HOUSTON – Robert “Bob” Fratta was put to death Tuesday in Huntsville.
Fratta’s execution came nearly 29 years after his estranged wife, Farah Fratta, was murdered.
On Nov. 9, 1994, Farah had just returned to her Atascocita home when she was ambushed in her garage and shot in the head. A neighbor witnessed the shooting and immediately dialed 911.
“I just saw a shooting, I was in my living room nursing my baby and I looked out my window and our neighbor was outside our garage and she was shot two times,” Laura Hoelscher is heard telling a dispatcher on a recording of that emergency call.
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In the recording of the 911 call, Hoelscher then told police the gunman was picked up by another person who drove off.
Bob Fratta was almost instantly considered a suspect.
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“Detective 101, investigator 101, you’re going to look at the husband,” said Houston Crimestoppers’ Andy Kahan.
Those suspicions intensified when investigators learned Bob and Farah were locked in a contentious divorce and custody battle over their three children. Court documents and testimony indicate Bob’s intensifying sexual appetites were the reason for the divorce.
News reports from 1994 also show $1,000 in cash was found in the glove compartment of Bob’s car the night of Farah’s murder. Bob told detectives it was money for a new carpet.
“Did you arrange to have your wife killed?” a detective asked Bob during an interrogation the night of Farah’s murder.
“No, I did not,” Bob answered.
A portion of the videotaped interrogation remains in the Harris County court archives. Bob appeared calm and said he had no idea who would want to kill his wife.
Bob is then heard telling the detective he is a Missouri City public safety officer. At the time, that position was a hybrid firefighter and police officer. Bob told the detective he wondered whether his work made Farah a target. The detective balked at the suggestion.
“Who hates your wife enough to kill her?” the detective asked.
“Nobody that I can think of. I mean I can’t think of anybody that hates her,” Bob said.
“What’s wrong with this picture?” the detective said.
Another detective who questioned Bob that night spoke with reporters following his release from custody.
“He’s lying. He’s been lying all night. You know there’s no robbery, there’s no sexual assault, there’s no carjacking, basically, you got a mother of three coming home from work at 8 o’clock in a low crime, an affluent subdivision in northeast Harris County, basically gets ambushed and shot execution style,” the detective said in 1994.
Bob also spoke to reporters after his release and said he had an alibi.
“Well, at the time it happened I was at church with my children,” said Bob in 1994.
While that is true, detectives still focused on Bob as a suspect.
Five months after Farah was murdered, Bob was arrested and charged with capital murder. Court records and trial testimony showed Bob was vocal about his anger over the divorce and custody battle, constantly complaining he was broke. Testimony also revealed Bob asked several people about finding someone to kill his wife.
“He is so self-serving, so egotistical, a classic narcissist that believes the world revolves around him,” said Kahan. “He just couldn’t fathom that he would not be granted custody and he did not want to pay child support.”
Court records read Bob hired Joseph Andrew Prystash and Howard Paul Guidry to kill his wife. Detectives said Prystash was the go-between and get-away driver and Guidry was the triggerman.
Judy Cox was a social worker assigned to supervise visits between Bob and his three children after their mother’s murder. Bradley was 7, Daniel 6, and Amber 4 at the time of their mother’s murder.
“I can remember (Amber) walking around the office and saying to anyone who would listen, ‘the bad guys put bullets in my mommy’s head,’ Cox said.
Cox’s notes from those meetings reveal the confusion and pain the children endured.
“They wanted to know when they could live with him. Amber cried when he left and wanted just one more hug,” Cox read from her case notes.
Cox said she remembers Bradley asking his father about the money found in his car.
“He wanted to know, ‘Daddy, why did you have all that money in your car?’” Cox said.
She said Bob told his son the same thing he told police, it was for a new carpet. Cox said Bradley also testified during the trial he saw his father get up twice to use the phone while they were at church the night Farah was murdered.
Cox said prosecutors used that testimony partly to show Bob was calling to see if his estranged wife’s murder had been carried out. Phone calls from Bob linked him to Prystash’s then-girlfriend, who became a critical witness for the prosecution.
Guidry was later arrested for bank robbery and detectives learned the gun used during that robbery is believed to be the same used to kill Farah. Detectives also determined the gun had been purchased by Bob.
“My poor daughter, she stood in front of him. He could have spared her,” said Lex Baquer outside a courtroom in 1994. “These people are not human.”
Cox said Farah’s mother and father, Lex and Betty Baquer, adopted the children.
“When they turned 18 they went to visit him one time,” Cox said of Bob’s two sons.
“And that was it?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.
“They asked him one question and he didn’t answer and they left,” Cox said.
“I am assuming that question was ‘why,’” Arnold said.
“Correct,” Cox said.
Bob was convicted and sentenced to die in 1996. More than a decade later, he was granted a retrial when it was determined Prystash and Guidry’s confessions should not have been allowed into evidence.
“I just felt so sorry for Lex and Betty having to go through that again,” said Cox.
In 2009, Bob was again convicted of Farah’s murder and given the death penalty. Kahan said he will attend the execution; fulfilling a promise he made to Lex Baquer before he passed away in 2018.
“‘If I cannot be there, will you go in my place because I want to make sure this actually happens,’” Kahan said Lex asked him. “There are certain cases that deserve the death penalty and Bob Fratta is right at the top of the list. He is an evil, sadistic man.”
Prystash and Guidry were also convicted of Farah’s murder and sentenced to death, but their execution dates have not been scheduled.