Posted: Dec 24, 2012 7:55 AM
HOUSTON - A 31-year-old gang member from El Paso on death row for strangling a woman with an electrical cord and ordering her fingers be chopped off with a machete has lost a federal court appeal.
The ruling late Friday from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals moves Justen Grant Hall a step closer to execution for the October 2002 slaying of Melanie Billhartz.
Evidence showed Billhartz was killed after an argument that escalated to an assault. Court records showed Hall and fellow Aryan Circle gang members feared their house where methamphetamines were known to be cooked would be identified after Billhartz threatened to call police to report the assault on her.
She was found dead in the New Mexico desert outside El Paso.
Hall doesn't yet have an execution date.
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