Dallas man who killed daughters set to die Thursday

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Barring any last-minute maneuvering, infamous Dallas killer John Battaglia will be executed this Thursday.

It’s the third time Battaglia has been scheduled for execution. He was sentenced to death after murdering his two daughters in 2001 while their mother listened helplessly to killings on the phone.

That execution will happen about two and half hours away in Huntsville, north of Houston. It's far from the Adam Hats loft where the gruesome murder happened.

While nearly 17 years have passed since the murders, it's still front of mind for many in North Texas.

Howard Blackmon was supervising the district attorney office's child abuse and family violence unit when a case like no other became his responsibility.

“It's just a pure evilness,” he said. “The spite involved. gunning down your own little girls that loved him and relied on him for protection.”

In May 2001, Battaglia was on probation for assaulting his wife Mary Jean Pearle. She had just reported him for violating probation.

While his daughters, 6-year-old Liberty and 9-year-old Faith were visiting at his loft apartment. He put Faith on the phone with a question for her mother.

“Asked her mother, 'Why are you trying to have Daddy arrested and put in jail?'” recalled Dallas Police Lt. Bill Walsh. “Before she could answer, she heard her daughter scream 'No, Daddy! No!’ And then she heard several gunshots.”

Pearle made a frantic call to 911. She went to the apartment where she flagged down an officer. Officers discovered both girls dead inside.

Meanwhile, Battaglia went and got a tattoo of two roses for both the girls. Officers caught him a short time later. He ended up with a black eye after fighting with officers.

Blackmon recalls how indifferent Battaglia seemed then and throughout the case.

“While he is sitting in the police vehicle, he's just very nonchalant,” he recalled.

During the trial, the question was never who did it. It was whether or not Battaglia was mentally competent for the death penalty. A jury found that he was.

Battaglia was first scheduled for execution in March 2016, but a day-of appeal pushed it back. He was scheduled again for execution in December of that year but appealed it, pointing to mental incompetence. That appeal was also denied.

Blackmon is still cautious that an appeal might happen again.

“There's always last minute, so who knows,” he said. “I'll believe it when I see it.”

But Blackmon will not be there to see Battaglia killed.

FOX 4 reached out to his Mary Jean Pearle to see if she'll attend, but she didn't return any calls. However, she did address it after jurors sentenced Battaglia to death in 2002.

“I would like to say the next time you see me is when they put the needle in your arm,” she said in 2002. “But I'm not going to waste the time to be there.”

“It's just time for Battaglia to be done with,” Blackmon said.

The execution is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.