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Sugar Land father fights to save son from death row

Kent Whitaker is asking the state to spare his son. He's set to be executed in just three days for staging an attack to kill his family in their Sugar Land home in 2003.

SUGAR LAND, Texas - Kent Whitaker is asking the state to spare his son. He’s set to be executed in just three days for staging an attack to kill his family in their Sugar Land home in 2003.

Whitaker says he's a victim, and if Texas is a victim's rights state, it should save the last surviving member of his family.

An unthinkable tragedy. Bart Whitaker, 23, called 911, he and his entire family shot in their home. His mother and younger brother died. The only survivors were Bart and his dad. However, police later discovered Bart hired a hitman to kill his family, they believe so he could collect his inheritance.

Fourteen years later, Kent still attends the same church -- a church he says helped him heal.

"At the time of the shootings, they kind of surrounded me," he said.

Kent says his faith led to forgiveness.

"That night God met me in my hospital bed as I was wrestling with my faith, wondering why this had happened? And He led me to a choice where I asked him to help me forgive the person, whoever it was," Kent said.

From the outside, the Whitakers seemed like the perfect family. They attended church and vacationed together. Bart attended Clements High School, but on the inside, he struggled.

Kent Whitaker is asking the state to spare his son. He's set to be executed in just three days for staging an attack to kill his family in their Sugar Land home in 2003.

"He hated himself to start with. It's a mental illness issue there that caused him to despise the mask that he was having to live behind and thinking nobody would care for the person behind the mask," Kent said.

On the night of the murders, the family went out to dinner to celebrate Bart's college graduation. However, police found out detectives he wasn't graduating. It was all a set-up before the attack.

"So many times, yeah, in fact that was the very first thing he told me when he was arrested and brought back from Mexico," said Kent, when asked if his son had apologized.

Nearly two years after the murders, Bart was arrested 40 miles from Texas border in Monterrey, Mexico. In 2007, a Fort Bend County jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. However, the man he hired to pull the trigger got life in prison, and from the beginning, Kent argued his son should get life, too.

Kent Whitaker is asking the state to spare his son. He's set to be executed in just three days for staging an attack to kill his family in their Sugar Land home in 2003.

"District attorneys all over the State of Texas routinely refer to victims on whether to pursue the death penalty against a murder. And while they don't have to take those recommendations, they always do and it wasn't just me in this case, it was everybody," he said.

It set this father on a quest to get his son off death row. Filling a clemency petition, traveling to Austin to meet with the parole board and visiting his son.

"He loves politics, he's very well read, he doesn't forget things often, and so we have a lively conversation about politics. He's much more liberal than I am," Kent said.

But now with time running out, he's hoping the governor will intervene.

"Everybody has told me that I don't want to be there, everybody who has witnessed one of these. And I don't want to be there. I don't know what I'm going to do. I know that I don't want him to be looking through that glass and not see anyone that cares for him," he said.

Kent says his son is a model prisoner. He's completed college behind bars and is now working on a thesis for graduate school at Cal State. His father says even four prison guard sent letters asking the state to spare his son. The execution is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.