March 2002 Executions

Four killers were executed in March 2002. They had murdered at least 7 people.
killers were given a stay in March 2002. They have murdered at least 3 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 4, 2002 Maryland Dawn Marie Garvin, 20
Patricia A. Hirt, 43
Lori E. Ward, 25
Steven Oken stayed
DawnGarvinsmPatricia Hirt smallLaurie Ward smallSteven Oken was convicted in the Nov. 1, 1987, murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old newlywed. Dawn was sexually assaulted, tortured, then shot twice in the head with a.25-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Posing variously as a police officer, a doctor with an emergency or a sheepish husband locked out of the house, Oken flagged down women driving alone and knocked on neighborhood doors asking to use the phone. On the night of Nov. 1, Oken made at least 2 such attempts before he bumped into Dawn Garvin, 20, a newlywed walking her dog. He asked to use the phone. She took him to her apartment. And he took out a gun. Over the next few hours, Oken made Dawn "beg for her life, cry, be terrified" and "forced sex upon her," a psychiatrist testified at trial. "He became sexually aroused" by her fear. Her father found her afterward. Garvin’s husband, a Navy aircraft mechanic stationed in Virginia, called her parents about midnight, frantic that she wasn’t answering the phone. Frederick J. Romano arrived at his daughter’s apartment at 1:30 a.m. The door was ajar, lights blazing, television blaring. And in the bedroom, his daughter, naked but for a bloody pillow case yanked over her head. She had been raped and shot twice in the head. Before he left, Oken had tucked a teddy bear in her arms. Oken fantasized about killing again. He wrote out a list of things he would need: "gags, chloroform, surgical gloves. A glass cutter. Dark pantyhose to cover hair and face. A camera. Rope." On Nov. 15, Oken’s sister-in-law, Patricia A. Hirt, 43, went to his home to return a camera. He raped her and beat her so badly that he left blood trails through the house. Then he shot her in the head and dumped her naked body in a drainage ditch on his way out of town. In Patricia’s Mustang, Oken drove north through the night. In Kittery, Maine, he checked into the Coachman Motor Inn just off scenic Route 1. Lori E. Ward, 25, was working the front desk when Oken came from his room. She struggled, but he was too strong. He stuffed her panties in her mouth and pushed her to the floor. A coroner told Lori’s family that Oken was still on top of her when he shot her in the head. Things happened fast after that. Oken fled north and checked into the Freeport Inn and Cafe, where a clerk noticed the mess in his hair. A state police tactical unit surrounded his room, and Oken surrendered the next day. When he finally was arrested, one woman’s blood was spattered on his gun and brain tissue from another was smeared in his hair. At Oken’s trial, a ballistics expert testified that a.25-caliber automatic handgun found in his home was the same gun that fired the shells discovered near Garvin’s body. A small piece of rubber found near Garvin’s television set also matched a hole in Oken’s tennis shoe, according to an FBI expert. In January 1991, a jury took just three hours to sentence Oken to die for the murder of Dawn Marie Garvin. Oken received life sentences for Patricia’s murder and the sexual assault of Dawn and another life sentence in Maine for Lori’s murder. On death row, deep within the brick fortress of Maryland’s Supermax prison, Oken taps away at a computer he hopes will save his life. "Most everybody in here has learned to use the computer to research the law," says Oken. "This is all we do is sit here and pick apart our cases. This is our life." Behind the bulletproof Plexiglas that guards their tier of wrought-iron cell doors, Maryland death row inmates have quietly become the 1st condemned prisoners in the nation to be allowed to use computers. Some of the state’s most notorious murderers are spending as much as 5 hours a day using 4 personal computers to scroll through law libraries on CDs in the sterile, barely furnished area they call "the Death House." The death row computers don’t have Internet connections. But even without e-mail and public access, they enable inmates to reach out — and hit the raw nerves of relatives of those they killed. "I wish my daughter could have learned to use a computer," says Betty Romano of Millsboro, Del., whose 20-year-old daughter, Dawn Marie Garvin, was the 1st victim killed by Oken in November 1987. "There’s justice that needs to be done. It’s a miscarriage of justice to be giving a bunch of computers to horrible killers on death row so they can nit-pick about ways to delay the punishment they deserve." Frederick Romano, a Belcamp resident and brother of Dawn Garvin says all inmates but those on death row should have computer access. "I could agree with it if it was a guy who was going to get out someday and could benefit from learning how to use a computer," Romano says. "But these guys are going to be dead. They’ve already got a bunch of pricey lawyers working for them. The only things they should have in there are 4 walls, a toilet and a sink." Betty Romano founded a support group for families of murder victims, which consumed her completely until it disbanded in 1996. Then she fell into a deep depression from which she was able to recover only with medication. Two years ago, Romano and her husband moved from the Baltimore suburbs to the Delaware shore, to a beautiful gated community on Indian River Bay. But they still rely on pills, she said, "to take the pressure off and make things slide over your shoulders a lot easier." When a death penalty moratorium was proposed in Maryland, Frederick Romano of Belcamp went to Annapolis with his family and a glossy 8-by-10-inch photograph of his sister, Dawn Garvin, in her wedding dress. "I want to show that the murderers aren’t the victims," Romano said. "They’re saying it’s a racial issue, an economic issue. But [Oken] is white. He’s rich. He’s college-educated. This is just a way for these bleeding hearts to liberate these people."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 6, 2002 Missouri Johnny Douglas Jeffrey Tokar executed
Around noon on March 11, 1992, Jeffrey Tokar picked up his girlfriend, Sandra Stickley. Stickley smoked crack cocaine and then they shared some beer. Then they went driving in a rural area north of Centralia to find a place where nobody was home. They located the empty Douglass residence. After parking in the driveway, Tokar took his socks off, placed them on his hands to avoid leaving fingerprints, and went inside the garage. He later returned with a shotgun and shells he had found in the home, motioning for Stickley to come in. Eight-year-old Jared Douglass, four-year-old Lynzie Douglass, and their father, Johnny Douglass, returned to their home during the late afternoon. They had been checking on cattle down the road from the family’s home. Upon arriving at their house, they noticed a yellow station wagon in their driveway. Jarad had mentioned earlier that he had seen a yellow station wagon driving towards their home. Johnny told his children to stay in the truck as he went into the garage to investigate. However, Lynzie decided to follow her father anyway, calling her brother a "chicken" as she left the truck. At some point, Jarad also left the truck and went to look into the garage. As the Douglass family was returning home, Tokar and Stickley were ransacking the Douglass home and stuffing items into empty pillowcases. Stickley warned Tokar that she heard someone pull into the driveway. Tokar loaded the shotgun and went toward the garage where he met Johnny Douglass. Stickley testified that she heard one of the kids say "Mister, please don’t hurt my daddy." She also heard Johnny plead: "Mister, please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything you say." She further explained that Tokar told Johnny not to look at him. She heard one shot and then a second shot. Both Tokar and Stickley ran to the car and threw the shotgun in the backseat. As they sped away, Tokar wiped down the gun with his shirt, and took the shell out of the gun. Tokar stopped to throw the gun and shell into a nearby farm pond. Meanwhile, Jarad ran to the neighbor’s house. The neighbor called 911 and took the two children to their grandparents’ house. When the police arrived on the scene, they found Johnny in a pool of blood on the garage floor. He had been shot once in the face and once in the back of the head. Tokar and Stickley were arrested on March 13, 1992. UPDATE: Jeffrey Tokar died at 12:04 a.m., 3 minutes after the 1st of 3 injections was administered at the Potosi Correctional Center, prison spokesman John Fougere said. Tokar appeared to be singing until he lost consciousness. "A dying man should always tell the truth, and the truth isn’t necessarily what a person hears, but what they choose to believe," Tokar said in a prepared final statement. "Praise the Lord, I am on my way." Gov. Bob Holden on Tuesday night denied clemency for Jeffrey Tokar, removing the last apparent legal barrier before his execution. Spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said the governor found nothing to warrant clemency and decided the jury’s original verdict should be respected. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Tokar’s appeal Tuesday, marking the 4th time the court refused to halt the execution. State law prohibited Douglass’ children, Jarad and Lynzie, from witnessing the execution because they are not yet 21. But Stuart Miller, the Audrain County Sheriff who investigated the murder, was at the prison. 7 family members witnessed the execution but declined to speak with the media afterward, prison officials said. "I’m a strong believer and supporter in the death penalty," Miller said. "I don’t know if I really want to witness one, but I feel an obligation to the family as the investigator, so that’s why I’m going to be there."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 7, 2002 Texas Bobby Ray Harris
James Williams, 22
Michael Watkins, 32
Gerald Tigner executed
Gerald Wayne Tigner, once described by a prosecutor as having a "heart full of scorpions," twice was convicted and sentenced to die in the August 1993 shooting deaths of James Williams, 22, and Michael Watkins, 32 in Waco. Tigner confessed to the slayings, but claimed he acted in self-defense. With guns blazing in both hands, Tigner shot Williams 7 times and Watkins 6 times in what prosecutors described as a drug-related robbery attempt. At the time of the shootings, Tigner was free on bond in the December 1992 shooting death of Bobby Ray Harris, a former boyfriend of Tigner’s mother. Tigner also confessed to killing Harris, saying he shot him in self-defense after Harris burst into his house and said he was looking for Tigner. Tigner was convicted in the deaths of Williams and Watkins in 1994 and spent 2 years on death row before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out his conviction and awarded him a new trial. In overturning his conviction, the Austin court ruled that prosecutors did not give a copy of Tigner’s taped confession to defense attorneys in the time prescribed by law. He was retried and convicted again in March 1997. "Gerald Tigner is a vicious criminal who was a threat and danger to society and murdered on several occasions, and with the fact that one more step in the process has now been completed, he is now closer to the sentence that 2 McLennan County juries believed was proper," said McLennan County First Assistant District Attorney Crawford Long, who prosecuted Tigner. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Tigner’s 2nd conviction in April 1999 in a unanimous decision.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 12, 2002 Georgia unnamed man
Jean Drew
Tracy Housel executed
Evidence was presented at the sentencing trial that, during a two-month period in early 1985, Tracy Housel killed a man in Texas, stabbed a man in Iowa, sodomized a woman in New Jersey, and, finally, killed the woman in Gwinnett County, Georgia, for whose murder he received the death sentence in this case. Housel’s pre-trial statements concerning these crimes were admitted in evidence. In addition, the surviving Iowa and New Jersey victims testified, as did law enforcement officers from Texas, Florida and Georgia. Housel left his wife in California in October of 1984, his marriage having unraveled as a result of his "being on the road" all the time. A month later Housel began living with a woman in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In February 1985, Housel was at a truck stop in Spring, Texas, "laid over trying to get a load." Housel stated, "We were all in our leathers, dressed more or less like a rowdy little bike club, just raising Hell and discontent." He met a man named Troy, who had a quantity of cocaine and was trying to sell it. Troy got drunk, and Housel helped him out to his truck and went back to the bar. He learned (he said) that "a couple of guys [were] planning on robbing [Troy] of all of his cocaine," but after he told them not to, they "left him alone." However, Housel himself "was wanting, I guess, a little bit more cocaine," so he climbed into Troy’s cab "just [to] fix my nose again and go on about my business." Troy woke up and accused Housel of trying to steal his cocaine. When Troy grabbed him by the throat, Housel picked up a hammer and hit him on the head eight or nine times. Housel took Troy’s cocaine and a few other things, including a CB radio, a stereo, and Troy’s identification, put them into his bag, and drove the truck to Beaumont, Texas, where he left it. He stated that Troy was still breathing when he left Spring, but that he died somewhere between Spring and Beaumont. Troy’s body was found in the sleeper of his cab, seven miles from Beaumont, Texas, on February 20, 1985. He was nude from the waist down, and had been anally sodomized. On March 29, 1985, Housel was back in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He met a man named Gary at a truck stop and asked him for a ride to Des Moines, where perhaps he could get a job. Gary told him he would take him as far as Atlantic, which was about halfway. They got into Gary’s car and drove. Gary testified that when they reached the Atlantic exit, Housel pulled out a knife and told him to drive on. A couple of exits later, Housel told Gary to pull off the interstate and park. Then, Gary testified, Housel demanded his wallet, and stabbed him as he reached for it. Housel stated that Gary made a gesture which he interpreted as a homosexual advance, and he "freaked"; he pulled out his knife and began stabbing him. Gary denied making any sexual advances. In any event, Gary got out of his car, and Housel pushed him down a ravine. When Gary climbed out, Housel stabbed him several more times and threw him back in. Gary had thrown away his keys, but Housel found a spare key in the console and drove the car to New Jersey. Credit card receipts found in Housel’s belongings after he was arrested showed that he had used Gary’s credit cards in Iowa, Illinois and Pennsylvania on March 30 and April 1. On April 2, 1985, a young woman named Renee met Housel at the apartment of a friend of hers in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Housel introduced himself as "Troy." About 11:30 p.m., Renee announced that she was going home. "Troy" (who Renee identified at trial as the defendant) offered to escort her to her car. Once there, Housel entered the car and began to strangle her, and then forced her to orally sodomize him. Telling her she was too nice to kill, he took all her money and left. Renee testified that she had marks on her neck from being strangled that did not finally disappear until late that summer. Next, Housel drove Gary’s car to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he abandoned it. He caught a ride from there to Lawrenceville, Georgia. After "drinking all night," Housel met the victim in this case, Jean Drew, in the early morning hours of April 7, 1985, at a Lawrenceville truck stop. Housel said they had sex, and then went for a ride in her car, a silver-gray Mustang. They parked in an open area behind some woods, just off Beaver Ruin road in Gwinnett County. According to Housel, they were having sex again in the back seat of her car when he got the urge to spit. Unfortunately, his spit hit her window. She began yelling at him, and he lost his temper and began striking her with his fists. (There was blood all over the inside of the car when it was recovered.) They got out of the car. Her nose was bleeding, and she spit blood on him. Then he really hit her, and she fell "like a ton of bricks." He got on his knees and strangled her, and then he picked up a stick and beat her face to a "bloody pulp." Housel left her lying there, and drove her car to Daytona Beach, Florida, where, using her credit cards, he stayed several days prior to being arrested. Jean Drew’s body was found later that morning, nude from the waist down. Her head was "extensively traumatized and disfigured." There were "several lesions about the neck area," and there was "blood smeared on both hands." The pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified that the victim was still alive at the time of strangulation, and that the "[strangulation] force was fairly long in duration given the amount of… contusion in the area of the neck…; the [hyoid] bone… was broken… and there was digging of fingernails not just into the skin and left in place, but actually tearing through the skin which is another indication of a fair degree of struggle on the part of the decedent." Several of the victim’s teeth had been knocked out. Her mouth was cut. Her skull was crushed in three places. The pathologist testified that because of the extensive trauma to the head, it was impossible to determine how many times the victim had been struck. Cause of death was "a combination of multiple head trauma and asphyxiation by strangulation."
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 14, 2002 Virginia Joyce Snead Aldridge, 56 James Patterson executed
James Earl Patterson said he wants to die for the brutal rape and murder of a 56-year-old Prince George woman in 1987. "As I look around this courtroom, I see lives that I’ve wrecked. To say I’m sorry to these people is a hollow statement," he said in a crowded courtroom just before sentencing yesterday in the death of Joyce Snead Aldridge. "These families were touched by me because, in some instances, they befriended me. In befriending me, it turned into their worst nightmare," he said calmly. Patterson said he couldn’t promise that, if given a life sentence, he would not ruin more lives. "Your honor, I’ve thought about the death sentence, and I beg you to give me the death sentence," he said with tears in his eyes. "I pray today that it will be some type of closure for these families. I’m deeply sorry…. I just pray the Lord touches their lives and take away the pain I brought upon them." Prince George Circuit Judge James F. D’Alton Jr. said the death penalty was not something the court could impose just because Patterson asked for it. But because of the vileness of the crime and the possibility of future dangerousness, he did impose the sentence. Judge D’Alton said the crime was especially vile. Patterson, then 20, didn’t know Aldridge, but had met her in passing while partying with one of her daughters. Shortly before midnight, on Oct. 11, 1987, Patterson, who had been drinking and using cocaine, broke into the woman’s house to rob her to buy more drugs. In a videotaped confession, he said that, when he discovered she had only a handful of coins in her purse, he became enraged and decided to rape her. He decided to kill her so there would be no witnesses, he said. Using one of Aldridge’s kitchen knives, he stabbed her 3 times in the abdomen and left her to die. Joyce was able to make it to the phone to call the police and then she attempted to reach her son through the telephone operator but was using the wrong number. While she was attempting to make the call a second time, Patterson returned and fatally stabbed Joyce 14 more times and fled the scene. Police arrived as he was leaving, he said, but he was able to flee to his car, which was parked about a block away. The murder remained unsolved for the next 11 years. Patterson has a lengthy, violent criminal record. He was serving a 25-year sentence for raping an 18-year-old girl when he was indicted for murder. Evidence from the rape was re-submitted to the Virginia Division of Forensic Science for DNA analysis, which concluded his DNA matched evidence in the Aldridge killing. Attorney R. Clinton Clary Jr. said Patterson asked that no evidence be presented on his behalf. Clary said that, even though he disagreed with his client’s request, he respected it. Garrison E. Aldridge said his family has been wondered for many years who did this to their mother, and why. "The only thing we’ve been able to put together and come up with is, this is senseless." His sister, Karen Aldridge Bornstein, said the family’s prayers have been answered, but now they have to deal with the hurt, anger and grief all over again. "The feelings of loneliness and emptiness have never gone away," she said. "There are feelings that are too difficult to express into words, but they’re in our hearts." Patterson was also sentenced to life for each of the remaining 3 charges of rape, abduction and forcible sodomy. He thanked the judge after the sentence was imposed, and gave a quick smile and nod to his family as he was led from the courtroom. UPDATE: Last statement from Patterson: "My heart goes out to the Aldridge family,” Patterson said. ”…God bless each and every one of you who is here tonight.” Patterson said last week in a telephone interview from death row, "The penalty fit the crime. I was responsible and I want to pay the ultimate price.”
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 21, 2002 Texas Victor Cervan Rodolfo Hernandez stayed
In March 1985, Rodolfo Hernandez, of San Antonio, shot 5 illegal immigrants in the neck and back, killing Victor Cervan. Hernandez was convicted for his part in the March 1985 shooting death of Cervan, a Mexican citizen, in New Braunfels. Court records show Hernandez rounded up 5 illegal immigrants in San Antonio after they slipped into Texas aboard a boxcar from Mexico. He offered to find them transportation to Denton where they hoped to get jobs. Hernandez and his brother-in-law, Jesse Garibay, agreed to drive them for $150. They stopped in a secluded area of Comal County where the 5 Mexican men were ordered out of the car at gunpoint. When 1 of the men tried to run away, he was shot in the back. Court records indicate Hernandez ordered the men to lie on the ground face down, took their valuables and shot each in the neck, then drove off with his brother-in-law. Cervan was the only 1 of the 5 to die. The 4 others testified against Hernandez at his trial. Garibay got a 4-year prison term for theft. UPDATE: Condemned killer Rodolfo Hernandez received a 30-day reprieve. Gov. Rick Perry, in an unexpected decision, spared the former auto mechanic at the request of San Antonio police who met with Hernandez this week on death row. The police believe Hernandez has information about unsolved murders. Hernandez, 52, got word of the reprieve minutes before he was to be taken to the death house in a wheelchair. Hernandez was found guilty of robbing and shooting five undocumented Mexican immigrants in March 1985 in a remote area just north of San Antonio. One of the men died. "The police department in San Antonio apparently was able to corroborate two of the other murders that he said he participated in and they would like the time to talk with him to try to solve some more of these cases,” Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 29, 2002 Alabama Jack McGraw, 60 Gary Brown stayed
The state Supreme Court on Tuesday set a March 29 execution date for Gary Leon Brown, who was convicted of capital murder for the stabbing death of a Jefferson County man in 1987. The execution date was the 1st set in Alabama since June 15 last year, when the court scheduled Danny Joe Bradley to be executed on July 20. That execution date was later blocked. Brown, 44, of Center Point, was convicted in Jefferson County Circuit Court with 2 others in the Memorial Day slaying of 60-year-old Jack McGraw. McGraw had been stabbed and slashed 78 times. His body was found in his trailer.

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