Serial killer: At least 20 intended victims escaped

Johnny Joe Avalos admits killing 5 women, gets life in prison without parole

SAN ANTONIO – Court records introduced Tuesday during a sentencing hearing for serial killer Johnny Joe Avalos made one thing very clear, according to prosecutors.

"His details and his memory of events were pretty good," Assistant Bexar County District Attorney David Lunan said. "He could describe each one of them and was certainly willing to tell it."

Avalos, 31, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after admitting that during 2012 and 2015, he strangled five women, including four who were prostitutes.

In court records filed by prosecutors, Avalos explained that he would stalk women, primarily prostitutes, in the middle of the night on the near South Side after he got off work as a dishwasher at a restaurant near downtown .

Acosta claimed that at least 20 other women he tried to attack got away.

"If Johnny is to be believed, then I would expect that there are other women that have been assaulted or that he attempted to assault," Lunan said. "Whether or not he murdered anyone else, we don't know."

Since Avalos was evaluated and determined to be intellectually disabled, prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against him, even though he confessed to capital murder charges.

Lunan explained that the definition of intellectually disabled is determined by state law and begins with an IQ examination, with 70 or below as a starting point.

"We look at the IQ and then combine that with looking at what other adaptive deficits have been demonstrated," he said. 

Other considerations include cognitive reasoning and judgment abilities.

Given Avalos' intellectual status, to execute him would violate his Eighth Amendment rights that guarantee protection from cruel and unusual punishment, Lunan said.

About the Author:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.