HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Carl Wayne Buntion was executed Thursday for the 1990 murder of Houston police officer James Irby.
Buntion gave a lengthy last statement expressing remorse, but still not accepting full responsibility for Irby’s murder.
“The only thing I can say is it was an amazing feeling, and I feel like I took the deepest breath I’ve been able to in the last 32 years,” said Irby’s widow, Maura.
Maura Irby and her son, Cody witnessed Buntion’s execution. Maura Irby praised the strength and resiliency her children showed in the face of growing up without their father.
“I didn’t think of [Buntion] as a person. I just thought of him as a thing, as a cancer on the face of my family,” said Maura Irby.
Prior to the execution, Cody and his sister Cally Irby spoke about how the 31 years Buntion was on death row only prolonged the family’s pain. Cody was three years old when his father was murdered.
“I’m not angry at the situation, I’m not angry about my father’s death anymore, I’m more angry that it’s taken this long,” said Cody Irby. “It’s not about justice, it’s not about revenge. It’s about a punishment that was given and never followed through with.”
Cally Irby was one year old when her father was murdered.
“It’s almost like I’m losing my father for the first time because of all this,” said Cally Irby. “I’ve been wondering my whole life if this day was ever going to come, and now that it’s here, I don’t have the words to explain how it makes me feel.”
Buntion became the oldest inmate ever executed by the state of Texas. He was 78 years old.
Buntion, a career criminal and sex offender, was convicted of murdering Irby during a 1990 traffic stop. He gave a 4-minute-long last statement saying in part, “I pray to God that they get the closure for me killing their father and Ms. Irby’s husband.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg also witnessed Buntion’s execution and pointed out he still refers to what happened as a shootout, when in fact, Irby never got the chance to get his gun out of its holster.
“There was no shootout. There was a murder of an officer in full uniform, in the line of duty,” said Ogg.
A huge contingent of Houston police officers gathered outside the Huntsville Unit to support the family, including HPD Chief Troy Finner.
“Thank God after 32 years some sense of closure and moving forward,” said Finner.
Officer Irby’s former partner at HPD and childhood friend Gary Blankenship was also a witness to Buntion’s execution.
“I’m just glad there was some closure. I think pure evil has left this world,” said Blankenship.
Officer Irby’s murder did lead to major changes in our criminal justice system.
His widow, Maura Irby, launched a foundation in her late husband’s name. That work helped bring about the end of violent felons being released from prison after only serving a fraction of their sentences, much tighter supervision of parolees, and victims being able to give impact statements during sentencing.