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Texas Executes Former Cop Convicted Of Hiring Hitmen To Kill Wife Nearly 30 Years Ago

Robert Fratta was found guilty of hiring two men to kill his wife, Farah Fratta, during a contentious divorce back in 1994, and executed despite having argued the use of expired lethal injection drugs was unconstitutional. 

By Jax Miller
Husbands Who Killed Their Wives

A one-time police officer convicted of hiring two men to kill his estranged wife has died by execution.

Robert Fratta, 65, died Tuesday at the Hunstville Penitentiary in Texas after receiving the lethal injection for the 1994 murder-by-hire of his estranged wife, Farah Fratta, 33, according to the Associated Press. When asked by state prison officials if he had any last words, the former suburban Houston-area police officer replied, “no."

In the galley was one of the Frattas' now-adult children and Farah Fratta’s brother, neither of whom addressed the media following the convict’s execution, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Robert Fratta’s death marked the state’s first execution in 2023, despite last-minute appeals for a stay of execution.

Hours before Fratta’s passing, Judge Catherine Mauzy for the 419th District Court in Austin issued a temporary civil injunction, which briefly stopped the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from carrying out the execution, per the Houston Chronicle. Her ruling stated what Fratta and other death row inmates had maintained: that using expired drugs for lethal injection violated multiple pharmaceuticals regulations within the state, including The Texas Pharmacy Act, the Texas Controlled Substances Act and others.

A police handout of Robert Fratta

The practice of using expired drugs has been commonplace for years in Texas, with the Department of Criminal Justice regularly extending expiry dates for pentobarbital, the sole ingredient in the state’s lethal injection process, according to the Texas Tribune.

Mauzy claimed the drug was “probably illegal to possess or administer because it is more likely than not expired” and that the Department of Criminal Justice hadn’t contradicted claims that the expired pentobarbital was capable of causing “torture, ill treatment or unnecessary pain,” which would have violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, according to the Tribune.

Higher courts overturned Judge Mauzy’s injunction, and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to continue, according to the Chronicle.

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Fratta was convicted of hiring Joseph Prystash, who enlisted the help of Howard Guidry, to fatally shoot Farah Fratta at her home in Atascocita, a Houston suburb. The estranged couple was embroiled in a contentious divorce and custody battle when Farah was shot twice in the head in her garage.

Evidence also showed that, just days after his estranged wife's murder, Fratta tried to cash in on her life insurance policy, according to the Associated Press.

He allegedly planned to pay the hitmen $1,000 and give them a Jeep in return for Farah’s murder. Court records stated that Fratta had previously asked several other people if they could help him find someone to kill Farah.

“I’ll just kill her, and I’ll do my time and, when I get out, I’ll have my kids,” he told one friend, per court documents.

Fratta was a public safety officer in Missouri City, Texas at the time of the murder and had long maintained his innocence, according to the Associated Press.

He was initially sentenced to death in 1996. However, the conviction was vacated when a federal judge found Prystash and Guidry’s confessions shouldn’t have been introduced in the trial, according to the Associated Press. The federal judge who overturned his conviction referred Fratta as “egotistical, misogynistic and vile, with a callous desire to kill his wife” in his ruling.

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Fratta was retried, convicted and sentenced to death again in 2009. Prystash and Guidry were also sentenced to death for their roles in the slaying.

Fratta had lost several appeals over the years, including arguments that newer ballistic testing could have excluded one gun from being the murder weapon — a bid that was rejected in 2018.

The Frattas' three children were raised by Farah’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018, according to the Associated Press.

Crime Stoppers Houston victim services director Andy Kahan and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg were among the spectators present for the execution, according to the Chronicle.

Fratta was pronounced dead at 7:49 p.m., 24 minutes after the lethal dose was administered.

“Bob was a coward in 1994 when he arranged the murder for hire of his estranged wife, and 28 years later, he still was a coward tonight,” Kahan commented after the execution. “He was offered an opportunity to at least extend an olive branch to his son, who he knew was watching this."

“He still could have said ‘I’m sorry,’” Kahan continued.

Fratta’s execution was the second in the United States in 2023, following the lethal injection of Amber McLaughlin.