Robert Fratta smiles at television cameras, licks his finger then wipes his face with it.
He is concerned about the way he looks, which wouldn’t be a problem if his wife hadn’t been brutally murdered the night before.
It was February 10, 1994, and the police officer-turned bodybuilder strode towards waiting media wearing blue jeans, a blue and yellow jacket and a bum bag.
He told reporters from a local news station in Humble, Texas, “I hope they find the guy soon”. Then he played up to cameras, cleaning his face and offering a cheesy grin.
Fratta not only knew who “the guy” was, but was responsible for hiring him. In the midst of a messy divorce, the father-of-three solicited as many as seven people to carry out his wife’s murder.
He eventually found Joseph Prystash, who agreed. Prystash hired a third man, Howard Paul Guildry, to do the shooting.
On February 9, Fratta took his children to a local church. While there, Guildry entered the couple’s property through a back gate and shot Farah Fratta, 33, in the head. She was shot again as she lay dying in the couple’s driveway.
The innocent act Fratta played was flawed. Though his alibi was concrete, his phone calls led police right to him. During the night, while the murder was taking place, Fratta, Prystash and Guildry were all in constant communication.
All three would be sentenced to be executed. On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court rejected Fratta’s appeal. He awaits his execution date on death row.
‘I WASN’T ATTRACTED TO HER’
Documentary maker Walter Herzog interviewed Fratta 17 years after he was sentenced in 1996. That same cheeky smile was all over his face.
Fratta told Herzog about how the couple first met, and how Farah had pursued him relentlessly.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t very attracted to her, physically,” he said. “But she treated me wonderfully. She was already engaged, but she kept pursuing me knowing I was dating other women.
“She wanted to cook for me, clean for me, do my clothes for me. I was like, this woman’s wonderful. I grew to love her and fall in love with her.”
Asked if he thought she was “beautiful”, Fratta paused.
“I thought she was attractive but she was only 5’4” … I wanted to marry a woman who was (taller than that). She didn’t meet the physical attributes of what I was looking for in a wife.
It was insecurity. Because I was short and skinny.”
Roe Wilson, the prosecutor who helped secure a guilty verdict for Fratta and his two associates, said Fratta approached “seven people to ask them to kill his wife”.
Mike Edens was one of them. The bodybuilder who worked out with Fratta said he could’ve been the one on death row had he not been smarter than that.
“True, true. I don’t think I would ever do that.”
As Fratta awaits his execution date, he continues to try to find friends — “real friendships”.
‘I’M SINGLE, EASY GOING, NON JUDGMENTAL’
Robert Fratta has a profile on Inmateconnection.com, a website that describes its purpose as “to make a difference in the lives of inmates serving prison terms”.
He goes by “Bobby” on the site, and describes himself as “single”.
“Hi, I’m Bobby and I’m looking for real friendships,” he says. “Your age, sex, looks, marital status, nationality, race and preferences don’t matter to me.
“I’m open to any and all. I’m single, easygoing, non judgmental, honest, don’t play games, have a good sense of humour and am open to all topics. I’m also a good listener if you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. I’m here for you.
“If you’re tired of dealing with the superficiality of social media sites where many people get caught up with portraying themselves in an exaggerated manner in hopeless quests to meet someone else’s ideals; if you’re willing to disconnect from an electronic device long enough to explore the possibility of a rich, warm intimate human experience; then write me.
“I want and accept you as you are. Let’s have a relaxed friendship based on openness and honesty with equal reciprocity and meaningful exchange, and enjoy the wonderful rewards that come from it.”
Fratta might be moving on, but Farah’s parents can’t. In an interview with CBS News in 2006, Lex and Betty Baquer described what it was like when they first heard the news.
“I came home about 7 o’clock from work and my wife had just prepared a nice hot meal for me,” Lex said.
“The telephone rang. It was maybe two minutes after 8 o’clock.”
On the other end of the line was Farah’s neighbour, who delivered the unthinkable news.
“I don’t know how fast I drove. I have no idea,” Lex said.
“And when we went there, the lights were all over the place. And the cop was trying to stop us.”
Betty said police tried to stop them getting to their daughter, who was clinging to life.
“I got to her (and) she was alive … she was face up, but she was having convulsions,” Lex said.
She died soon after.
“I just put my hand up on her, just shut her eyes,” Betty said. And I felt her. She was cold. It hurt so much.”
All these years later, Fratta maintains he didn’t do it.
“I’m completely innocent of my wife Farah’s death,” Fratta wrote in his most recent appeal. The Supreme Court upheld his original sentence.