Stay of execution granted for dad who murdered his kids

Stay of execution for John Battaglia

DALLAS — On Wednesday morning the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution for John Battaglia, the Dallas man accused of killing his two daughters.

It's now up to the Texas attorney general to challenge or agree with that decision. 

Liberty wanted to be a ballerina. Faith was smart, and made people laugh.

On May 2, 2001, these little girls — ages 6 and 9 — were visiting their father, John Battaglia, in his apartment near downtown Dallas when the unthinkable happened.

"He tried to kill the children!"

Those are the chilling words from a 911 recording on the night that Liberty and Faith were murdered.

The little girls were on the phone talking to Mary Jean Pearle, their mother, when Battaglia shot them.

Pearle described the horror when Battaglia went on trial for murder one year later.

"And then I hear Faith go, 'No, daddy! Please don't do it!' And I heard [gunfire], and I hear him yell: 'Merry F-ing Christmas!'"

Evidence showed that Battagalia shot each of his daughters six times.

Pearle rushed to the apartment and paced while police entered. They told her the little girls were dead.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Pearle talked about that moment. "It's the most empty feeling you could ever have in your life. They are everything. All your hopes and dreams... everything is gone," she said.

Battaglia was arrested hours later outside a tattoo parlor where he had just had two roses — one for each girl — inked on his arm.

Before his arrest, Battaglia left this chilling message on his daughters' answering machine: 

"Good night my little babies. I hope you're resting in a different place."

There had been a long history of domestic violence between Battaglia and Pearle, but no one thought he would kill the children, so he was allowed to have unsupervised visits.

The murders sent shock waves through the community. Lawmakers were outraged, and a law was changed. It is now mandatory for judges to ask about a history of violence during divorce proceedings.

"In a lot of cases, it was not brought up that there had been domestic violence in that relationship that was dissolving... or there had been some danger to the child," explained Paige Flink, director of The Family Place, which offers assistance to abused spouses.

Battaglia was scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 30. But a brighter lasting image will remain.

After the little girls were slain, The Family Place opened Faith and Liberty’s Place, where parental visits are supervised by armed off-duty police officers.

It’s also a place where estranged parents can exchange children safely.

"I am certain Faith and Liberty's Place has helped prevent children from being kidnapped, children being harmed," Flink said.

Tiffany Ratcliff and her abusive ex-husband were ordered to go to Faith and Liberty's Place by a judge to exchange their son.

"I was scared. I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I didn't know if I was going to live or if I was going to die."

After eight years of supervised exchanges and visits, Ratcliff said she and her ex built an amicable relationship and things changed.

This center helps more than 100 families every month. Ratcliff has a message for Faith and Liberty's mother.

"I'm sorry for your loss, but I am grateful -- and I don't mean to be selfish. I don't because I had another chance at life, and I am so sorry for your loss," she said.

John Battaglia might finally pay for his crimes on Wednesday. Faith and Liberty's spirit will live on between the walls at The Family Place, where children are safe.

Battaglia Stay of Execution 5th Circuit Filed 3.30.16

(© 2016 WFAA)


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