hour after that message, Michelle found out that John had killed his two daughters. The years that Michelle struggled with John, she'd always been afraid that he would hurt their daughter Christy as well.
After he murdered his daughters, John met up with a girlfriend and drove to a local bar in Dallas before heading to a tattoo parlor. He had red and yellow roses with barbed wire tattooed on his left bicep, a sick way to commemorate Faith and Liberty. Madeline Feldman, the tattoo artist who worked on John, recalled that night and said that John and his female friend were cracking jokes and making small talk like they were out just having a good time.
Mary Jean’s 911 call was picked up by Highland Park officer Catherine Justice. As Mary Jean arrived at John's apartment building, she told Officer Justice that she was outside her ex-husband's apartment building and that she was afraid he had just killed her girls. Mary Jean was insistent that she needed to get into the building to get to her daughters. The officer told her, “ma'am you cannot go there. You have to stay there.” Mary Jean yelled back, “I have to! I have to!”
Dallas police officer Dane Thornton was on duty and driving down Canton Street in downtown Dallas when he was approached by a frantic and hysterical Mary Jean. Mary Jean told Officer Thornton what had happened on the phone with John, and told him which apartment number John lived in.
Two additional police officers were dispatched to John's apartment building. When officers Zayn Murray and his partner arrived at the scene, Officer Thornton had just gotten out of his vehicle, and the three officers went into the building. Murray and his partner didn't stop to speak with Mary Jean, as their focus was on getting to the apartment. Officer Thornton took the elevator up and the other two officers took the stairs. As the officers were headed to John's apartment. Mary Jean waited anxiously outside the building and stayed on the phone with Officer Justice. Mary Jean thought out loud to the officers saying, “You always wonder what people go through when something like this happens. You never think it will be you.”
When the three officers arrived at John's apartment they knocked but got no answer. Officer Thornton then went back to the entrance of the building to ask Mary Jean if she had a key, as the apartment door was a thick commercial wood door that was difficult to kick in. Mary Jean didn't have a key and the apartment manager or maintenance person was nowhere to be found. Mary Jean told Officer Thornton that she definitely heard shots on the phone and believed the girls to be dead. Meanwhile, upstairs, Officer Murray radioed his supervisor to come down to the scene. Officer Thornton then returned stating that the mother had heard gunshots and believed the girl's inside might be dead.
At that point thinking that the girls may still be alive, the officers kicked in the door and entered John's apartment. As the officers entered the loft, they first came upon Liberty, barefoot, lying about 10 to 15 feet from the front door, facedown on the floor, with blood pouring from her head.
They then saw Mary Faith, barefoot as well, lying facedown on the kitchen floor. Both girls appeared to be dead. The loft was littered with half unpacked boxes, and multiple guns and rifles. The officers searched the loft for John, but he wasn't there.
They then went downstairs and told Mary Jean that both of her girls had been shot to death.
Officer Justice who was still on the phone with her heard silence, then screaming.
The crime scene was secured and the officers waited for forensics and others to arrive. A search warrant was obtained four hours later, but by that time the girl's bodies had been photographed and transported to the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office for autopsies. Witnesses at the scene reported seeing a man driving away in a black extended cab pickup truck.
After a more extensive search of the loft, the officers discovered several guns in the closets, a Glock handgun on a nightstand near the body of Liberty, which after forensic testing was found to have at least one strand of Liberty’s hair caught in the muzzle, and a .38 revolver sat near the phone on the kitchen counter.
Around 2am, officers arrested John outside of the tattoo shop. He put up a fight and it took four officers to subdue and detain him, leaving him with bruises and a black eye which can be seen in his booking photo. A fully loaded revolver was found in his truck.
The autopsies conducted on the two girls showed the brutality that was released on them. Faith had three gunshot wounds, a shot to the back of her head, which exited her forehead, one to her back, which severed her spinal cord and ruptured her aorta, and a shot to her shoulder. Either of the first shots would have been instantly fatal.
Liberty had four gunshot wounds and a graze wound to the top of her head. One shot went through her back, severing her spinal cord, penetrating her lung, and lodging in her chest. She lost about a third of her blood when she received a shot to her head, which passed through her brain and exited her face, and was immediately fatal.
The funeral for Faith and Liberty was held at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Dallas and they were buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Dallas.
Faith and Liberty’s school Bradfield Elementary dispatched about a half dozen psychologists and eight counselors to meet with distraught parents and students. They also handed out information to the parents about helping children deal with crisis and death.
Prior to the start of classes, the teachers read a brief statement:
“I am very sad to tell you that two of our students, Liberty and Faith Battaglia, died last night. We have wonderful memories of our friends and the best thing we can do today is to be kind to each other, and to be the very best person we can be.”
Almost a year following the murders, John Battaglia’s trial began on April 22, 2002 in Dallas, Texas. The prosecution team was led by Chief Prosecutor Howard Blackman with assistant District Attorney Keith Robinson, and John was defended by Attorneys Paul Johnson and Paul Brauchle with Judge Janice L. Warder presiding.
Jon's defense team would call friends and acquaintances who testified that the John they knew was a loving, caring, dedicated father. John's friend James Young testified that, quote: “You'd be hard pressed to find a father that would dedicate as much time as he dedicated to the kids.” Young stated that John was a family man who would take the girls ice skating and to soccer games.
Vita Hughes, a 68 year old bookkeeper who shared office space with John, talked in court about how Faith and Liberty would often visit John at the office, and that John had decorated his office area with about 40 to 50 pieces of the girls' crayon art, and had about a dozen photos of the girls. She would also recall overhearing John's heated conversations with his ex-wife, over visitation with the girls.
On the day of the killings, she said that John came into the office that day, but that he looked deeply depressed and didn't even say hello to her when he came in. She testified that, quote, “His body was there, but his mind wasn't there. He was not the same person.”
The defense team called a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Judy Stonedale, to testify about John's mental state. Dr. Stonedale said that John has suffered from bipolar disorder since his mid to late 20s. She also stated that she believed John was horribly depressed the day of the shootings, and that he acted out in a psychotic rage when he murdered his two girls.
The doctor testified that bipolar disorder is in fact treatable, and that John had been doing much better in prison since he'd been taking his medication and wouldn't be a future threat if given a life sentence, because he'd be medicated and in a controlled environment. On cross examination, however, the doctor also confirmed that bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance, not organic brain damage, and that at the time of the murders, John knew exactly what he was doing.
An additional forensic psychiatrist was called to the stand, Dr. Edward Brown Gripon, who also concurred about the bipolar disorder diagnosis, and stated that John presented a low risk of continued acts of criminal violence, but again on cross, Dr. Gripon agreed that John knew what he was doing at the time of the murders, and knew it was wrong.
The state then called their own forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Richard E. Coons. Dr. Coons testified that based on his evaluation, John had killed the girls out of anger and retribution in order to punish Mary Jean Pearle. He agreed with the other psychiatrists that John had bipolar disorder, but he also said that he had a milder form of it, that he had Bipolar II instead of Bipolar I. Bipolar I is characterized by extremely manic behavior, while those with Bipolar II Disorder have hypomanic or below manic episodes, which do not interfere with their functioning.
Dr. Coons stated that John's conscience would not keep him from committing crimes in the future, because his conscience didn't keep him from murdering his own daughters. He believed that John enjoyed the manic states he experienced when he was off his meds, so he had concerns that John would actually stay on his medication while in jail. He also said that John exhibited characteristics of someone with antisocial personality disorder, and that John rationalized and blamed other people for his actions.
The defense called one last forensic psychiatrist as a rebuttal witness, Dr. Jay Douglas Crowder, who testified that John had an immature personality disorder, a substance abuse disorder and bipolar mood disorder type 1. The doctor stated that John's mental illness was a contributing factor in his commission of the offense, and that it made him irritable, impulsive and lacking in judgment on the night of the shootings. He testified that if John had been under treatment and receiving meds for his illness at the time, he wouldn't have committed the crime. He also said that John wasn't a future danger, based on his age and intelligence, that he would be on meds in a controlled environment in prison, and that the type of victim John had intended to harm would not be found in prison. Crowder stated that John believed his daughters were miserable, and that he was, quote, “Projecting onto them the hopelessness he felt about himself.”
When the state cross examined Dr. Crowder, he admitted that when John killed his children, he knew it was wrong, and that he consciously made a decision to do it.
John looked mainly uninterested during the week-long trial and only spoke one time, and that was to proclaim his love for his daughters.
The trial wrapped up on May 1, 2002, and jury deliberations began. It took only 19 minutes for the jury to come to a decision. They found 46 year old John Battaglia guilty of the highest charge, capital murder. John sat stoically in court, with no reaction to the verdict. He waved to his father and stepmother when he was led from the courtroom.
On April 20 2002, the same jury would sentence John to death. Mary Jean had a few choice words to say to John, at the sentencing hearing. She told him to and I quote, “Burn in hell forever. You are one of the most heinous murders of modern time. I would like to say the next time you see me is when they put the needle in your arm, but I'm not going to waste my time to be there.”
In 2014, while John was on death row, he was interviewed by Dallas Morning News about the murders. He claimed to have no memory of killing his daughters, that he didn't feel like he killed them, and that he was in the blank about what happened.
This seems to be a common excuse among criminals, doesn't it? They conveniently blackout when they viciously murder someone. Interesting.
The reporter asked John if he thought about the times he had with the girls, and if he was worried about where his daughters were at now:
Dallas Morning News Journalist (Interview with John Battaglia) 36:35
Do you think about the times you had with them, do you worry about where they are now?
John Battgali 36:40
No I don't worry about where they are now, why would I worry about where they are now?
Dallas Morning News Journalist 36:43
Where do you think they are?
John Battgali 36:44
Where we all are...we're all here, we're all gone at the same time. I'm not worried about it.
In case you couldn't fully make it out, John said, “Why would I worry about where they are now? We're all here. We're all gone at the same time. I'm not worried about it.”
When asked what he thought about his daughters, John looked at the reporter with, dare I say with a glimpse of adoration, as he said that “Faith and Liberty were your best little friends. The nicest little kids.”
He did recall getting the tattoo of roses on his arm, symbolizing his two girls.
Instead of John acknowledging and taking responsibility for his actions. He blamed everyone else. his ex wife, Mary Jean Pearle, the District Attorney, the judge at his trial, even the Dallas Morning News.
About four years after that interview on February 1, 2018, Mary Jean changed her mind and decided to attend the execution of her daughter's murder.
Prior to his execution, John's lawyers contended that he was delusional and mentally incompetent, and that a lower court had refused the lawyers request for additional money to hire an expert to examine legal claims regarding John's mental competency.
Russ McCaskey (CBS 11 News Anchor) 38:13
Today, nearly 17 years after the crime, John Battaglia is set to die for killing his young daughters. CBS11 Jennifer Lindgren is live with the latest efforts from his attorneys to try to stop the execution. Jen...
Jennifer Lindgren (CBS 11 News Field Reporter) 38:25
Russ, John Battaglia murdered his two young children in his loft in this Deep Ellum building back in 2001. His attorneys want to delay his execution but Battaglia has found little sympathy from the public and from the prosecutor who successfully tried this case. Over the years Battaglia's attorneys have argued he does not have a rational understanding of why he is facing punishment, but former prosecutor Howard Blackmon says the murders which he describes as diabolical and savage, stand out in his mind like few others.
Howard Blackmon, Attorney (CBS 11 News Report) 39:01
Out of spite, only to get back at the mother of the girls, his ex-wife, it was to put a lifetime curse on her and this is the way he chose to do it.
Jennifer Lindgren (CBS 11 News Field Reporter) 39:15
Twice before a judge has delayed Battaglia's execution this latest appeal seeks to do that again. As of right now he is set to die in less than 12 hours by lethal injection.
The execution was delayed more than three hours as the US Supreme Court rejected those appeals. A state judge in the state appeals court described John as highly intelligent, competent, not mentally ill, and faking mental illness in order to avoid execution.
The execution was held at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. On the victims side of the witness room in the death chamber sat Mary Jean Pearle along with several other witnesses. Not one person was sitting in John's designated side of the witness room.
When 62 year old John Battaglia entered the room, he looked around and said, “How many people are there? Oh, that's a lot.” He was asked by the warden if he had any last words. He initially said no, but then spotted Mary Jean sitting behind the glass and said, “Well, hi, Mary Jean. I'll see y'all later, bye.”
He then turned to the warden and said, “Go ahead, please.” Mary Jean got up and stood close to the glass window, not wanting to miss any details of what was about to happen. Once the lethal dose was administered at 9:18pm, John closed his eyes. A few seconds later, he opened his eyes, lifted his head and asked the chaplain “Am I still alive?”
Slowly, the pentobarbital sedative began to take effect, and John said, “Oh, here, I feel it.” He gasped twice and started to snore and within a few seconds, he stopped moving. The time of death was marked at 9:40pm central time. As Mary Jean stepped away from the glass window and walked towards the back of the witness area, she said, “I've seen enough of him.” She returned a few minutes later as a physician examined John and pronounced him dead.
[Ambient Segment Music Begins]
With John Battaglia no longer able to harm anyone else on this earth, do we have closure in this case? Far from it. The life of Mary Jean Pearle will always be scarred, and I don't know if a mother's heart can ever fully be mended when your children have been taken from you so violently. I hope that Mary Jean has been able to find some peace and some amount of strength amidst that tragic loss in her life.
Following the murders an amendment was made to the Texas Family Court, which required judges to presume that ordering supervised visitation, in cases where there's evidence of family violence or child abuse, is in the best interest of the child.
Mary Jean vowed to spend her life helping victims of domestic abuse. The Family Place, a domestic violence assistance center, has established the Faith and Liberty’s Placed Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange Program. The program was set up in memory of Mary Jean Pearle’s daughters, and serves as a location for supervised child visitation and custody exchange, in cases where one parent has a history of abusive behavior. The program oversees more than 2000 visitations and exchanges annually. You can read about their program and what the family place offers at familyplace.org. The link will also be in my show notes.
If you're concerned for a family member that is involved in a domestic violence situation, or have a friend that is in a similar situation, or if you yourself need help, support or resources, please call one 1-800-799-SAFE. That's 1-800-799-7233. Their services are 24/7, they're free, confidential, and without judgment.
If you'd like even more details on this case, there's a great book called No Daddy, Don’t, A Father’s Murderous Act of Revenge. I highly recommend this book for any domestic violence victim. Coincidentally, it was written by Irene Pence, no relation, and I'll put the link to the book in my show notes on my website.
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Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuJdoH0c_No&t=2s (WashingtonPost Texas man executed for killing his daughters)
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