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TDCJ inmate indicted for Capital Murder in death of cellmate

ANDERSON CO., January 31, 2014— An Anderson County Grand Jury has indicted TDCJ offender, Harry Whitaker, 59 for the offense Capital Murder in the slaying of Cresencio Vasquez, who was also a prisoner in TDCJ at the Michael Unit, Tennessee Colony, Texas.

According to Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe, the indictment against Whitaker was returned on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by the Anderson County Grand Jury.  The charge alleges that Whitaker strangled Vasquez to death on June 7, 2012.    According to law enforcement reports, Whitaker and Vasquez were cellmates on the Michael Unit at the time of the incident.

Whitaker, originally from Houston, is alleged to have been convicted of 3 murders in 1977 and one attempted murder.

At the time of the alleged murder, Vasquez, from San Antonio had been in prison since 2007 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Texas law allows Capital Murder to be charged in the case because Whitaker was in prison for murder.

Now, it’s up to District Attorney Doug Lowe to decide whether the State of Texas will seek the death penalty against Whitaker.

“The Special Prosecution Unit which prosecutes cases that occur on TDCJ units will assist me in the prosecution of the case.  But, the final decision on whether to seek the death penalty rests with me,” said District Attorney Lowe.

“And, while I’m not allowed to talk about the specific facts of this case, I want everyone to know that the death penalty is an option in these kinds of cases,” added District Attorney Lowe.

If a defendant is found guilty of Capital Murder and the state seeks the death penalty, the punishment options the jury would decide are limited to life without parole or the death penalty.

“I am mindful that death penalty prosecutions are time-consuming and very expensive.   However, if an offender has murdered to get into prison and now he has murdered in prison; then there is a real danger to our friends and family that work at TDCJ,” said District Attorney Lowe.

District Attorney Lowe in commenting on the weight of decision to be made said,   “We are looking at our options.   Having prosecuted death penalty cases before, I know the gravity of what I have to decide.”

Thursday’s indictment was a re-indictment of one originally returned in October of last year.

The case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General, Texas Department of Criminal Justice.   OIG Investigator Mark Owens was the lead investigator in the case.   

The State Counsel for Offenders, a division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice represents offenders for crimes they are accused of committing while incarcerated at TDCJ units.

KYYK’s Gary Richards spoke with Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe about the case. Click below for more.

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