Ramiro Rubi Ibarra, who has spent 23 years on Texas death row for sexually assaulting and strangling a teenage girl in Waco in 1987, is closer to an execution date after the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to consider his latest appeal.

Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court is expected to set a March 4 execution date for the 66-year-old in accordance with a motion filed recently by the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.

Ibarra Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Ibarra’s appeals have bounced around in state and federal appellate courts for decades since the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals first affirmed his direct appeal in 1999.

State and federal appellate courts have rejected Ibarra’s claims that he is not mentally fit to stand execution and that, as a Mexican citizen, he was denied legal assistance from the Mexican Consulate after his arrest, an alleged violation of international agreements. He also has claimed his trial attorneys were ineffective.

The Supreme Court without comment denied Ibarra’s latest appeal in late June, and prosecutors on July 27 filed the proposed execution date.

Ibarra’s federal appellate attorney, Russ Hunt Jr., said he will continue to pursue what limited options remain for Ibarra.

“Of course we are very disappointed that as of this point we have not been able to get him relief through the appellate process,” Hunt said. “But we will continue pursuing whatever avenues we are able to.”

Ibarra was sentenced to death in the 1987 death of 16-year-old Maria De La Paz Zuniga. Zuniga was baby-sitting two nephews at her family’s home in Waco when Ibarra, a family acquaintance, attacked her. She was beaten, raped and strangled with an electrical cord, according to trial testimony.

Ibarra was arrested in 1987 on the day Zuniga’s body was found. However, he was released because of an improper search warrant and was not arrested again until 1996.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 ruled against Ibarra’s claim that his attorneys failed to properly investigate and present evidence of Ibarra’s extreme childhood poverty and physical and emotional abuse from his father. He claimed the evidence could have convinced jurors to choose a life sentence rather than death.

After his capital murder trial in Waco, Ibarra was convicted in Bell County of sexually assaulting a nephew and received a life prison sentence.