December 19, 1985
Tara Lauti (9) is abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed by her uncle Aua Lauti (31)
Aua visited the house of his uncle (Tara’s father) on the night of December 18. He had been despondent over a recent break up and was visibly intoxicated by the time he arrived, and continued to excessively drink while at the house. By the end of the evening, he had consumed at least two 12-packs of beer and 4 quarts (about 3.75 liters) of malt liquor. Aua left but returned unexpectedly and went into a bedroom to sleep, a room shared by Tara and her 5-year-old brother.
Aua’s uncle took his two older daughters with him to drive to Aua’s parents’ house approximately 4 miles (6.5 km) away to request one of the relatives bring Aua home. When Tara’s father returned, Aua had left and the remaining children in the house were upset. “They were crying,” Tara’s father said. “They told me that Tara was gone.”
The family searched for Tara and found Aua several miles away, sitting in a car in a church parking lot. When questioned about Tara, Aua directed his relatives to her location. Tara was found at approximately 1 a.m. on December 19. She was covered in mud, was bruised and bleeding, and was nude from the waist down. She was taken to her home and a LifeFlight helicopter was called. Tara had already died before its arrival, however.
Tara’s autopsy revealed she died of three injuries, any of which may have proven fatal on their own: a fractured skull, strangulation, and a crushed chest.
Aua confessed to the killing, stating that while he was still at Tara’s home he hit her in the head with his fist which knocked her unconscious. He placed her in his car and began driving, and Tara regained consciousness as he drove. Aua struck Tara in the head again, this time with an empty malt liquor bottle, once again rendering her unconscious. Aua drove to a remote location, took Tara out into a field, molested and attempted to rape her, struck her in the chest with his fist, and manually strangulated her for 5 minutes before he left her body.
Aua’s defense attempted a plea of temporary insanity due to the level of intoxication he had been experiencing at the time of the murder, and sought a life sentence rather than the death penalty. The prosecution, however, noted Aua had been convicted of a first-degree rape charge in 1975 for which he served 4 years, which helped ensure Aua’s death sentence. He was executed by lethal injection on November 4, 1997.
Graczyk, Michael. “Texas executes man who kidnapped, killed his 9-year-old cousin.” Johnson City Press. November 5, 1997
“Man executed for cousin’s abduction, beating death.” Star-Telegram [Fort Worth, Texas]. November 5, 1997
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Aua LAUTI, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Gary JOHNSON, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, Respondent-Appellant. No. 96-20003. Decided: December 13, 1996 (archived: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-5th-circuit/1277735.html)
“Man who abducted, killed cousin sentenced to die.” The Times [Shreveport, Louisiana]. September 10, 1986
“Man charged with cousin’s murder.” Marshall News Messenger. December 20, 1985
“Police beat.” The Baytown Sun. December 19, 1985