John David Battaglia

John David Battaglia: Man Who Killed Daughters To Get Back At Ex-Wife Loses Appeal, Execution To Go Ahead Wednesday

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have denied the death-row reprieve of John David Battaglia, 60, who fatally shot his two young daughters over 15 years ago. The board spokesman, Raymond Estrada, said the board voted 7-0 Monday, declining to commute Battaglia’s death sentence to life imprisonment. According to the Dallas Morning News, Battaglia’s execution will go ahead as scheduled on Wednesday in Huntsville.

Battaglia was convicted of killing his daughters Faith, 9, and Liberty, 6, at his Dallas apartment in 2001 because he wanted to get back at his ex-wife, Mary Jean Pearle. Mary Jean Pearle said she knew that her husband was capable of violence but never for one second believed that he would turn his aggression towards the little girls. The girls were shot to death while she listened on the phone.

Their family looked normal and easy-going on the outside. John Battaglia was an accountant, and Pearle worked as an antique dealer.

“Everybody loved John. He was charming and fun, he was just wonderful.”

Pearle had no idea that she had married a man with a violent history, a man who got into an argument with his ex-wife and broke her nose and brutally beat up the same woman at his daughter’s elementary school.

The tempers started to flicker and the verbal abuse eventually began to come in torrents. But Pearle said he was never abusive towards the children.

“He never spanked the children. He never raised his voice to the children. He never grabbed their arm. He did nothing but love them,” she said.

Pearle said despite the verbal abuse, she worked hard to keep her family together. But Battaglia refused to go for anger management classes to work things out. Pearle continued to suffer the brunt of a private hell until one day, a seemingly harmless argument morphed into a physical attack. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Pearle filed for divorce after seven years of a tormented marriage. But she still had hopes that her husband would turn his life around. A Dallas County family court permitted John to see the girls, but he was not allowed to enter their residence.

On Christmas Day in 1999, Pearle was beaten up by Battaglia after an argument. He pleaded guilty when he was charged with misdemeanor assault. He was barred from having any form of contact with his ex-wife and refused visits to his daughters for 30 days. But things only worsened, with Battaglia leaving a threatening phone message.

“I thought that he might kill me,” Pearle said.

She never suspected that his continued association with their daughters would prove fatal.

On the day they died, Pearle dropped the kids with their father at a local shopping center. She was at a friend’s place when she received a call from her mother that her daughters wanted to speak to her. She immediately called back to speak to her daughters.

“Mommy, why do you want daddy to go to jail?” Faith asked.

Pearle heard her daughter yelling, “No daddy, no daddy. Please don’t do it,” before several gunshots followed.

She drove to her ex-husband’s apartment in downtown Dallas, where police officers had already arrived on the scene. She was told her that her little daughters were dead.

“It’s the emptiest feeling you can ever have in your life,” she said. “Everything, all your hopes, your dreams, your everything, just gone.”

Battaglia left a twisted message for his daughters, saying that he loved them dearly and hoped they were resting peacefully. He added that he wished that they had nothing to do with their mother who he described as “evil, vicious and stupid.” He was arrested at a tattoo parlor, where he was getting twin roses tattooed on his arms to remember the young girls he had brutally murdered.

It took a year for Battaglia to make it to trial. But it only took 20 minutes for a jury to find him guilty. Pearle has forgiven herself and remarried. She says she still keeps her “little babies” room intact and goes there to tell them how much she loves them every night.

[Image via Texas Department of Corrections]

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