Gang leader not scared to die'—-'El Cubano,' whose execution is set for
Tuesday, has had a decade to reflect on his crime of murder
Yosvanis "El Cubano" Valle, 34, on death row at the Polunksy Unit in
Livingston for the 1999 murder-robbery of a drug dealer, hopes to marry
his girlfriend by proxy before he's executed Nov. 10. His execution would
be the 21st in Texas this year.
El Cubano's body slumps in the shadowy cell, but his doughy, pallid face,
branded with his gang's telltale teardrop tattoo, pushes within inches of
the window between him and his visitor. He pauses a moment, adjusts the
telephone receiver, then in a propulsive stream of heavily accented
English says: "I know what you want to ask me. I know what you want to
know. You want to know what I'm going to say for my final words when they
Yosvanis "El Cubano" Valle, 34, leader of the prison gang known as La Raza
Unida, has had a full decade to ruminate on his crime the robbery-murder
of Houston drug dealer Jose "Yogi" Junco on June 7, 1999 and to compose
his exit speech.
Barring unexpected intervention by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,
the Cuban-born Valle will be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday. He will be the
21st prisoner put to death in Texas this year and the 1st of 3 Harris
County inmates scheduled to die this month.
"We've had a lot of help along the way from the Texas Defender Service and
others," says Valle's lawyer, Roland Moore. "If there was even the
remotest indication there was anything else we could do, we would do it.
But there's not."
Prison records only hint at the scope of Valle's criminal career. The gang
leader served 2 years of an 8-year firearms sentence in the mid-1990s
before being released on mandatory supervision. But prosecutors painted a
more lurid picture in the punishment phase of Valle's trial. Valle, they
told jurors, committed 1 other murder and ordered gang members to commit 2
Junco's body had 11 gunshot wounds.
"I did wrong to a lot of people," Valle says. His words convey urgency;
his demeanor, an unnerving, calculated friendliness. "I've been trying to
work on my life since then. Back then, it was a crazy-dude life. When I
look at myself, I want to do good for my family."
Around Valle's neck hangs the photograph of a young woman, Victoria. She's
his girlfriend, he says, and they plan to marry. It's unclear when that
proxy union might take place, but Valle spends his last days planning his
final hours. "On that last day," he says, "I want to see my brother, my
mother, my girl and my best friend from Miami."
Implicated by a friend
Valle was arrested 2 months after the killing when he went to Pasadena to
bail a fellow gang member out of jail. He was unaware that his friend had
implicated him in the murder.
Junco's then-girlfriend, Amy Lindgren, a key witness, told jurors she
heard dogs barking shortly before midnight and saw 4 or 5 people outside
the home she shared with the drug dealer. She thought they were just
customers in search of a fix. Then the men forced their way through the
A panicked Junco thrust a pillow over her face and cried, 'Don't look at
them, baby." Then she heard the words, "Where's the money?" and gunshots.
When Valle returned to his apartment, he stripped off his clothes and
urinated on his hands. "The gunpowder never will show," he said, according
to court records.
Although jurors were not empathetic, defense lawyers offered testimony
that Valle grew up amid stifling poverty in Cuba. He went days without
food, eating what he scavenged in fields.
He was abused by his mother's numerous lovers, one of whom cut a chunk
from his own arm to demonstrate his willingness to inflict pain. Valle was
forced to kneel on sharp objects as punishment. By age 6, he was seeking
solace in home-brewed alcohol.
Valle brushes aside questions about his squalid childhood. "Yeah, things
were tough," he says.
Says he's suffered enough
Valle maintains his innocence, though he offers that innocent or guilty
the years he's spent on death row are sufficient punishment.
"Maybe I sound crazy," he says. "If nobody helps me, on Nov. 10 I'm going
to die. I'm not scared to die. I'm never going to die in people's hearts.
The only person I love is God and my people."
His planned statement from the death house gurney?
Valle declines to answer.
(source: Houston Chronicle)