March 2001 Executions
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Eight killers were executed in March 2001.  They had murdered at least 14 people.
Twelve killers received stays of execution in March 2001.  They have murdered at least 16 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 1, 2001 Oklahoma Rhonda Kay Timmons, 19 Robert Clayton  executed

Robert Clayton was sentenced to death for a murder committed 15 years ago. Robert William Clayton, 39, was convicted of the 1985 murder of Rhonda Kay Timmons, 19, at a Tulsa apartment complex. Clayton was an apartment complex groundskeeper convicted of killing Timmons around noon on June 25, 1985. Timmons was stabbed repeatedly and suffered a skull fracture to the front of her head. Prosecutors said during his trial that Clayton came upon Timmons as she was sunbathing. He beat her and stabbed her 13 times in the chest, neck, side and arms before strangling her with her bathing suit top. Timmons' husband, Bill, found her in front of their infant son's crib after he came home for lunch about half an hour later. The baby was not injured. The inside of the couple's apartment was covered in blood, authorities said. The child is now 16. Clayton had no previous convictions but testimony at trial implicated him in a robbery in Texas and a rape in Mississippi.  At trial, Clayton's defense was that he was psychotic and retarded.  Clayton had received a stay of execution so that additional DNA testing could be done, but the stay was lifted on 1/19/01, three days after officials said DNA evidence confirmed Clayton’s guilt. Attorney General Drew Edmondson asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to reschedule Clayton’s execution for Feb. 6th. Fallin had approved the stay after learning that misplaced evidence had been found in an evidence locker in the Tulsa County district attorney’s office. The evidence included a bloody sock, overalls and a knife. The DNA testing was done by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The OSBI compared a blood stain on the sock worn by Clayton with samples of Timmons’ hair, Edmondson said. The blood on the sock matched the DNA profile of Timmons’ hair samples. The overalls had no blood stains on them because Clayton had washed them after the crime, Edmondson said. He said testimony at the trial was that the sock had fallen next to the washing machine. 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  1, 2001 Virginia Wesley Brant Smith, 24 Thomas Akers executed

Convicted murderer Thomas Wayne Akers says he would rather die than spend the rest of his life confined in prison.  Akers has instructed his attorneys to say nothing in his defense. Akers, 31, has spent a decade in the prison system. Convicted in 1988 for statutory burglary, he remained behind bars until August 1998. The Department of Corrections says he was placed in isolated confinement many times. Released on parole Aug. 13, 1998, he was free just 4 months. Akers was back in jail Dec. 31 on capital murder and robbery charges in the beating death of Wesley Brant Smith, 24, of Roanoke. Smith was found beaten beyond recognition Dec. 19, 1998 in a Franklin County field. Three pools of blood saturated the ground on the shoulder of the road, where the beating began, and "a clear drag mark which was saturated with blood that went down the hill toward a creek."  Following the trail of blood, police discovered Smith’s body, which was covered with blood and bore the unmistakable signs of a savage beating including "several wounds to the back of his head, deep cuts, hair knocked off his head, a lot of blood on his shirt and his coat, and a large pool of blood under his face". Searching further, Jamison found an aluminum baseball bat "lying in the creek partially submerged" twelve to fifteen feet from Smith’s body. Subsequent laboratory testing established that Smith’s blood was on the bat. Forensic examination of Smith’s body revealed that he had been struck a minimum of three times in the head "and probably a great deal more than three" times. As a result, Smith suffered several fractures to his skull causing a subdural hematoma. The blows were not instantly fatal, and it would have taken "minutes to hours, at least," before Smith died. In addition to the lethal wounds inflicted to his head, Smith suffered numerous defensive wounds to his hands and arms. He also had been struck several times on his back, and his neck was bruised in a manner consistent with an attempted strangulation by ligature. The ligature marks were consistent with the size and shape of a belt subsequently discovered in Smith’s car. Franklin County Sheriff’s Department interviewed Smith’s mother, his sister, and George Slusser, a family friend. The investigators determined that on the evening of December 18, 1998, Slusser had visited Smith at his apartment in Roanoke. At approximately 8:00 p.m., Akers and Timothy Martin, Akers’ cousin, arrived at Smith’s apartment. Martin and Smith had been acquainted for some time and Martin had recently introduced Smith to Akers. Akers and Martin told Smith that they had set him up for a "blind date." The four men left the apartment and drove in Smith’s car a short distance away to drop Slusser off at the home of his girlfriend. Akers, Martin, and Smith were seen together later that evening at a Roanoke nightclub. After it was discovered that Smith had been murdered, that Smith’s apartment had been ransacked, and that several items of value were missing from the apartment, arrest warrants were issued for Akers and Martin for the murder and robbery of Smith, along with a bulletin for law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for Smith’s car, which had vanity plates reading "WESMODE." On December 22, 1998, an officer with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police in northern New York observed Smith’s car in an area of the Mohawk reservation near the Canadian border known for smuggling activity and illegal alien entry. Upon learning that the vehicle and its occupants were wanted in Virginia, tribal police stopped the car and took Akers and Martin into custody. Akers subsequently attempted to flee from a room at the police station and when he was subdued he told the tribal police officers, "It’s a good day to die."  When he was arrested, Akers had Smith’s wallet. A search of Smith’s car revealed numerous items from Smith’s apartment, the belt used as a ligature, and a pair of black boots covered with Smith’s blood. The boots were subsequently identified as belonging to Akers. Thereafter, Akers talked openly with other prisoners about Smith’s murder. Akers stated that he, Martin, and Smith had stopped at the field to urinate. Akers took the belt and placed it around Smith’s neck, using it to drag Smith away from the car. Akers then held Smith down on the ground and choked him with the belt. Akers and Martin then took turns beating Smith with the baseball bat, which they had found in Smith’s car. Smith resisted and begged the two men to stop. Akers and Martin then dragged Smith to the creek where they beat him again and abandoned him, throwing the baseball bat into the creek. Akers subsequently admitted to the killing in letters sent to the prosecutor. In one letter, Akers admitted that it "was my full intent to kill and rob Wesley Smith after I got acquainted with him," and that he had taken approximately two hundred dollars from Smith’s wallet. In another letter, Akers admitted beating Smith to death before returning to Smith’s apartment to have "a decent meal and change into [Smith’s] clothes and [take] a pleasurable trip to New York." Akers further stated that he left his boots "all blood covered for the Commonwealth" and "I have no sympathy or remorse for beating Mr. Smith to death," Akers wrote on April 27. In the same letter: "Death is just a game to me," and "I will escape someday and execute justice again."  Akers vowed to kill Hapgood and Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander if he were not sentenced to death. "I don't believe the judges have the heart to sentence me to death," Akers wrote.  Even more damning than the threats were the details the letters provided about the murder that only the murderer himself or an eyewitness could know. Until Akers mailed those letters, his lawyers said, they could have mounted a strong defense. Akers later told the probation officer preparing his pre-sentence report that he planned to kill Smith because Martin had told him that Smith "was going to get 20 other people to assault Martin."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  1, 2001 Tennessee Wanda Romines, 51 
Sheila Romines, 15
Stephen Michael West stayed

In 1986, Jack Romines returned home to discover the bodies of his wife, Wanda Romines, 51, and their daughter Sheila, 15. Both had been stabbed repeatedly and tortured, and his daughter had been raped. In 1987, Stephen Michael West, then 24, was convicted and sentenced to death. Accomplice Ronald David Martin, then 17, was not subject to the death penalty because of his age. He was sentenced to two life terms. At the trial, West claimed he was coerced into participation in the crimes by Martin. West and Ronnie Martin, co-workers at a McDonald's restaurant, were sent to prison for the stabbing murders of Wanda and Sheila Romines, a mother and daughter. West was convicted by a jury. Martin, a juvenile at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and was given consecutive life sentences. He is in the Brushy Mountain state prison. West also was convicted of aggravated kidnapping of both women, and of aggravated rape of the daughter. Sheila Romines was stabbed 17 times in the abdomen. 14 of the stab wounds were described as "torture type cuts," according to the Tennessee Supreme Court's ruling upholding the conviction and death sentence. Wanda Romines suffered "a number of deep stab wounds," 1 of which severed an artery and caused her to bleed to death within a few minutes.Unless he changes his mind or someone steps in on his behalf, West will die in Tennessee's electric chair on March 1. West, convicted of a 1986 double murder in Union County in East Tennessee, has taken the unusual step of declining to pursue federal appeals. His state court appeals expired last November when the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld his convictions and death sentence. West has opted to die in the electric chair, which has not been used since 1960. Recent state law makes lethal injection the automatic method of execution unless the condemned chooses electrocution. The state's high court set the March 1 execution date last November. Such execution dates are routinely stayed by further appeals - West's original execution date was in May of 1989, for example -- and so little notice has been given to West's case until the last few days. "It popped up on our radar screen about 10 days ago," said state Solicitor General Michael Moore. "Absent the filing of a (federal appeal), the execution will go forward. It's my understanding be still has time to file one, but we have no indication he plans to do so." West has so far refused to let any attorneys represent him in a federal appeal, nor has he filed one on his own behalf. However, a letter was received by the Department of Correction on Friday from a lawyer in Chattanooga asking to see West's files. An attorney in that office Roger Dickson, said his firm has offered to represent West. Attorneys apparently can step in on West's behalf even if he does not request their help. The state Department of Correction is proceeding as if the execution will be on March 1, said spokesman Steve Hayes. UPDATE - 2/23/01 - A federal judge issued a stay of execution for death-row inmate Stephen Michael West, one week before he was scheduled to be electrocuted at Riverbend prison. U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier of Chattanooga set a hearing June 13 on the issue of whether West has made a "knowing, voluntary, intelligent and competent" decision to waive appeals that he could file in the federal courts. The Tennessee Supreme Court had set West's execution for March 1, and state prison officials were preparing to carry it out when three Chattanooga lawyers who formerly represented West filed a petition Tuesday in U.S. District Court here. They asked for a stay until they could investigate why West had chosen to forgo appeals that would probably delay his execution for several years. U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell decided, after a hearing Wednesday, to appoint 1 of 3 lawyers, Roger Dickson, to represent West. However, Campbell transferred the case to the federal courts in East Tennessee for a ruling on whether the execution should proceed. West exhausted his appeals in the Tennessee court system last spring. UPDATE - 2/24/01 - The state has appealed a federal judge's decision to delay the execution of double murderer Stephen Michael West, who was scheduled to die in the electric chair Thursday. The petition was filed yesterday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. It asks the court to overturn a judge's decision to stay the execution. The stay was granted so West can undergo a mental health evaluation. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier stayed the execution date so West's attorneys could determine whether he has the mental competency to understand his choices and his pending execution. A hearing was set for June 13-14 to determine whether West is competent. In its appeal, the Tennessee attorneys general office called Collier's decision "an abuse of discretion." It said there was no evidence West suffered from a mental deficiency and asked the court to overturn the stay of execution and allow it to go forward as scheduled Thursday. "They failed to present one scintilla of credible evidence that Mr. West is incompetent," the state wrote in its appeal. Collier wrote in his decision that West's attorneys had not been granted enough time to determine whether West was incompetent. He wrote that he was "concerned about whether West has knowingly, voluntarily, and unequivocally waived his right to federal review." On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell invited West 3 times to explain his position, but he declined. Campbell then assigned Chattanooga attorney Roger Dickson as West's attorney and authorized a mental health evaluation. Dickson said West has refused to speak with him, and he questions whether West understands what is at stake. Dickson also said he was confident the appeals court would reject the state's petition. "I've read Judge Collier's decision. It think it's a sound one, and I think the 6th Circuit will agree with him," he said. The earliest that the appeals court could hear the case would be Monday. If the court rules in favor of the state, a new execution date would likely be scheduled, according to Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the attorney general. Dickson said he did not pursue a competency hearing earlier because he assumed West would file a federal appeal, as most death row inmates do. "We kept waiting for him to make the decision, and when it became clear he wasn't going to file the appeal we stepped in." UPDATE - 2/27/01 - The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a stay issued by a federal judge.  The Court said that West could not be forced by others to appeal his case.  UPDATE - 3/1/01 - A federal judge in Knoxville Wednesday afternoon issued a stay for death row inmate Stephen Michael West, less than 10 hours before his scheduled execution by electrocution. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier issued the stay after West changed his mind in the morning and signed a document saying he wants to pursue his federal appeal, after all. The order, filed at 3:14 p.m. CST, stays the execution until April 30, the deadline the judge set for West's lawyers to file that federal appeal. Until this morning, West had refused to sign documents that would have allowed his lawyers to file that federal appeal of his state death sentence. The federal appeals process is likely to keep him alive for years. Last week, West's attorneys asked for a stay so their client's mental health could be evaluated - to be sure he understood that if he did not pursue his federal appeals, he would be executed. Collier agreed and issued a stay, giving West's lawyers until June to have him evaluated. But that stay was overturned Tuesday by a 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said West could not be forced by others to appeal his case. Tuesday's late afternoon ruling by the federal appeals court put West's execution back on track for 1 a.m. Thursday. The appeals court ruling left West the option of changing his mind, and this morning the death row inmate exercised that option. West signed a brief declaration that read in part: "I hereby affirm and declare that I do wish to have counsel appointed on my behalf and it is my express intent that the court enter a stay of execution necessary for the full exercise of my rights. The document was filed in federal court in Knoxville at 11:44 a.m. CST. Citing attorney-client privilege, West's attorney, Roger Dickson, said he couldn't say why West changed his mind this morning. But Dickson did say that defense team lawyers had promised to pursue West's claims that prison conditions were so bad that he would rather be executed than continue to live on death row. Steve Hayes, the Department of Correction spokesman, said West remained on death row, about 50 feet from the electric chair. West, 38, has been imprisoned since 1986 for the stabbing deaths of a woman and her 15-year-old daughter in rural Union County, north of Knoxville. The victims were Wanda Romines and daughter Sheila Romines. In its automatic review of the case, the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1989 called the crime, in which both women were repeatedly stabbed and the daughter was raped, "grossly inhuman." West had told prison officials that he wanted to be electrocuted, rather than killed by lethal injection, which is now the standard method of execution under Tennessee law.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  2, 2001 North Carolina Woodrow F. Hartley, 71  Ernest McCarver stayed

The execution of Ernest Paul McCarver has been set for 2 am on March 2.  McCarver, 40, was convicted Sept. 9, 1992 in Cabarrus County Superior Court. He received the death sentence for the murder of 71-year old Woodrow Hartley. In addition, McCarver was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. On January 2, 1987, Ernest Paul McCarver stabbed Woodrow F. Hartley to death. McCarver and his accomplice, Jimmy Rape entered through the rear entrance of the K & W Cafeteria shortly after Hartley arrived at 5:00 a.m. McCarver walked up to Hartley and talked to him for a few minutes. Rape grabbed Hartley from behind in a headlock and attempted to strangle him. Rape released Hartley, who was then grabbed by McCarver in a headlock. When McCarver let him go, Hartley fell to the ground. McCarver took a knife from his pants pocket and stuck it into Hartley's chest several times. Hartley died within minutes. 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  6, 2001 Georgia Billy Watson
Charles McCook
Ronald Spivey stayed

Ronald Spivey's path to death row began late Dec. 27, 1976, when he killed Charles McCook in a Macon pool hall brawl over $20. Spivey then drove to the Final Approach Lounge in the Peachtree Mall in Columbus. Billy Watson, a Columbus police officer, was employed as a security guard at Brer Rabbit's, a restaurant in Peachtree Mall directly across the hall from the Final Approach Lounge. Shortly after 2:00 a.m. on December 28, 1976, Watson noticed that the door to the Final Approach was still open. He and Brer Rabbit's manager, Welton Emmit "Buddy" Allen, decided to walk over and investigate, as they knew that the doorway should have been closed at 2:00 a.m. They entered the lounge, which was empty, and proceeded towards the bar, where they heard voices. As they approached the doorway to the bar, Ronald Spivey shot Watson twice, in the head and chest, killing him. Spivey then shot Allen two or three times. Spivey, who had just robbed two waitresses and a customer of approximately $ 400, herded his three hostages out of the Final Approach, taking Watson's gun as they left. When they reached the door, Allen groaned. Spivey turned and shot him again. Allen played dead.  Spivey took his hostages outside the mall to the parking lot, demanding that someone furnish him a car. Meanwhile, Allen got up and proceeded to Brer Rabbit's in an effort to get help. Spivey followed him, and then fired several times through a window into the restaurant. One bullet struck a bartender in the hip. Spivey then ordered a hostage, college professor and part-time bar waitress Mary Jane Davidson, to drive him to Alabama. Authorities captured him just before daybreak, two miles south of Wedowee, Ala. They found $360 in cash believed to have come from the bar along with two guns -- a .38-caliber revolver and a .357 Smith and Wesson that had Bill Watson's name and badge number 197 engraved on the butt. Spivey received a life sentence for the murder of Charles McCook. Spivey was tried twice for killing Watson. The first conviction in 1977 was thrown out because he was "compelled to be a witness against himself in a psychological exam," court records said. In 1983, a second Muscogee County jury convicted Spivey of murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.  UPDATE: 3/6/01 - The Georgia Supreme Court today granted a stay to Ronald Keith Spivey's scheduled execution, opting to wait until it decides whether death by electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. The court granted the stay by a 4-3 vote. Chief Justice Robert Benham and Justices Norman Fletcher, Leah Ward Sears and Carol Hunstein voted to grant the stay. Justices George Carley, Hugh Thompson and Harris Hines dissented. The majority opinion, which was unsigned, said the stay was granted until the court decides the issue of cruel and unusual punishment "or until further order of this court." "Obviously, I'm happy," Tom Dunn, Spivey's lawyer, said after the decision. "It's the right decision... The system worked." Spivey had been scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. tonight. Convicted of killing 2 men, he received a death sentence for the 1976 murder of Columbus police officer Billy Watson. Spivey would have been the 1st Georgia prisoner executed in almost 3 years. He recently signed a consent form to have his execution videotaped as evidence in legal challenges to the use of the electric chair as cruel and unusual punishment. If his execution had been videotaped, it would have been the 1st known recording of an electrocution in the United States. But that will not be the case, at least for now. 5 months ago, a majority of the Georgia Supreme Court declared the continued use of the electric chair a "troubling moral and legal issue." It also said it was willing to confront the issue if presented with "sufficient" evidence. With its ruling today, the court apparently will not allow another execution until it decides whether the electric chair is constitutional or violates the Eight Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Ward Sears wrote a concurring opinion today, noting that the Legislature changed the method of execution to lethal injection for crimes committed after May 1, 2000, because use of the electric chair "offends the evolving standards of decency that characterize a mature, civilized society." The Supreme Court, she said, "is charged with the responsibility of protecting the state from the indignity of exacting punishment that exceeds the bounds of humane sensibilities." Sears, who has already stated her opposition to the electric chair, said the court made  the right decision staying another execution by electrocution. Carley said he "vigorously" opposed a stay and accused Spivey's lawyers of pursuing a "blatantly apparent effort to frustrate and delay the judicial system." He added, "Although there are individuals who have heart-felt objections to capital punishment, under any and all circumstances, they have no viable claim to moral superiority. They must abide by the same laws as those who are equally firm in their belief that the life of murder victims is so sacred that there are cases in which society must resort to the ultimate sanction."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  7, 2001 Texas Gracie Purnhagen, 16
Tiffany Purnhagen, 9
Dennis Dowthitt executed

In Conroe, Texas, on June 13, 1990 sixteen-year-old Gracie Purnhagen and her 9-year-old sister Tiffany were picked up at a bowling alley by Gracie's ex-"boyfriend", Delton Dowthitt, also 16, and his father, Dennis Dowthitt. They drove to a secluded area. Delton's father began fondling Tiffany when Delton and Gracie had walked to the back of the truck to talk about their relationship and left the girl alone with Dennis. Tiffany screamed and broke away from him and ran to her sister, chased by the elder Dowthitt. Dennis told Delton he had "messed up" and they had to kill the girls and ordered Delton to strangle Tiffany with a rope. The father attempted to rape Gracie, then cut her throat and subsequently took a beer bottle and sexually assaulted Gracie with it. A bloody beer bottle was later found in the trash at his used-car shop. Authorities lifted a fingerprint that matched Dennis Dowthitt's left index finger. The blood was clearly identified as belonging to Gracie.  He also stabbed Gracie in the chest with a knife. Delton thought he had convinced a friend to help bury the girls but the friend backed out on both visits to the remote wooded murder scene.  When Delton was arrested in Metairie Louisiana, he confessed to the murders but said he acted alone, however, his stepmother told police that she knew her husband and his son were together that night.  Dennis Dowthitt voluntarily went to the sheriff's office for questioning and was confronted with the evidence that he was with his son the night of the slayings. The elder Dowthitt then admitted in a written statement that he was present at the time the Purnhagen sisters were murdered but blamed the murders on his son. At trial, Dennis's daughter testified that her father had raped her, and also that he had confessed to the murders. Testifying in the punishment phase of Dowthitt's capital-murder trial, she said her father had been raping her with his hands, bottles and broomsticks since she was 11. Delton was sentenced to 45 years and will be eligible for parole in 2003.  UPDATE: 3/8/01 - Just before he was executed, Dowthitt for the first time offered an emotional confession for the 1990 sexual mutilation and murder of his son Delton's teen-age girlfriend. Dowthitt, who for years said his son was responsible for both murders, wept as he lay strapped to the execution gurney, apologizing profusely for killing Grace Purnhagen. "I am so sorry for what y'all had to go through. I am so sorry for what all of you had to go through. I can't imagine losing two children. If I was y'all I would have killed me. You know? I am really so sorry about it, I really am. I got to go sister, I love you. Y'all take care and God bless you. Gracie was a beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don't know what to say. All right Warden let's do it."  Dowthitt was obviously emotional and choking back tears and looked directly at the girls' mother, Linda Purnhagen as he spoke. "We thought he would be ugly because he had been arrogant throughout the trial," Linda Purnhagen said in a press conference following the execution. "I think (he meant his apology)," she said, adding that she stared Dowthitt in the eyes as he made his last statement. Linda said she was surprised and relieved that he admitted his guilt and apologized and she said she felt much less anger towards him than she had the day before.  When asked if she said anything to the inmate as he looked at her, Linda replied, "I didn't come here to say anything to him - I came to see him be executed.  The girl's father, Art Purnhagen said, "I was so shocked. I would have bet a million dollars he wouldn't have apologized - I would have lost my shirt on that one."  Linda Purnhagen compared witnessing the execution to watching someone be put under anesthesia before surgery. "He's just not going to wake up," she said, adding that Dowthitt's death was "nothing like what (my daughters) had to go through." Linda Purnhagen said her next mission will be making sure Delton is not released from prison. She said he is up for parole in July 2005. When asked her reaction about the anti-death penalty protesters rallying outside the Huntsville (Walls) Unit's execution chamber, Linda Purnhagen said they likely have never had a loved one murdered. "If they had gone through something like I have and still felt that way, then I could talk to them about it," she said. "If you haven't gone through it, you don't know what the heck you're talking about."  About 8 to 10 anti-death penalty activists protested against the execution, but nearly twice that many people stood at the other end of the prison, to support the family of the victims.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  7, 2001 Missouri Robin Kerry, 19
Julie Kerry, 20 
Antonio Richardson stayed

The Missouri Supreme Court set an execution date of March 7 for Antonio Richardson, 26, of Pine Lawn, who took part in the murders of two sisters on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge on April 4, 1991. Robin Kerry, 19, and Julie Kerry, 20, of north St. Louis County, were raped and thrown from the bridge into the Mississippi River. The Chain of Rocks Bridge is a highway bridge over the Mississippi River that formerly permitted traffic to travel between Illinois and Missouri before authorities closed the bridge to vehicular traffic. Julie and Robin Kerry arranged to take their visiting cousin, Thomas Cummins, to the bridge to show him a graffiti poem they had painted there several years earlier. On April 4, 1991, at approximately 11:25 p.m., the two sisters and Cummins went to the bridge. Earlier that evening, Reginald Clemons, along with Marlin Gray, Daniel Winfrey, and Clemons cousin, Antonio Richardson, met at a mutual friend’s home. They drank beer and smoked marijuana. Gray suggested that they go to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. About 11:00p.m., Clemons, Richardson, Gray and Winfrey drove in two separate cars to the bridge. Parking near the Missouri end of the bridge, the foursome went through a hole in the fence, over a pile of rocks blocking the bridge entrance to vehicles, and onto the bridge deck. They attempted to smoke a joint of marijuana, but found the marijuana too wet to light. The group walked back toward their cars. They left behind a long metal flashlight that Richardson brought to the bridge. The Kerry sisters and Cummins arrived at the bridge sometime after Clemons and his friends. The Kerrys and Cummins made their way onto the bridge deck and walked toward the Illinois end of the bridge. They encountered Clemons and his companions, who were headed back toward the Missouri side. The two groups briefly chatted. One of the Kerry sisters gave Winfrey a cigarette. Gary showed the Kerrys and Cummins how to climb over the bridge railing and come back up through a manhole in the bridge deck. He told Cummins that the manhole was "a good place to be alone, and take your woman." The two groups parted, heading in opposite directions. Cummins and the Kerry sisters stopped to look at the graffiti poem and then continued walking toward Illinois. In the meantime, Clemons and his friends had returned to the Missouri end of the bridge. As they lingered there, Clemons suggested to his companions, "Let’s rob them." Gray replied "Yeah, I feel like hurting somebody." Richardson suggested they rape the girls. Clemons agreed. The foursome walked back toward the Illinois end of the bridge. As they walked, Winfrey saw Gray talk to Clemons, after which Gray came to Winfrey and handed him a condom. Winfrey put the condom in his pocket and stated that he "wasn’t going to do it." Clemons grabbed Winfrey, pushed him toward the rail of the bridge, and threatened him until Winfrey agreed to "do it." They caught up with the Kerry sisters and Cummins and ordered Cummins to lie on the ground. They raped the sisters and eventually ordered them into a manhole. On the metal platform under the bridge, Cummins laid down next to Julie and Robin Kerry. They were ordered to get up and go towards the concrete pier below the platform. Julie was pushed off first, then Robin. Cummins was ordered to jump. He did. When he surfaced after his seventy-foot fall, he saw Julie nearby in the water and called for her to swim. Fighting the current and rough water, Julie grabbed Cummins, dragging them both below the surface. Cummins broke free. Julie did not reappear. Cummins eventually reached a steep riverbank and came ashore by a wooded area near the Chain of Rocks waterworks. Authorities recovered Julie’s body from the river near Caruthersville, Missouri, about three weeks later. Robin’s body is still missing. Two of Richardson's accomplices were also given death sentences, and their appeals are pending in federal courts.  UPDATE - 3/6/01 - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the execution of Antonio Richardson to continue, just hours after an appeals court had ordered it halted. There was still an appeal pending before the court and Gov. Bob Holden had yet to decide if he will grant Richardson executive clemency. Both could again place Richardson's execution on hold. Richardson's death by lethal injection had been scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for murdering Julie Kerry in St. Louis in 1991. At 9:55 EST, the Supreme Court granted an application from Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, seeking to vacate a stay granted early in the evening by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. No vote was taken by the Supreme Court. But Justices John Paul Stevens, Steven Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg all went on record, saying they would have voted to uphold the stay. Ruling from St. Louis, the 8th Circuit ordered the execution halted pending the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing involving a convicted killer from Texas named John Paul Penry. Like Penry, Richardson is borderline mentally retarded. The Supreme Court said it will use the Penry case to clarify how much opportunity jurors in death penalty cases must have to consider the defendant's mental capacity. Richardson was just 16 at the time of the killings. In a clemency request to Gov. Bob Holden, his lawyer, Gino Battisti, cited Richardson's age, impaired mental capacity and organic brain damage. Nixon said the crime clearly deserved the death penalty. "This is one in which the guilt is not questioned and the violence is almost unspeakable," he said. Gray and Clemons are also on death row at Potosi for the killings. Winfrey pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in exchange for his testimony. He received a 30-year sentence. Ginny Kerry, the mother of the victims, asked Holden to spare Richardson's life, citing his youth and diminished mental capacity. Her divorced husband and other family members wanted the execution to continue.  A Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman said Richardson met with relatives and friends on Tuesday. "His visitors kept him fairly busy all day," said the spokesman, Tim Kniest. 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March  8, 2001 Oklahoma Matthew Dean Taylor, 25 Phillip Dewitt Smith stayed

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set a March 8 execution date for a Muskogee man convicted of beating a man to death with a hammer in his apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 4, 1983.  Smith was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in the slaying of Matthew Dean Taylor, 25.  Smith had been at Taylor's home earlier.  Evidence showed that Smith borrowed a hammer from friends before the murder. He later told a fellow inmate that he killed Taylor during a robbery attempt. A friend testified that he had given Smith a ride to Taylor's apartment on the night of the murder. He said that he waited in the car, and that when Smith returned, he had a small blood stain on his shirt.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 9, 2001 Delaware Madeline Marie Kisner, 45 David Dawson stayed

David Dawson was sentenced to die for the December 1, 1986 murder of Madeline Marie Kisner of Kenton while burglarizing her home. Madeline was a 45-year-old bookkeeper and was stabbed to death by Dawson and a couple other inmates who had escaped from Delaware Correctional Institution near Smyrna a few days earlier. Some of the escapees were found in Arizona.  Dawson, who was originally condemned in 1988 to die for the murder, had his sentence vacated in 1992 by the high court because prosecutors wrongly introduced his membership in the Aryan Brotherhood as evidence in his penalty hearing.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 9, 2001 North Carolina Angela Vernetta Johnson, 29  Willie Fisher executed

Willie Ervin Fisher, 38, was convicted Feb. 4, 1993 in Forsyth County Superior Court. He received the death sentence for the April 2, 1992 murder of 29-year old Angela Vernetta Johnson.  At Fisher's trial, witnesses said he broke into the Forsyth County house where Johnson lived with her mother and attacked her, then chased her outside, ripped her clothes off and stabbed her repeatedly. When Johnson's 12-year-old daughter hit Fisher with a broomstick, he stabbed the girl, then used the broomstick to stab Johnson again.  Fisher made a videotaped appeal for clemency that was sent to Easley earlier this week. "I can't express enough how sorry I am, how I regret everything that has happened," Fisher said. He said he blamed only himself for Angela Johnson's death, but if allowed to live, he said, he would work behind bars "doing God's will, not my own." Fisher also asked Johnson's mother for forgiveness and told his and Johnson's son, Willie Jr., that Johnson was "watching over you and she's watching over me as well." Moore said Fisher had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine before the April 1, 1992, attack. 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 12, 2001 Texas Beulah Keary Jolivet  Deryl Madison stayed

Deryl Madison was sentenced to death for the April 3, 1988 robbery and murder of Beulah Keary Jolivet.  Beulah was stabbed with a knife and strangled with a cord.  Madison had a prior criminal record that included a 12-year sentence for an arson conviction for which he served about 6 years and a 2-year sentence for a weapons charge for which he served 6 months. 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 13, 2001 Indiana Rev. William Radcliffe  Gerald Bivins executed

State officials are moving ahead with plans to execute a man who has said he will not seek a federal appeal of his death sentence. An internal committee of the Indiana State Prison met with Gerald Bivins on Monday to find out who he wants as a spiritual adviser, whether he wants anyone to attend the execution shortly after midnight March 13 and what he wants for his last meal. Bivins will hold a news conference on Thursday. Bivins was convicted of killing the Rev. William Radcliffe on Jan. 16, 1991. Bivins shot Radcliffe in a restroom at a rest area along Interstate 65 near Lebanon. Radcliffe, who had just resigned as pastor of Badger Grove Community Baptist Church in rural Brookston, was filling water jugs for his overheated car engine.  Authorities called the murder a thrill killing, but Bivins said he killed the minister only because the victim had recognized him during a robbery. "I'm not trying to excuse it. Honestly, I don't think that makes it any better than one who did it to see what it feels like," Bivins had previously said.  In a final statement, Bivins said "I wish to apologize to the victim's family for the pain I have caused and the pain I have caused my family and friends and I ask that they, who did this to me, be forgiven."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 15, 2001 Illinois Merlinda Entrata  Anthony Ennis stayed

A man convicted of killing a fellow nursing home employee in Waukegan who had accused him of sexual assault should be executed, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. Justices set March 15 as the date for the execution of Anthony Enis, who has twice been convicted of shooting to death Merlinda Entrata in 1987, shortly before the assault case was to go to trial. After the 2nd conviction, Enis argued his lawyer did a poor job, including making promises to the jury in his opening statement that he would call certain witnesses but never did. The high court rejected the arguments. Enis' execution is not expected soon despite the court's order. Gov. George Ryan has temporarily halted executions out of concern about failings in the justice system. Chief Justice Moses Harrison filed a written dissent indicating that while he agreed Enis' murder conviction should not be overturned, that his death sentence should be vacated in favor of imprisonment. Harrison consistently opposes the death penalty on constitutional grounds. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.   

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 27, 2001 California Mildred Weiss, 48
Boris Naumoff 
Robert Massie executed

On Jan. 7, 1965, Robert Massie murdered Mildred Weiss, a mother of two married to a furniture store owner. Massie shot Weiss, 48, outside her San Gabriel home during a botched follow-home robbery. He received a stay of execution 16 hours before he was to enter the gas chamber, even though he had urged officials to carry out the sentence.  Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan stayed the execution so that Massie could testify in the trial of his alleged accomplice.  After testifying, he returned to prison and remained there when the California Supreme Court temporarily banned executions.  Massie's death sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972.  He was paroled and set free in 1978.  But 8 months later he was arrested for the murder of grocery store owner Boris Naumoff during a robbery attempt. Chuck Harris, a clerk at Naumoff's liquor store who was hit by one of Massie's bullets, survived with a leg wound. After receiving a death sentence for that crime, Massie spurned appeals on his behalf and once again asked to be executed. The state Supreme Court, however, threw out his conviction on grounds he pleaded guilty over the objections of his lawyers. Massie was retried and again sentenced to die for Naumoff's killing in a 1989 retrial. Earlier this year Massie withdrew his federal appeal and instructed his lawyers not to make any further efforts to save his life, clearing the way for his long-desired execution. In his petition to end his appeals, Massie said that he would rather die than continue living on death row in San Quentin. He said life on death row is a "lingering death." Even if his death sentence is reversed or commuted by an appeal, he would remain in prison for the rest of his life for shooting Boris Naumoff to death at a San Francisco liquor store. That is why he said he wants a "swift execution." California's condemned inmates are more likely to die of old age or illness than by execution. More than 100 inmates have been on death row for more than 15 years.  In recent days, death penalty opponents tried a flurry of last-ditch efforts to save Massie.  They argued in state and federal courts that Massie had long been racked by depression and other mental illness, a fact they claim was not argued strongly enough throughout Massie's time in prison. They also said Frederick Baker, a corporate lawyer who represented Massie, had abdicated his responsibility by seeking to pave the way for Massie's execution. The late moves angered both Massie and the prosecutors who had sought his execution for years. "I just find it curious that we are suddenly hearing from attorneys who have never met Massie and weren't at any of his hearings in which a judge found him competent, that he knows what he is doing," said Deputy Atty. Gen. Bruce Ortega. "I just don't understand why they are not respecting his opinion."  "The hurt for my family will never stop," said Rick Naumoff, the son of one of Massie's victims. "We continue to deal with the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather."   

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 27, 2001 Oklahoma Ginger Lou Fluke, 44
Kathryn Lee Fluke, 11
Susanne Michelle Fluke, 13
Ronald Fluke executed

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set a March 27 execution date for Tulsa County killer Ronald Dunaway Fluke. Fluke, 52, pleaded guilty to the Oct. 17, 1997, murders of his wife, Ginger Lou Fluke, 44, and their daughters, Kathryn Lee Fluke, 11, and Susanne Michelle Fluke, 13, at their Tulsa residence. "I am pleased with the court's swift action," Edmondson said. "These were heinous crimes deserving of the death penalty." At about 1:30 a.m. on Oct 17, 1997, Fluke struck his wife several times with a large hatchet as she slept on the couch then shot her. He then went upstairs and shot each of his daughters in the head while they were awake. Later that day, he went to the Tulsa Police Department and confessed. Records indicate that Fluke told police he wanted to die, saying, "I am the sorriest individual on the face of this Earth right now, and I deserve to die." He pleaded guilty to murder charges and waived his appeals. Previously, the court opted to let the time for Fluke to file his federal appeal run out. He never filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. Fluke will be put to death by lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Betty Hightower has no interest in watching the execution of the man who killed her sister and two nieces. But she plans to be at Oklahoma State Penitentiary when Fluke is put to death. "I will be there in support of Ginger, Susanne and Kathryn," Hightower said. "Well, I do think that he deserves to die," said Hightower in a telephone interview from her Lawton home. "I think this crime deserves much more than the legal punishment. I just feel like he is taking the coward's way out by going to sleep." The morning of the murders at his South 69th East Avenue residence, Fluke walked into the Tulsa Police Department and confessed. As his wife slept on the couch at about 1:30 a.m., Fluke struck her several times in the back of the head, neck and shoulder with a large hatchet. When she began to make a noise, he shot her, saying he didn't want the children to wake up. He then went to his daughters' upstairs rooms and shot each of the girls once in the head. Fluke, a self-employed safety consultant, told police: his business was in ruins; he hadn't paid taxes in several years; he couldn't pay his cell phone bill; his car was about to be repossessed; he had borrowed a lot of money from friends; his marriage was on the rocks; and he was suicidal. He wanted to spare his daughters the embarrassment of his suicide and financial ruin, he told police. "I believe I killed the flesh, but I believe their souls are in heaven now," he said, according to court records. He also attempted to take his own life, but decided suicide was not the way out because he had "heard suicide is not a very good action to take," the records show. He repeatedly told police that he wanted to die, saying "I am the sorriest individual on the face of this Earth right now, and I deserve to die," the records indicate. Edmondson said that he doubts Fluke will seek a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Regarding Fluke's decision to waive his appeals, Edmondson said, "He's accelerated the time of the execution, not the certainty of it." Hightower said she takes comfort in the fact that when "this cold-blooded killer breathes his last breath, that he will face the almighty God for his judgment."  Fluke believes that depression played a role in the murder of his wife and daughters. He was asked whether he thought his family had a right to decide for themselves if they could have handled his financial problems.  "Yes, Ginger, Susanne and Kathryn should have had the right to decide for themselves, but my deluded mind made the worst possible decision," Fluke replied.  He said he makes no excuses for his crimes and he wants to be put to death. If he had a second chance, he said he would have sought psychological help. "My financial crisis was not as severe as my deluded mind perceived," Fluke wrote. "Yes, now, looking back, I should have sought out psychological guidance . . . I hadn't filed taxes for three years and that laid heavy on my mind.  When you are in the depth of depression, your only thoughts are of death and of how to take your own life," he said. Fluke, who was a Tulsa firefighter from 1972 until 1977, said he was in his mid-20s when he became a compulsive gambler. "No doubt, that contributed significantly to my depression," he said. "Gambling, basically, ruined my life."  Although he unsuccessfully tried to kill himself the morning of the murders, he doesn't consider his death to be state-assisted suicide. He has not pursued any of his available appeals and chose to represent himself. He also chose not to seek a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. "I feel I will receive my just punishment for my crimes," Fluke said.  Fluke said he had a normal childhood, with a loving father, three sisters and two brothers. He grew up in Tulsa and attended Rogers High School and junior college. He met Ginger at a club in 1978. He said she was a good mother and that he loved her. He describes Suzanne as brilliant and a very good speller. Kathryn had talents for painting and singing that hadn't been tapped yet. Both were excellent cheerleaders, he said. "Susanne and Kathryn were the light of my life and I miss them so much, but I will see them very soon," Fluke said.  Unlike many other death-row inmates, Fluke doesn't complain about the conditions. "I sleep a lot, keep to myself most of the time," he said. "Days seem long at times, but the weeks and months fly by. I've told people it's kind of like a retirement home with really good security. Being locked down 23 hours a day isn't a bad thing. You don't have to deal with people who are struggling with a lot of issues. I am so sorry for what I did. I would take it all back," Fluke said. "I can't, so the only thing I can do is to take my just punishment." Betty Hightower believes Ron Fluke probably was depressed when he killed her sister and two nieces. "Most people would be depressed if they would have squandered away thousands of dollars in a matter of months," said Hightower, who lives in Lawton. She believes Fluke borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from his family. "The only reason he was having financial difficulty, if he was, was because of his own greed for money, his compulsion for gambling and total disregard for the needs and well-being of his family," Hightower said. Fluke was a member of her family for 15 years, Hightower said, and everyone liked him. He made a point of going to her sons' baseball games, she said. The family never suspected Fluke's gambling problem or depression. But depression is no defense for his crimes, Hightower said, "I just call it the work of an evil man."  Ginger Fluke's family plans to be in McAlester Tuesday when Fluke is executed. Hightower said she doesn't plan to be a witness, but some family members have said they will.  "Ron said he loved his family but he did not love them enough to let them decide for themselves if they could have weathered any problems or embarrassment they may have had to endure due to his action," Hightower said. Hightower agrees with the things that Fluke has said about his wife and daughters. "Ginger was the most caring, sweet and loving person you would ever want to meet," Hightower said. "She was a devoted wife and mother and a wonderful sister and friend. Susanne and Kathryn couldn't help but be the light of anyone's eyes. They were both so sweet and cared deeply about other people's feelings. Both girls always had a smile on their faces. The world was a better place with them in it," Hightower said. "But I would not wish them back to the abuse and pain they suffered at the hands of Ron Fluke." Ginger's nieces, Kristi Milam of Oklahoma City and Deanna Bullock of Kearney, Mo., say they still have questions. Milam said she wrote Fluke a letter a few days ago, but "there are no answers" for why he committed the murders. Both women have a problem believing depression played a significant role and said someone that depressed would hurt themselves rather than their family. "He's said so many things about why he did it," Milam said. Hightower said her family has no bitterness toward Fluke, they have turned it over to God. "When this is all over Tuesday; we hope it will put a final chapter on this part of our lives."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 27, 2001 Pennsylvania Linda Rowden Robert Fisher stayed

A Montgomery County judge has halted the scheduled execution of a 54-year-old man in the 1980 slaying of a woman he suspected of tipping off police to his role in a murder. Robert Fisher was scheduled to die by lethal injection March 27. Common Pleas Judge Richard Hodgson stayed the execution so Fisher could pursue an appeal. Authorities said Fisher killed Linda Rowden because she gave information to police that may have tied him to the murder of a federal drug witness. Fisher has received death sentences 3 times. The state Supreme Court ordered a new trial in his case in 1991, but he was retried and convicted. The court again vacated his death sentence in 1996, but a court resentenced him a year later.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 28, 2001 Texas Christa E. Bentley  Michael Moore stayed

Michael Moore was sentenced to death for the stabbing murder of Christa E. Bentley during a burglary in her home.  Armed with a gun and a knife, Moore entered Christa's home at about 2:20 am and headed toward the bedrooms. At the time he entered the home, Moore knew it was occupied. He was dressed in black so that he would not be seen in the dark. Moore encountered Christa and a struggle ensued between them. Christa was stabbed several times by Moore who then dropped his knife. Christa was screaming so Moore drew his revolver and shot her. Because of the number and depth of the wounds she received, the medical examiner characterized the murder as "overkill" and "particularly brutal." Christa's fourteen year old son discovered her body. Moore then fled the scene of the crime. Shortly thereafter, a police officer spotted Moore driving without his headlights. The officer attempted to get him to pull over, but Moore led the police on a high-speed car chase followed by a pursuit on foot. After Moore was apprehended, the police found a .22 caliber pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition in his car. At the punishment phase of his trial, the prosecution introduced records containing information about Moore when he was a child. The records indicate he twice set fire to his house and once to the a children's home he was a resident of, threatened to kill his parents and blame their deaths on his younger brother, and tried to stab his younger brother with a pair of scissors. As a child, Moore continuously exhibited violent and improper sexual behavior. While serving in the Navy, Moore was on unauthorized absence three times and was convicted of grand larceny. Prosecutors also introduced Moore's notebook entitled "The Girls of Copperas Cove" in which he listed the names and addresses of 300 teenaged girls of Copperas Cove. Many of these girls, including the victim's daughter, testified that appellant stalked, harassed, and threatened them. Evidence was introduced of various extraneous offenses, including several burglaries which often took place while the victims were home, perpetrated against the girls listed in the notebook. Letters that Moore wrote to several of the girls in which he threatened to rape them were introduced into evidence, including one letter written to a junior high student threatening to rape her and her best friend. Moore's notebook also contained the license plate numbers of a Coryell County Justice of the Peace and a Copperas Cove police sergeant. Moore testified that the notebook was not in its "final form." 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 28, 2001 Arizona Tisha Weaver, 7 
Robert Weaver
Danny Jones stayed

On March 26, 1992, Danny Jones and Robert Weaver were visiting in Robert's garage. Inside the home, Robert's 74-year-old grandmother, Katherine Gumina, sat watching television while Robert's 7-year-old daughter, Tisha, lay on the floor, working on some school work. At approximately 8:40 p.m., Jones attacked an unsuspecting Robert from behind, striking him once in the head with a bat as Robert sat on an inverted bucket in the garage. Once Robert was down, Jones entered the home, walked to the living room, and attacked Katherine Gumina. Tisha Weaver immediately fled to her parents' bedroom, where she hid under the bed. Leaving Gumina for dead, Jones searched the house for Tisha. Upon finding her, Jones dragged Tisha out from under the bed and struck her twice in the head. Jones then strangled her. Once Tisha was dead, Jones raided Robert's gun cabinet, stealing his gun collection. Jones then took the keys to Katherine Gumina's car and proceeded out to the garage to place the guns in the car. There, Jones found that Robert had regained consciousness. Jones, still armed with the bat, chased Robert as he attempted to flee. Upon catching Robert, Jones inflicted three more blows to his head. Once Robert was down, Jones inflicted two additional blows. After loading the guns into Katherine Gumina's car, Jones fled the residence. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.  

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 28, 2001 Missouri Mildred Hodges, 75
Richard Hodges, 49
a cab driver
Tomas Ervin executed

Tomas Ervin was executed early Wednesday for his role in the 1988 murders of an elderly Jefferson City woman and her son.  He was convicted in 1990 for the murders of Mildred Hodges, 75, and her son, Richard, 49.  The execution came 9 months to the day after the state executed Bert Hunter for the same killings. Hunter confessed to the 1988 murders and testified at trial that Ervin was his partner in the crimes. On the afternoon of December 15, 1988, Hunter and Ervin carried out a plan to rob Richard Hodges at his home on Boonville Road in Jefferson City. Hunter and Ervin believed Hodges kept large amounts of cash in a file cabinet in his home. With a pistol in his pocket, Hunter knocked on the Hodges’ door. Richard’s mother, Mildred Hodges, answered. Hunter then pulled a stocking mask down over his face and, entering the house, grabbed Mrs. Hodges by the hand. He held a gun in the other hand. Mrs. Hodges became very excited and cried out for her son, Richard. Richard came into the room where they were standing, telling the two assailants to leave Mrs. Hodges alone because she had just returned home after heart surgery. As Richard attempted to calm his mother, Ervin and Hunter began binding her hands and feet with duct tape. She was made to lie down on a bed in a back bedroom. Ervin took Richard to the living room and made him lie on the floor. Ervin began taping Richard’s hands. At same time, Hunter was searching the house for money and other valuables. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hodges managed to get free and ran into the living room where Ervin was still taping Richard’s hands. She pulled the mask off Ervin, causing him to fall back on the floor. Ervin called out Hunter’s first name. Hunter returned to the living room and saw what had occurred. Once the mask was pulled off Ervin and Hunter’s name was called out, Hunter and Ervin made a mutual decision that both the Hodges were to be killed. Mrs. Hodges attempted to flee. Hunter and Ervin caught Mrs. Hodges in the hallway, forcing her to the floor. According to Hunter, she hit the wall, bloodying her nose. A rush of air came out of her and she became still. The two then returned to finish taping Richard’s mouth and nose. Plastic bags were placed over the heads of both victims. Hunter admitted that after the plastic bags were placed on the victims’ heads, he held Richard’s nose to suffocate him. While Hunter was dealing with Richard, Ervin was "working with Mrs. Hodges," although Hunter surmised there was "nothing to do, anyway." Ervin returned and told Hunter that he thought Mrs. Hodges was dead. Hunter checked Mrs. Hodges and determined that she had no pulse. The two then finished looking through the house and left. They returned to the house at least once that evening or the next evening.  Both men were convicted of murder once before, in Ervin's case the 1967 slaying of a cab driver in Buchanan County. Ervin and Hunter met in prison, taught themselves computer programming and, once paroled, started working full time for the state Department of Revenue in the early 1980s. Both ended up losing their jobs, said Cole County prosecutor Richard Callahan. He said both abused cocaine and started traveling across the south, committing robberies along the way, before they returned to Jefferson City. Hunter wanted to rob banks, but Ervin convinced him house robberies were a safer bet, Callahan said. "His ultimate motivation for testifying against Tommy was that he blamed Tommy for their predicament," Callahan said. "He was just unhappy that he had agreed to the house robberies."  

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 28, 2001 Tennessee Ronald Oliver  Phillip Workman stayed

Philip Workman was sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver outside a fast-food restaurant that Workman, who was then a cocaine addict, has admitted robbing. There's no doubt that death row inmate Philip Ray Workman robbed a Wendy's restaurant in Memphis one night in August 1981, to get money to feed his cocaine habit. Workman admits he pulled a gun when police confronted him as he left the restaurant, and he admits he fired shots during the struggle that followed. He took the blame, at his trial in 1982, for the bullet that killed Lt. Ronald Oliver, the first police officer to respond to the silent alarm triggered by a Wendy's employee. But since 1991 and now with increasing urgency, Workman has been trying to persuade state and federal judges to consider ballistics evidence that he says casts serious doubt as to whether he fired the fatal shot. Workman's lawyers say if Oliver was actually killed by "friendly fire" from another police officer, Workman shouldn't be executed. Even if Workman were able to convince a court that he did not fire the fatal shot, he would still be guilty of felony murder and subject to the death penalty -- because he committed the robbery that led to Oliver's death. Workman lived in Georgia and was "just passing through" Memphis in 1981 when he decided to rob a Wendy's restaurant. Restaurant employees said he bought food, waited until closing time and then ordered them into the manager's office at gunpoint. Officer Aubrey Stoddard, now retired from the Memphis Police Department, said that Oliver grabbed Workman when he came out of the restaurant and "tried to run."  Stoddard said he got involved in the struggle and was "belly to belly" with Workman when Workman shot him in the arm.  Stoddard said Workman fired one more shot at him as he fell. The policeman said he then heard "a bunch of shots" and realized that Oliver had fallen to the ground. He said he did not see the shot that killed Oliver.  Stoddard said he does not think Stephen Parker, the next police officer on the scene, "ever got off a shot."  "The only bullets I knew that flew were Oliver's and Workman's," he said.  Parker is now an assistant U.S. attorney in Memphis.  The trial jury found that Workman's crime fit five of the "aggravating factors" spelled out in state law as grounds to give a death sentence: that he knowingly created a great risk of death to two or more persons other than the person killed, that Oliver was murdered in conjunction with a robbery, that Workman killed a law enforcement officer who was "engaged in the performance of his duties," that he killed Oliver in order to avoid arrest and that he killed the policeman while he was trying to "escape from lawful custody."  Workman and the two public defenders assigned to represent him at his trial in 1982 did not dispute the prosecution's theory that Workman shot Oliver when the policeman tried to stop him. The defense lawyers tried to show that the 28-year-old Workman's judgment was so impaired by his addiction to cocaine that he should be convicted of something less than first-degree felony murder.  But the jury didn't buy that, and Workman was convicted and sentenced to death for felony murder.  Minton said that an examination of Oliver's autopsy report raised questions about whether he was shot with a silver-tip, hollow-point bullet fired from Workman's .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Minton used court-approved funds to hire Dr. Kris Sperry, then the deputy chief medical examiner for Fulton County (Atlanta), Ga., to examine the evidence. Sperry said, in an affidavit filed in September 1995, that he had examined several dozen corpses containing wounds caused by .45-caliber silver-tip, hollow-point bullets. In all of those cases, he said, the bullet expanded after entering the body. In the few cases in which the bullet exited the body, Sperry said, the exit wound "was significantly larger than the entrance wound the bullet created." But, the pathologist said, the bullet that killed Oliver passed through his body and left an exit wound smaller than the entry wound. That bullet was never found.  Oliver's wounds "are inconsistent with every wound I have seen created by a .45-caliber silver-tip, hollow-point bullet," Sperry said in his affidavit. Minton presented his questions to Judge Gibbons in hopes that she would order a full evidentiary hearing in Workman's case. But Gibbons denied Minton's request for a hearing in October 1996. Judge Gibbons said in her ruling that Workman and his lawyer "posit a web of false testimony, withheld documents, undisclosed statements by witnesses and fabricated evidence, all coordinated by the state to avoid jury findings that an officer struck (Workman) on the head while (he) was trying to surrender to police and that someone other than (Workman), namely Stoddard or Parker, shot Oliver."  The judge said that many of the questions raised by Minton were barred by the highly technical rules governing attacks on state criminal convictions in the federal courts. But she said that none of the evidence presented by Minton justified an evidentiary hearing, with live witnesses. She also noted that Sperry's affidavit doesn't state that Workman's gun "could not have" caused Oliver's fatal injury, nor does it offer an opinion on whether Oliver was shot by one of his fellow officers. And, Gibbons said, the only witness who said he saw one of the other officers -- Parker -- fire at Workman said that occurred after Oliver had been shot.  Gibbons noted that Minton presented "substantial evidence indicating (Workman's) diminished capacity and tragic family background," which he said Workman's earlier lawyers should have presented to the jury at his trial in 1982. But, she said, Workman never told many of those details to his trial lawyers, and they made a reasonable choice to limit testimony on his psychological problems and thus keep prosecutors from presenting evidence that he had an anti-social personality.  Minton appealed Gibbons' ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which affirmed her decision in October 1998. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said it had "no doubt" that the exit wound would have been larger than the entrance wound "if a .45-caliber hollow-point bullet had gone all the way through Lt. Oliver's chest and emerged in one piece." But the court theorized that such a bullet could have fragmented inside Oliver's body. State prosecutors roll their eyes at Workman's claim of innocence and point to nearly 20 years of appeals. All of them -- so far -- have rejected any contention that anybody other than Workman killed Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Workman's requests to reopen his case based on what the defense says is new evidence. "It has now been over 18 years since the robbery and Lt. Oliver's murder," the state said in a recent filing to the 6th Circuit. "Workman has spent the last nine years seeking to lay blame for his conviction and sentence on others -- police officers, prosecutors, witnesses, courts and his own attorneys. "The time has come to remind him where the responsibility lies."  State prosecutors insist most of the purportedly "new evidence" put forth by Workman's attorneys has, in fact, already been considered by the courts. The evidence that hasn't, they insist, is peripheral, inconsequential or both. "As nearly every appellate court that has reviewed Workman's case over the last 18 years has observed, Workman admitted that he shot Lt. (Ronald) Oliver," the attorney general's office noted in a recent filing. Workman did not begin claiming innocence until a decade after the shooting, the state said in a filing to the 6th Circuit in March. "Prior to that, Workman's position contradicted his claims of innocence." 

 

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