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Inmate Executed For 1976 Burglary-Slaying

September 10, 1987

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ A man convicted of killing a probation officer as the man’s wife and daughter lay bound beneath a blanket nearby was executed early Thursday after 10 years on Texas’ death row.

Joseph Starvaggi, 34, who had no final statement, was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m., eight minutes after the deadly mix of drugs began flowing through his arms.

″Oh, good 3/8 One down, one to go,″ said Grace Denson, whose husband, John, was shot three times during a 1976 burglary at their rural Montgomery County home, 50 miles north of Houston.

G.W. Green of Houston was sentenced to death with Starvaggi in the case, and remains on death row. Glen Earl Martin received a life prison term.

Starvaggi, a cement finisher from Champaign, Ill. whose record included arrests for burglary and drug possesion, lost appeals Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Houston and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans before the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 6-2 vote, also rejected pleas for a reprieve.

The courts in Houston and New Orleans accused Starvaggi of deliberately delaying his appeals until the last possible moment. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit called his motion ″a classic example of an abuse of the writ.″

His only comment, after the Supreme Court ruled against him, was: ″I was expecting that, thank you,″ according to Texas Department of Corrections spokesman Charles Brown.

Denson was killed Nov. 19, 1976, when Starvaggi and at least two other men forced their way into the family’s home, apparently to steal a $6,000 gun collection owned by the county juvenile probation officer.

Mrs. Denson and her 13-year-old daughter, tied hand and foot and forced to lie under a blanket, heard Denson - already shot once - beg for his life before Starvaggi allegedly shot him two more times, killing him.

Mrs. Denson said Green insisted Starvaggi also kill her and her daughter.

″I shoot dopers and pigs but I don’t shoot straights,″ she said Starvaggi told him.

Starvaggi was the sixth inmate executed in Texas this year and the 26th since the state resumed executions in 1982. He was the 92nd person in the nation executed since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to impose the death penalty in 1976. Texas leads the nation in executions since then.

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