April 2005 Executions

Six killers were executed in April 2005. They had murdered at least 8 people.
killers were given a stay in April 2005. They have murdered at least 7 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 5, 2005 Florida Carol Skjerva, 28 Glen Ocha executed

Carol SkjervaGov. Jeb Bush signed a death warrant for a convicted murderer who strangled and hanged an Osceola County woman more than five years ago. Bush set April 5 as the day of execution for Glen Ocha, who has changed his name legally to Raven Raven. Ocha, 47, was convicted of killing Carol Skjerva, 28, at his Buenaventura Lakes home Oct. 5, 1999. He was drunk and high on Ecstasy when he met Skjerva at a bar. She drove him home, and the two had sex. Afterward, Skjerva made a disparaging comment, enraging the man. Ocha tried to strangle her three times until his arms got tired. So he hung Skjerva from a door and drank a beer while she died. UPDATE: Glen Ocha is scheduled to be executed by injection Tuesday at Florida State Prison near Starke, ending his quest to die after being arrested for the 1999 strangulation of a woman who gave him a ride home from a bar. His latest defense attorney, Greg L. Hill, and Carolyn Snurkowski, a capital appeals attorney for Attorney General Charlie Crist, said Monday there are no appeals pending to save the life of the 47-year-old man. He pleaded guilty to the Oct. 5, 1999, killing of Carol Skjerva, 28, who was working at a convenience store. Ocha, who changed his name to Raven Raven while in prison, is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Tuesday. An anonymous executioner, who is paid $150 for his services, will inject a lethal cocktail of chemicals to stop his heart and his breathing. Court documents show Ocha met Skjerva at a bar in Kissimmee, where he was employed engraving beer mugs. He was drunk and high on Ecstasy when she drove him home to Buenaventura Lakes and they had intercourse. When Skjerva told Ocha she was going to tell her boyfriend and made fun of his anatomy, he became enraged. He made her sit in a chair and gathered some rope from his garage before strangling her 3 times until his arms began tiring. Then he hanged Skjerva from a kitchen door and drank a beer while she died. After hiding her body inside a home entertainment system in his garage, Ocha took Skjerva’s car and drove to Daytona Beach. When he was arrested for disorderly intoxication, he confessed to killing the woman. Ocha pleaded guilty and would not let a public defender present evidence to try and avoid execution. After the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2002, Ocha filed a motion with the trial court to drop his appeals and dismiss his attorneys. In May, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the trial court to hold a hearing on his competency. When it ruled June 11 that Ocha was competent, he discharged his state lawyer, Mark Gruber. Gruber said he fought to get Ocha ruled incompetent. "He had demonstrated the kind of behavior that was at time erratic," Gruber said. In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Stephen D. Ake, Ocha asked that his execution be carried out without delays. "Sir I wish for my execution to come swift and unhampered." Hill was scheduled to meet with his client Monday, but said he did not expect to file any motions for Ocha. "He seems more than coherent," Hill said. Court records show Ocha has exhibited suicidal behavior since 1978, when he asked police to shoot him. Once in jail, Ocha tied his jacket to the bars and attempted to hang himself. He has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. After a 2-year stint in the Army, he was given a general discharge because he used drugs. Snurkowski said Ocha’s case was recently reviewed by Osecola County Circuit Judge Margaret Waller, who ruled that Ocha, a 10th-grade drop out, could end all his appeals. "This was a very heinous crime… After a thorough and thoughtful appeals process, that was the end of it," said Bush spokesman Jacob DiPeitre after Bush signed the death warrant. Skjerva’s friends and family said they miss the trusting young woman who was engaged to be married and eager to have children. Skjerva had moved to Florida to study to become a flight attendant. She was working at a convenience store just before her death. "We still think about her every single day," Skjerva’s aunt, Brenda Scott, 49, of Spokane, Wash., said last week. "She was loved. She still is loved." Skjerva’s former fiance, Brian Lewis of Osceola County, said he does not plan to attend the execution despite a handwritten invitation by Ocha. "I just put it in God’s hands and let the universe take care of it," said Lewis, 39, a single father of a 14-year-old boy Skjerva was helping raise. I forgave it a long time ago. There’s nothing I can do to change it. I’ve just moved on with my life." UPDATE: A convicted killer who did not try to block his execution with a last-minute appeal said in his final statement that he was receiving his just penalty. "This is the punishment that I deserve. I am taking responsibility for my actions," Glen Ocha, 47, said speaking calmly while strapped to a gurney moments before a lethal mix of chemicals began to flow. Ocha had warned that he would kill again if he did not receive the death penalty. Ocha’s death brought protests from capital punishment opponents who called the execution another in a series of "state-assisted suicides. But, in a statement from Ocha read after the execution by his standby counsel Gregory Hill of Tampa, Ocha said his death was not a suicide. "Some have suggested that my decisions are nothing more than a suicide assisted by the state. They are wrong. I have made my peace with my God and go now to face his judgment," Hill read from Ocha’s statement. Hill met with his client Monday evening at the prison and said it was Ocha’s desire "to accept responsibility for his actions." Ocha, who had changed his name to Raven Raven while in Kentucky, also apologized both in the written statement and in the execution chamber to Skjerva, her family and friends for her death. "I would like to say I apologize to Carol Skjerva, the girl that I murdered, and her family and her friends." UPDATE: Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday morning that he might stay an execution scheduled for that night in deference to the pope’s passing Saturday. No such order came. But then, Glen James Ocha would not have wanted it. Ocha, 47, was sentenced to die for the Oct. 5, 1999 murder of a convenience store employee in Osceola County after pleading guilty at his trial and refusing to allow his public defender to present any evidence. Later, he waived all possible appeals and dismissed his attorneys. In his final statement, afforded to every death row inmate before execution is carried out, a coherent and contrite Ocha explained himself, beginning with an apology to his victim and her family and friends. “This is the punishment that I deserve. I am taking responsibility for my actions… this is my responsibility I have to take,” he said. Attorney Gregory Hill, Ocha’s standby counsel, read a statement Ocha dictated at a press conference following the execution. “I unjustly took the life of Carol Skjerva. I have made my peace with my God and go now to face His judgment.” Department of Corrections spokesman Sterling Ivey spent part of his day with Ocha, saying he woke up at 5 a.m. in what Ivey characterized as a “very positive” mood. “He indicated to officers outside his cell that he was looking forward to his execution,” Ivey said. Ocha did elect to take the sedative offered to condemned prisoners before their sentence is carried out. Instead of watching television, Ocha spent Tuesday morning with his brother, Martin Ocha, and Chaplain Dale Recinella. Recinella stayed until late in the afternoon, conversing with Ocha in his jail cell, Ivey said. On the night of Oct. 5, 1999, Ocha, drunk and high on Ecstasy, met Skjerva at the Kissimmee bar where he worked, an Osceola County arrest warrant shows. She gave him a ride to his home, where they had consensual intercourse. However, when Skjerva said she would tell her boyfriend about the incident and mocked Ocha’s anatomy, he became angry. The documents state Ocha retrieved a rope from his garage with which he attempted to strangle Skjerva three times. In his impaired state, he was too weak to kill her, so he hanged her from a kitchen door and drank a beer as he watched her choke to death. When he was arrested for disorderly intoxication the following day in Volusia County, Ocha confessed to killing Skjerva.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 5, 2005 South Carolina Melissa "Missi" McLauchlin, 25 Joseph Gardner stayed

Missi McLauchlinA man who had been scheduled to die on April 8 for the kidnapping and murder of a Charleston woman 12 years ago, has been granted a stay of execution so he can pursue federal appeals. The stay for Joseph Gardner was granted U.S. District Judge Henry Herlong, according to the South Carolina attorney general’s office. Gardner was convicted of the Dec. 30, 1992, killing of Melissa "Missi" McLauchlin, who was raped, tortured, shot five times in the face and left to die by the side of a road in Summerville. At the time of the shooting, police said Gardner and some other men made a New Year’s resolution to rape and kill a white woman as retribution for 400 years of oppression of black people. Gardner, who was later arrested in Philadelphia, was the trigger man. Gardner was sentenced to death in December 1995. Joseph Martin Luther Gardner was convicted of the Dec. 30, 1992, killing of Melissa Ann McLauchlin, who was raped, tortured, shot five times in the face and left to die by the side of a road in Summerville. At the time of the shooting, police said Gardner and some other men made a New Year’s resolution to rape and kill a white woman as retribution for 400 years of oppression of black people. Gardner, who was later arrested in Philadelphia, was the trigger man. Gardner was sentenced to death in December 1995. Missi McLauchlin, 25, was a native of Wixom, Michigan, living with her fiancÚ’s family in North Charleston, South Carolina. On the night she died, she had an argument with her fiancÚ at a nightclub. She stormed out of the club and began to walk home. Police spotted her, obviously drunk, and gave her a ride home, but she apparently set out on foot for another club. Three black men, Matthew Carl Mack, Matthew Williams, and Joseph Gardner pulled up alongside in a car and started a conversation. The men had spent most of the day drinking and watching pornographic videos of black men having sex with white women. At one point Mack had exploded in anger at his white girlfriend, saying he wanted to “stab her,” but that “it ain’t got to be her, any white” would do. Williams said he wanted to have sex with a white woman. Two hours later, the group watched a television news account of the biggest stories of 1992. When the videotaped beating and arrest of Rodney King came on the air, the third man, Gardner, spoke of “four hundred years of oppression,” and made a “New Year’s resolution” to “kill a white bitch.” It was in this state of mind that they returned with Missi to the trailer where the men lived. The men soon began raping her. They put out the word within the trailer park that they had “captured a white woman,” and three other black men arrived and raped her. Two black women, girlfriends of some of the rapists, were present in another room of the trailer, but did nothing to stop the attack. After they had enough, the men decided to get rid of the evidence—including Missi McLauchlin. They soaked her in bleach and hydrogen peroxide, and scrubbed her under the shower with a nylon brush, in the hope of ridding her skin of sperm or other evidence that could be linked to them. They forced her to scrub out her vagina with the same chemicals. They also talked openly of killing her. The men handcuffed her, blindfolded her, and put a heavy coat over her head. They then took her to a car, and forced her down onto the floorboards in the back. After they had driven for some time, she managed to get out of the handcuffs and began to struggle. Joseph Gardner, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, reached over the seat, held back her head, and shot her twice in the face. The driver pulled over to the shoulder 14 miles outside Charleston, where Gardner shot her three more times in the face and once in the arm. The men dumped her on the side of the road, drove back to Charleston, and went nightclubbing. A passing driver found Missi McLauchlin, miraculously alive, and he left to get help but she died before the ambulance arrived. Missi had a blood alcohol level of.25 at the time of her autopsy. There were no traces of drugsIt took police four days to identify the body, and a day later they located the trailer where Missi McLaughlin was raped. By January 9, 1993, police had arrested seven people including two of the ringleaders—Matthew Mack and Matthew Williams—and two women, Edna Williams and Indira Simmons, who were charged with being accessories to murder and sexual assault. Three of the rapists were sailors stationed at nearby Charleston Naval Base. The only suspect not in custody was the triggerman, Joseph Gardner, who had carried out his New Year’s resolution. Gardner, who was AWOL from the Navy, eluded police for nearly two years, and might never have been caught had the FBI not put him on the “ten most wanted” list. He was living in Philadelphia when someone saw his picture in the post office and tipped off the police. He was arrested on October 20, 1994. Police suspected a racial motivation from the start, since they found a “crudely written racial diatribe” in the trailer, complete with racial epithets about white oppression, which claimed blacks were “justified in seeking revenge.” Walter Bailey, the chief prosecutor in the case, said "It was the absolutely most brutal and senseless crime, one of the worst things I have ever seen. Totally unprovoked." Before his sentencing, Gardner told the jury, "Do what you think is best." Before that, Joe Gardner apologized to Missi’s parents. "I hope it gives you some sense of closure so you can put this behind you and move on. Yesterday when I was listening to you talk, it really hurt me. I really hurt you." The seven women and five men that found him guilty of kidnapping and murdering Missi thought about it for two hours and decided that the 25-year-old Detroit native should die in the electric chair or by lethal injection. "When it came down, the picture in my mind was my daughter’s grave and roses starting to bloom and that she was finally resting in peace," said Missi’s mother, Patricia McLauchlin. Gardner was the only person sentenced to death in the case. Mack received a life sentence plus 30 years, which will allow parole eligibility after 30 years. Williams pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 30 years. However, 1st Circuit Solicitor Walter Bailey agreed that if Williams would help prosecute Gardner, Williams could be sentenced again under circumstances that would cut parole eligibility to 20 years. Another man involved, Roger Williams, served half of a five-year sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and being present during the commission of a felony and not reporting it. He was scheduled to be released in December 1995. Danny Dwayne McCall was sentenced to nine years for the same charges as Roger Williams, suspended upon service of six years followed by five years of probation. He was denied parole in June 1995. Edna Jenkins, who was dating Gardner at the time, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder, illegally buying two handguns within 30 days and lying on a firearms application. She served 554 days in jail. Indira Simmons, who was living in the trailer with Matthew Williams, pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony. She served 572 days, partly in jail and the remainder under house arrest.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 12, 2005 Tennessee Jean Poteet, 70
Sarah McBride, 69
Robert Leach stayed

On July 8, 1999, Robert Leach murdered Jean Poteet and murdered and raped Sarah McBride in Sarah’s home in Nashville on Haywood Lane. Sarah McBride was a sixty-nine-year-old widow who had been outside working in her yard when Leach happened upon her. Leach asked Sarah if he could use her telephone to call his sister to pick him up because his car was broken down. Sarah agreed. Leach told Sarah that his telephone call to his sister was successful and that she would be picking him up. Leach later admitted that he had in fact attempted to call his sister in Texas, but was unsuccessful. He also admitted that he did not own a car. At approximately 7:30 a.m., Sarah’s sister Louise called and spoke with Sarah as part of their normal morning routine. Sarah told her sister that a man was in the kitchen drinking coffee as he waited for his sister to pick him up. Louise testified that she urged her sister to have the man wait for his ride outside and that Sarah responded, "OK, I’ll call you later." Sarah never returned the call. Louise testified that she went shopping at Wal-Mart and then began calling her sister. She called her in fifteen to twenty minute intervals, but no one answered. At approximately 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., Louise became very worried and drove to her sister’s house. When she arrived, the garage door was up, and Sarah’s pickup truck was gone. She noticed that the back door was open. She entered Sarah’s home and noticed her cousin Jean Poteet’s wig on the floor, a pair of scissors on the floor, and a stream of blood. Louise explained that although her cousin Jean had her own apartment, she had essentially been living with Sarah for a couple of months. After seeing the "stream of blood," Louise walked through her sister’s home. She found Jean lying face down in the hallway. She checked to see if Jean was breathing, but she was cold. She found her sister, Sarah McBride, on her bed. She was not breathing. She called 9-1-1 from her sister’s kitchen. As soon as the paramedics arrived, Louise was escorted out of her sister’s home. William Harris, Jean Poteet’s cousin and legal guardian, testified that he went to the scene immediately after learning that his cousin had been murdered. Mr. Harris testified that his cousin Jean had a diminished mental capacity due to a blood clot at the time of her birth. He testified that she was somewhat retarded, and her right hand and leg were partially paralyzed. He explained that because of her problems, financial and legal matters were too much for her to handle; therefore, he had been appointed as her guardian. Mr. Harris explained, however, that Jean had a fairly normal life. Other than the aforementioned problems, she had no physical infirmities. He explained that Jean enjoyed shopping and going out to eat, but because she could not drive, she relied on others, including Sarah, for transportation. He testified that Jean enjoyed helping Sarah with her house and dog. He said that they spent a lot of time together because neither would have to be alone. Jean was seventy years old at the time of her death. Detective Jim Reed arrived at the McBride residence at approximately 2:30 p.m. in response to the 9-1-1 call. Upon his arrival, two firemen advised him that two deceased elderly women were inside the house. He entered the home where he saw one woman face down on the floor and a second woman on a bed, partially clothed. He ordered everyone out of the house. After interviewing Louise, he sent out a bulletin for officers to be on the look out for the missing pickup truck. Evidence was collected from the scene including a pair of black jeans, pieces of linoleum, scissors, a pair of blue jeans, and a piece of the marble floor. A few weeks later, a plumber was called to Sarah’s residence to fix a clogged sewer line. The plumber recovered a pair of men’s underwear in the line from the toilet to the sewer line, which was turned over to the police. Dr. Bruce Levy testified that he performed rape kits on both victims and took photographs of their bodies. Autopsies were performed on the victims the following day. Dr. Levy testified that Jean Poteet died as a result of strangulation with a ligature. Dr. Levy surmised that Jean was first attacked in the kitchen and dragged to the bedroom area where she was found. He testified that Jean’s blouse was pulled up around her neck and tied in a knot. Further, the autopsy indicated that someone sat on her abdomen as the ligature was being applied. Dr. Levy testified that the tip of Jean’s tongue was bitten and protruding from her mouth, which indicated that she was dragged by her blouse while it was tied around her neck. According to Dr. Levy, Jean was still alive while she was being dragged. Jean also had numerous blunt force injuries to her face and suffered from brain hemorrhages due to blows to the head. Jean had a defensive wound on the back of her left forearm, bruises on her abdomen, and two pairs of scissor stab wounds on the left side of her chest and abdomen. When Jean was found, her upper torso was exposed, but the clothing on her lower body was intact. It was his opinion that Jean was probably not sexually assaulted but that because her upper torso was exposed, he could not completely rule out some sort of sexual assault. Dr. Levy testified that the cause of death of Sarah McBride was strangulation with a ligature. The ligature on Sarah’s body was a belt that was wrapped around the neck twice. Unlike Jean, Sarah was not dragged by the ligature around her neck. In addition to the injuries caused by the ligature, Sarah had a laceration over her left eye, blunt force injuries to her head, a broken nose, a fracture at the base of her skull, a fracture to her breastbone, and three fractured ribs. Sarah had two sets of double puncture wounds on her back, which were consistent with being stabbed with scissors. Sarah also had bruising around her left eye, left cheek, nose, and mouth and defensive wounds on the left forearm. Sarah was found at the scene lying on her back on a bed, partially clothed. Dr. Levy explained that Sarah was completely unclothed from the waist down and the clothes on her body had been pulled up to her upper chest and neck area. When Sarah was found, her legs were open and up over her body, with her legs flexed at the hips and bent at the knees. As the result of testing, it was determined that Sarah was raped. Dr. Levy testified that it was his opinion that she was alive when the sexual assault began, but died at some point during the assault. He also said that both Sarah and Jean had irreversible brain damage approximately four minutes after the ligature was applied. Detective Mike Roland was the lead investigator on the case. He testified that Leach became a suspect in the murders when he was contacted by detective Marsha Brown of the sex crimes unit. Detective Brown was investigating an incident that occurred a few hours before the murders at an Econo Lodge within one mile of Sarah’s residence. Detective Brown gave Detective Roland Leach’s name. Detective Roland learned through the investigation of the sex crime at the Econo Lodge that Leach had been living there. Evidence collected from the Econo Lodge was consistent with evidence collected from the McBride residence, and Leach’s fingerprints were identified from evidence at the McBride residence. Detective Roland talked with Leach’s sister, Cathy, who lived in Missouri, on July 12, 1999. Detective Roland advised Leach’s sister that he was a suspect in a double murder case in Nashville. She had not heard from her brother, but she agreed to cooperate. Leach called Detective Roland on July 13, 1999. He told Detective Roland that he knew nothing about the murders. He blamed his entire situation on the State of Texas and its penal institution. He told Detective Roland that he had been imprisoned in Texas and that when he was released he wanted to blow up schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. He said that he had turned his life around for a while but that when Texas wanted to revoke his parole, he wanted to "go down there and blow up a whole city block." When Detective Roland asked him what happened in Nashville on Haywood Lane, he replied, "I just-I snapped. I don’t know. And I’ve snapped-I feel like snapping now." Leach told Detective Roland that he knew he was prison bound and he wanted to go to a psychiatric hospital because he could not deal with reality. He stated he wanted just to travel and kill. Detective Roland called Leach’s sister after he spoke with him, and she gave him the telephone number for her brother. The police were then able to determine Leach’s location, and Detective Roland called the Missouri State Highway Patrol and described the pickup truck taken from the McBride residence. Sergeant Larry Wayne Plunkett, Jr. testified that he was an officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He located the truck at the Friendly Tavern in Greenville, Missouri. He and Deputy Larry Bruce with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department in Greenville, Missouri entered the tavern and located the owner, who identified Leach as the person driving the pickup truck. Leach was on stage playing a guitar at the time. Sergeant Plunkett arrested him. Leach denied driving the truck and insisted that he had walked to the tavern. The pickup truck was secured and Leach was transported to the local jail. Leach later admitted to Deputy Bruce that he was driving the truck. He said that he was sorry he did it but that he just snapped. He also told Deputy Bruce that he had been trying to get help for three years. While Deputy Bruce was at the tavern securing the pickup truck, a couple stopped and asked why he was at Leach’s truck. After a discussion with the couple, Deputy Bruce went to their residence and recovered clothing supposedly belonging to Leach and lawn equipment that Leach had given the couple from the back of the truck. Detectives Roland and Vogel traveled from Nashville to Missouri to talk to Leach. Leach explained that he had been in Nashville pursuing a music career. He advised the detectives that he was gifted with music and had won Star Search in 1997. He said he obtained employment at a Denny’s restaurant to pay the bills. After staying at a couple of other hotels, he took up residence at the Econo Lodge. He met an employee of the Econo Lodge named Dorianne during his stay. He said they flirted with each other. He told Detective Roland that on the last night he spent in Nashville, he had been to a bar and had several beers. He admitted that he was "pretty tipsy." He remembered seeing Dorianne outside her room and her inviting him in. Later, a black man entered the room and confronted him about why he was with his girlfriend. Leach also said the man demanded his money. He said that Dorianne began screaming and that he became worried about going to jail. He was very afraid, so he hit the man and ran out of the hotel. He said he blacked out and woke up in a pickup truck in Illinois. He said his knuckles were swollen as if he had hit someone. He said he had on men’s clothing that was not his. He also saw jewelry boxes and costume jewelry in the truck. He denied that he had stolen a purse. He insisted that he did not know what had happened but stated, "If I deserve it, I deserve it." According to Leach’s statement, he went to visit his family in Missouri. He met a girl on the first night he was in Missouri, spent the night with her, and gave her some of the jewelry. He also gave lawn equipment to his aunt. When he talked with his sister, she told him he was about to be on "America’s Most Wanted." He told Detective Roland that he had a metal plate in his head from a car accident and claimed that he had memory loss and blacked out as a result. He told Detective Roland that he could only kill in self-defense. He continued to claim that if he had done something, he had just snapped. The day after Leach’s statement, Detective Roland transported him to Nashville. During the trip, Leach pointed to a road and said that was where he went the wrong way, going to Illinois instead of Missouri. He then said he had thrown the purse out down the road. A friend of Leach’s named Harold testified that he had known Leach for over fifteen years but had not seen him for six years. He stated that Leach showed up at his residence in Coldwater, Missouri on July 8, 1999, driving a pickup truck. Leach stayed with him, his wife, and his sister-in-law, Becky, for two nights. They went to the Friendly Tavern where they drank beer and danced. He noticed nothing unusual about Leach’s behavior. Becky testified that Leach drove her home in the pickup truck after their evening at the Friendly Tavern. Leach told her he did not have a driver’s license; therefore, he only drove the back roads. She further testified she spent the night with Leach at the Winberry residence the first evening he was in town. The next day, Leach presented her with jewelry, which he said belonged to his ex-girlfriend. She testified that she took some earrings, but turned them over to the police after Leach’s arrest. According to Becky, Leach appeared to be acting normal while he was with her. Leach’s aunt Jane also testified at trial. She testified that Leach came to her home on July 11, 1999. She stated that she had not seen him since his father’s funeral, about six years before. She said that he was driving a Dodge pickup truck with Tennessee tags. He stayed in a trailer outside her home for two nights. While he was there, he asked her to wash his clothes, but she refused because they had dog hair all over them. She later gave the clothes to the police. She testified that he acted normal while he stayed at her home. A jail inmate who met Leach in the Davidson County jail while they were housed in the same pod testified that Leach told him he wanted to get sent to a psychiatric hospital and asked how to establish the insanity defense in Tennessee. According to the inmate, Leach believed it was easier to escape from a psychiatric hospital, and he wanted to go to Canada because Canada would not extradite him if he was facing the death penalty. Leach also confided to the inmate that he knew a psychologist in Texas who would testify that he had been incompetent for a long time. Leach told him the details of the murders as follows: Leach went to a house in Antioch where some women, whom he had previously seen in Denny’s, lived. He told one of the women that his car was broken down and he needed to call a ride. Leach said one of the women recognized him as an employee of Denny’s and invited him to have some coffee. While he was inside, one of the women received a call, he thought from a daughter, who told her to get the man out of her house. Leach told him that he put a "chokehold" on both women, got them on the floor, and beat their heads. Leach said he raped one of the women and fondled the other. Leach went through the house and took some rings, necklaces, lawn care equipment, and a pickup truck. Leach said that there was blood all over the house. Leach said he had always had a secret fantasy of committing multiple rapes and murders. The jury found Leach guilty of premeditated first degree murder as to Jean Poteet and Sarah McBride. The jury also found him guilty of felony murder as to both victims. Further, the jury found him guilty of especially aggravated robbery and aggravated rape. The felony murder convictions were merged into the premeditated murder convictions. At the penalty phase of the trial, the State presented the testimony of Sarah’s older sister Louise. She testified that her sister was sixty-nine years old at the time of her death. She said that Sarah was her best friend and that they talked every day before she was killed. She said she had talked to her sister the morning of her murder and regretted not going to her home sooner. She thought she might have been able to save them. She testified that she had "gone to pieces" since her sister’s death and had lost a lot of weight because she no longer eats. Sarah’s stepson testified and said that he and Sarah were very close. He explained that his parents had divorced when he was young, and his father and stepmother had been married for twenty-seven years at the time of his father’s death. He told the jury that she loved to garden and had been employed for thirty years before retiring. After his father died, she kept his pickup truck and could never sell it. She had grieved over her husband’s death for a few years and had really started to enjoy life again. He testified that his stepmother’s death had been very hard on him and his children. William Harris testified that he was Jean Poteet’s cousin and legal guardian. He again explained to the jury that she had a diminished mental capacity. Although she was never able to work outside of the home, she was able to take care of her mother and aunt until they passed away. He testified that she enjoyed going out to eat and traveling. Jean had started renting an apartment on her own in 1997 after her aunt’s death. Mr. Harris testified that she had been burdened with responsibilities of taking care of people her entire life. He explained that she had just started to enjoy some freedom. She had been able to travel some with his family and was looking forward to more travel. He testified that her death had greatly affected his life. The jury sentenced Leach to death for the murders of Jean Poteet and Sarah McBride. As to victim Jean Poteet, the jury found four aggravating circumstances: Leach had previously been convicted of one or more violent felonies; the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death; the murder was knowingly committed by Leach while he was committing or attempting to commit robbery or aggravated rape; and the victim was seventy years of age or older or was particularly vulnerable due to a significant handicap or significant disability, physical or mental. As to victim Sarah McBride, the jury found three aggravating circumstances: Leach had previously been convicted of one or more violent felonies; the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death; and the murder was knowingly committed by Leach while committing or attempting to commit robbery or aggravated rape. The trial court subsequently sentenced Leach to consecutive sentences of twenty-five years for the especially aggravated robbery and aggravated rape convictions, which were ordered to be served consecutively to the death sentences.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 15, 2005 South Carolina Alex Hopps
James Greene
Richard Longworth executed

In 1991, Richard Longworth was convicted in a South Carolina state court for the murders of Alex Hopps and James Greene, employees of a Spartanburg, South Carolina movie theater that Longworth and an associate robbed. Longworth was sentenced to death. In the evening of January 7, 1991, Longworth and his friend David Rocheville decided, while driving around in their minivan, to rob the WestGate Mall Cinema in Spartanburg, South Carolina. After entering the theater, Longworth took his handgun from his shoulder holster and gave it to Rocheville, and the two viewed a movie for a short time. The two then proceeded into the lobby to implement their plan to rob the theater of money located in the ticket booth. When they encountered an usher, Alex Hopps, walking down the hallway, Longworth knocked Hopps down, jumped on him, held his hand over Hopps’ mouth, and dragged him outside of the theater through the side exit. As Longworth pinned Hopps against a waist-high bar that protected the air conditioning unit, Rocheville shot Hopps in the left side of the head. Rocheville then returned the gun to Longworth, who placed it back in his shoulder holster. To reenter the theater, Longworth and Rocheville walked around to the front of the cinema and found the front doors locked. They motioned to James Greene, a cinema employee to whom they had waved when they initially entered the theater, and Greene opened the door. At that point, Longworth drew his gun and demanded that Greene open the safe in the ticket booth. Longworth took several money bags from the safe and ascertained from Greene that there were more bags in Greene’s automobile, ready for deposit. After retrieving those bags, Longworth and Rocheville forced Greene into their minivan, which Longworth drove. Longworth again handed his gun to Rocheville and instructed him to shoot Greene if he moved. After driving away from the theater, Longworth stopped the vehicle and instructed Greene to get out, walk five paces, get on his knees, and stare straight ahead. At that point, Rocheville shot Greene in the back of the head. Longworth and Rocheville were arrested the next day, after Rocheville had led law enforcement officers to Greene’s body. After Longworth was arrested, he provided officers with a detailed statement of the crimes that he and Rocheville had committed. Each was indicted on two counts of murder, one count of kidnapping, and one count of armed robbery. Separate juries convicted them and sentenced them to death. Hopps’ father plans to make the trip Friday from Spartanburg to Columbia’s Broad River Correctional Facility to watch the second of his son’s killers breathe his final breath. "I want to see the final chapter," Alexander Hopps said Thursday. "I want to see him dead." Hopps witnessed Rocheville’s execution a little more than 5 years ago. "I had a great deal of satisfaction watching him die," he said. "I don’t think the death penalty is a deterrent in any way. It’s purely for the victims." But Longworth’s death won’t really change anything, Hopps said. It won’t take any of the hurt away and it certainly won’t bring Alex back. "You never forget when you lose a child," Hopps said. "I think about my son every day and what he would have been. It hurts to see his friends get married and have children. There are some very difficult times." The two families didn’t know each other before the killings. But now Hopps said he speaks with Greene’s mother every few months and have keep each other updated on changes in the legal process. She did not want to talk to a reporter before the execution. The current chief prosecutor in Spartanburg, Trey Gowdy, was working for a federal judge when Longworth and Rocheville committed their crimes in his hometown. His mother called to tell him about the killings. Like hearing that Ronald Reagan had been shot or that the space shuttle had exploded, Gowdy said no one in Spartanburg will ever forget where they were when they learned the mall and movie theater they grew up with was no longer safe. "WestGate Mall is a central part of our community," Gowdy said. "We all go there. We take our kids there…I took my girlfriend, now my wife, there." The drawn-out appeals are one thing Alexander Hopps will be glad to be done with if Longworth dies Friday. He’ll be glad there are no more calls from lawyers telling him the latest step in the case. "It’s something I want to happen," Hopps said Thursday. "If I could say one thing about tomorrow, I’d rather participate than observe." UPDATE: Richard Longworth, 36, died by lethal injection at 6:14 p.m. In a final statement read by attorney David Belser, Longworth said he didn’t pull the trigger, but apologized to the victims’ families. "I hope they also know how deeply, truly sorry I am for what I have done. I hope my death brings them peace they deserve," Longworth said in the statement. "I hope my family knows how much I love them and how ashamed I am that I have tarnished their name."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 18-22, 2005 Maryland David Scott Piechowicz
Susan Kennedy
Vernon Evans stayed

A Baltimore County judge signed a warrant for the April execution of a longtime Maryland death row inmate. Vernon L. Evans Jr., 55, was convicted in 1984 of the contract murder of a federal witness and a bystander. Judge Christian M. Kahl signed the death warrant two days after the Supreme Court refused to hear the latest appeal from Evans, who argued that he was wrongfully sentenced under harsher sentencing guidelines that took effect after he committed his crimes. The judge ordered that Evans be put to death by lethal injection sometime during a five-day period that begins April 18. "It has been 22 years since this crime happened, so, for a lack of a better term, this has been a long time coming," John Cox, an assistant Baltimore County state’s attorney said. Attorneys for Evans said that they will ask the court to stay the execution while they appeal the death sentence. Evans and drug kingpin Anthony Grandison were convicted and sentenced to death in the April 1983 killing of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy at the Warren House Motor Hotel in Pikesville. Grandison paid Evans $9,000 to kill Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl, who were to testify against Grandison in a federal drug trial. Kennedy was working for her sister Cheryl that day, and prosecutors said at trial that they believe Evans mistook Kennedy for her sister on the day of the killings. The two victims were gunned down in the lobby of the motel in a brief burst of bullets from a MAC-11 machine-pistol with a silencer. Grandison remains on death row. UPDATE: The state’s highest court has granted a stay to a death row inmate who had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection sometime during the week of April 18. Vernon Evans Jr. had asked the Court of Appeals for more time to argue that his sentence should be overturned because of racial and geographical disparities in Maryland’s application of the death penalty. The court scheduled oral arguments on the matter for June 7. Evans was sentenced to death for the April 1983 killing of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy at the Warren House Motor Hotel in Pikesville. In seeking a stay, Evans’ attorneys noted the court has agreed to hear an appeal from death row inmate Wesley E. Baker in June. Both Evans and Baker, as well as two other death row inmates, have asked the courts to overturn their sentences based on a January 2003 study by University of Maryland professor Raymond Paternoster that had been commissioned by the Legislature. Paternoster found that black defendants who killed whites statistically were most likely to be charged with capital murder and sentenced to death in Maryland. He also found that the likelihood of prosecutors seeking capital murder charges in Baltimore County is 13 times greater than in Baltimore. Evans and Baker are black. The victims in their cases, all of whom were white, were killed in Baltimore County. Baker was convicted in 1992 of fatally shooting a teacher’s aide in front of her grandchildren in the parking lot of a Catonsville shopping center.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 20, 2005 Texas Travis Brown III, 24
Daniel Hibbard, 31
Milton Mathis stayed

Milton Mathis was sentenced to death for killing Travis Brown III, 24, and Daniel Hibbard, 31. The men were shot to death in the house where they lived in the 5800 block of Maywood in Houston, Texas. Mathis was 19 at the time of the brutal crime. All three victims were shot in the head with a.45 caliber pistol. Police believed the motive for the shootings was robbery. On December 15, 1998, at approximately 8:00 or 8:30 a.m., a woman and her 15-year old daughter went to the home of a man named Chris. Chris rented rooms in his home to Travis Brown and Daniel Hibbard. Travis Brown and Milton Mathis were in Travis’s room. While the woman, her daughter and Hibbard sat in Chris’s room, Chris went into the kitchen. Shortly thereafter, Chris heard gunshots from Travis’s room and turned to see Mathis exiting the room with a gun in his hand. Mathis claimed that Travis had just shot himself. Chris told Mathis to put the gun down, but Mathis ordered Chris and the other three back into Chris’s room where he calmly walked up to the girl and shot her in the head, leaving her alive, but paralyzed from the neck down. Mathis then shot Daniel Hibbard in the head, causing his death. Mathis finally pointed the gun at the girl’s mother, whereupon he discovered that he was out of bullets. Mathis thereafter rummaged through the house, set fire to Travis Brown’s room, threatened Chris and the woman, and finally left in Travis Brown’s car. The police identified Mathis as the killer and went to arrest him. Upon being arrested, Mathis became violent. Officers discovered that Mathis had told his father to lie for him and had persuaded his girlfriend to give him an alibi, which she maintained until confronted by the police. A fellow inmate testified that Mathis showed no remorse for the shootings and stated that he wished he had killed them all. Mathis took the stand and at first testified that although he had been to the house earlier, he was not there on the morning of the shootings. After defense counsel requested a recess, Mathis took the stand and stated that he had lied in his previous testimony. He then testified that he was at the house at the time of shootings, and admitted that he had shot all three people and taken Brown’s car. Mathis claimed he shot Travis Brown in self-defense after Travis had threatened to shoot him. He claimed that he shot the others because he panicked after shooting Travis. During the punishment phase, the State put on evidence of Mathis’s prior criminal history, including an aggravated robbery, various assaults and thefts, and a charge for resisting arrest. The State presented additional evidence that Mathis had been repetitively belligerent and disruptive at school and that he had gotten into a fight with jailers while incarcerated. UPDATE: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted one of the two executions set for Wednesday when it granted a reprieve to condemned inmate Milton Mathis, whose lawyers contended may be mentally retarded. Mathis, 26, was convicted of the fatal shootings of two men at a Houston crack house in December 1998. In a short five-paragraph order, the court today said arguments about Mathis’ mental retardation should be reviewed by his trial court in Fort Bend County. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of the mentally retarded. Mathis’ attorneys also contended his execution, if carried out, would violate his rights unless he could get a full hearing on the claims of mental retardation.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 20, 2005 Texas Jerry Velez, 40 Douglas Roberts executed

Douglas Roberts was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of Jerry Valez. Velez was abducted at knifepoint and forced to drive his car out of San Antonio on Interstate 10. When they arrived in Kendall County, Roberts told Velez to turn off onto a road near Highway 46 and stop the car. Roberts told Velez to give him his shirt, and Velez lunged at him. Roberts stabbed Velez seven times, then ran over Velez’s body when fleeing the scene in the victim’s car. Roberts then drove to Austin and called 911 from a pay phone, telling the operator he had killed a man. Roberts directed his attorney that he wanted to be convicted and sentenced to death and that he should dismiss any potential jurors who expressed any reservations about assessing the death penalty and not to fight the death penalty or ask for a life sentence during closing arguments not to present any mitigating evidence. Then Roberts appealed on the grounds that his attorney had provided ineffective assistance.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 21, 2005 Indiana Delores Wells, 18 Bill Benefiel executed

Delores Wells2On October 10, 1986, at about 7:30 p.m., a seventeen year-old girl named Alicia walked two blocks away from her home to run an errand for her mother and brother. As she returned, a man wearing a mask and carrying a gun grabbed her, pushed her into a garage, stripped her, covered her head, and bound her with her own clothes and electrical wire. Bill Benefiel put her in his van, and took her to a house, where he took photographs of her and then raped her. He chained her neck and handcuffed her wrists to the bed; he tied her ankles together with rope. He gagged her and put glue in her eyes. He raped her multiple times. When she tried to escape, he cut her back and cut off a fingernail and part of her hair; he said they were for his scrapbook with samples from his other victims. Later, he cut her neck and chest, put his gun in her vagina, and forced her to have anal intercourse. He held Alicia captive for four months, raping her daily at gunpoint. She lost count after sixty-four rapes. For the first few months, Benefiel kept her eyelids glued together and pried them open only when he wanted to see her eyes. At those times, he wore a mask so she could not see his face. Alicia could only go to the bathroom or bathe when Benefiel allowed her. He fed her a baked potato and a glass of water once a day. Two months later, when Alicia was bleeding vaginally, Benefiel took off his mask and pried her eyes open. He took her to a distant hospital where they would not be recognized. He did not give her a chance to tell the doctors that she was a captive. When they returned, he moved her to another house, where he again chained her to the bed. Her eyes could now open, and she could see her attacker. A month and a half later, Alicia heard someone else in the house. She then saw Delores Wells, naked, gagged, with her wrists and ankles handcuffed. Delores’ eyes were taped shut. Benefiel beat Delores in front of Alicia with his fists and an electrical cord. Alicia saw the injuries to Delores: welts on her arms and legs and black bruises on her face. On another occasion, Benefiel cut off all of Delores’ hair and cut into her finger. A few days later, Benefiel left the house and returned dirty, with blisters on his hands. He told Alicia that he had been digging a grave big enough for two people. He used it only for Delores, however. He forced Alicia to watch as he put super glue up Delores’ nose and pinched it shut. He stuffed toilet paper in her mouth and taped her mouth closed so she could not breathe. He took Delores from the house, and returned two hours later, informing Alicia that he had killed Delores. He said he tied Delores’ arms and legs to separate trees, and wrapped duct tape around her head. When he thought she was dead, he "popped" her neck, just to be sure. Then he buried her. After another few days had passed, the police came to Benefiel’s house to search for Alicia. Benefiel hid her in a crawl space in the ceiling, where the police eventually found her. Several days after his arrest, Benefiel contacted a local police detective and offered to help him find Delores Wells. A search of the woods surrounding Terre Haute also revealed Delores’ grave site and her body. The police found in Benefiel’s houses and van: a mask, a post-hole digger, a rake, a shovel, a knife,.22 caliber rifle shells, rope, and Delores’ eyelash, eyebrow, and head hairs stuck to some duct tape. At trial, the state presented the testimony of two women who claimed that Benefiel had kidnapped and raped them six and eight years prior to the murder of Delores. Benefiel testified on his own behalf during the trial. After a recess during this testimony, he refused to return to the courtroom, then claimed that his right to be present at trial was violated. The appeals court said Benefiel obviously knew of his right to be present because he had spent most of the trial in the courtroom. The judge in the case, Judge Eldred, reminded him of this fact, saying, "you know that you have a right to be in the courtroom during this trial, if you want to be." Benefiel’s response, "I can’t," In a ruling on one of Benefiel’s appeals in 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stated the facts of the case "curl the stomach and numb the mind." Just after Benefiel’s execution date had been set, Marge Hagan, Delores’s mother, said "I’m relieved, but I’ll be more relieved when it finally happens." January is always difficult for Hagan. Delores disappeared on Jan. 26, 1987, and it was cold and snowing. After one appellate ruling, Hagan said she worries because courts can sometimes be unpredictable in rulings. Hagan’s grandson, who was 2 years old when his mother was killed, is now 20 and serving in the Army. His only memories of his mother are those that are told to him, Hagan said. It’s been 17 years of waiting for Benefiel to serve his punishment, she said. "I just hope I live long enough for him to be taken care of," she said. During the trial, she advocated Benefiel get life without parole because she wanted him in a prison’s general population where he likely wouldn’t survive, she said. "The only thing we can do now is wait," she said. UPDATE: The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected motions filed by a man seeking a stay of his execution, scheduled for April 21. A three-member panel of the court ruled against Bill J. Benefiel, whose attorney contended that mistakes were made in jury instruction during the penalty phase of his trial. "He also asked us to (a) recall our mandate and reopen our original decision and (b) issue a stay of execution. We shall do neither. Instead, we summarily affirm the district court’s decision," the appeals court panel wrote. Benefiel, 48, is scheduled to die by injection for the 1987 torture-slaying of Dolores Wells, of Terre Haute. Benefiel held the 18-year-old woman in a vacant house for 12 days, sexually abusing her before killing her on Feb. 17, 1987. Alicia Elmore, whom Benefiel held captive for four months in the same house, survived and testified against him. Benefiel’s attorney, Alan M. Freedman, contends the jury that sentenced Benefiel to death was instructed that "mitigating is defined as a fact or circumstance which makes an offense appear less severe." Freedman contends the plain language limited the jury’s consideration of mitigating circumstances such as Benefiel’s mental illness and difficult childhood. But the appeals panel said the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Freedman’s argument while the case he cites was under advisement. Despite that, Freedman said he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court in two weeks, saying a case the Supreme Court will consider a week after the scheduled execution date could have bearing on Benefiel’s case. "We hope the Supreme Court will say that before my client should be killed, we should see what the Supreme Court has to say," he said. "I think it’s important because the U.S. Supreme Court has taken these cases…. We have nothing to prove him innocent, but these issues are substantial." If the Supreme Court rejects the argument, Freedman said, he likely will seek clemency from Gov. Mitch Daniels. Freedman said he already has forwarded a letter from the European Union asking Daniels to spare Benefiel’s life. The letter said the European Union opposes the death penalty under all circumstances.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 27, 2005 Missouri Dorothy Knuckles, 68 Donald Jones executed

961djonesA Missouri inmate sentenced to death for fatally beating and stabbing his grandmother more than 30 times to get money for crack cocaine says that woman would not want him executed. Facing scheduled death by injection April 27, Donald Jones, 38, absorbed another legal setback this week, when the Missouri Supreme Court refused to intervene. Jones said he expected to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jones’ family – including 2 uncles, the sons of slain Dorothy Knuckles – wants Gov. Matt Blunt to spare Jones’ life and commute his sentence to a life term without parole, arguing that the murdered 68-year-old grandmother wouldn’t seek vengeance against the grandson. "Just having their love and their forgiveness has been a tremendous comfort for me," Jones said Thursday by telephone from the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center, insisting that "I can say most confidentally" Knuckles – a Christian – wouldn’t be vengeful against the grandson who killed her. "My grandmother and my family were all raised in church, strong Christians," he said. "I know for a fact she wouldn’t want this at all." Jones said he hasn’t circled his scheduled execution date on his calendar. "The 27th will be here when it gets here," he said. "The only thing I can control is today; that’s always been my approach to the situation. "I have all the faith and know God can turn this around in no time." Blunt has said through a spokeswoman that he planned to review the case, having asked the state Board of Probation and Parole to offer a recommendation. Messages were left Friday with Blunt’s office and with Jones’ Columbia attorney. Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to his grandmother’s St. Louis home in March 1993 to ask the woman for more money for drugs. When Knuckles lectured him about his abuse of drugs and refused to give him cash, Jones first beat her with a butcher’s block of knives, then repeatedly stabbed her. Jones took the grandmother’s videocassette recorder, some money and the keys to her car, then sold the VCR and rented out the vehicle to get 2 pieces of crack cocaine. Jones was arrested 3 days later. Jurors convicted him in June 1994 after just 3 hours of deliberations, recommending the death sentence for 1st-degree murder and a life term for armed criminal action. The next month, a judge condemned Jones despite pleas by his family – including the victim’s sons – to spare Jones’ life and order him imprisoned for life without parole.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
April 28, 2005 Alabama Keith Turner Mario Centobie executed

keith turnerOne of the Birmingham area’s most sensational escape artists, a man who defied police for days as he embarked on a cop-killing spree across Alabama, will likely die quietly this week. Mario Centobie, the crafty and some say charismatic killer, is to be executed Thursday for the killing of Moody Police Officer Keith Turner. Now 39, Centobie has waived his rights to all appeals, and is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Prison at 6 p.m. It is in some ways an odd and anticlimactic end. "I hate he decided not to fight it, but that’s his decision," said his Pell City attorney, Stan Brown. "He just didn’t want to waste any more time. He wanted to get it over with." Retired Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster, too, wants to get it over with. Lancaster, who was shot by Centobie, will be among those on hand to witness his death. He said he is going at the request of the slain officer’s family, including Turner’s widow, Brandy. "I think life is the most precious gift God gives you, and to take a human life goes against my Christian upbringing," Lancaster said. "But I know if Mario Centobie were to ever get back out on the street, and if anybody were to get in his way, he would kill without hesitation. This is a fair and just punishment." In 1998, Centobie, a decorated former Mississippi firefighter, was serving a 40-year sentence at Parchman Prison for kidnapping his estranged wife, Cheryl, and 6-year-old son, Dominic. That June, Centobie escaped with fellow inmate Jeremy Granberry. The two overpowered lawmen taking them to a court appearance in Laurel, Miss. Jones County, Miss., Sheriff Maurice Hooks and retired Deputy Ray Butler were found the next day unharmed and shackled to posts at a dilapidated barn. Centobie and Granberry fled in their patrol car. Several hours later, Lancaster, then a 49-year-old administrative officer who was headed home from work in his patrol car on Interstate 359, became suspicious of the Mississippi sheriff’s vehicle because the rear bumper was missing. He pulled it over, not knowing a search was on for the fugitives. As he walked to the vehicle, Centobie, the passenger, turned and fired before anyone spoke. The first shot struck Lancaster’s midsection, but a bullet clip on his belt stopped the round. A second bullet went through his side, shattered two ribs, and exited his back. Two days later, Centobie shot and killed Turner when he pulled the fugitives over on a traffic stop in Moody. Centobie later testified in court that he shot Turner as the officer began to pull out his own weapon. Centobie said he yelled for Turner to stop, and then shot him in the kidney area, knocking Turner to one knee. Centobie said the officer’s blue lights were flashing and he just wanted to get away. He fired twice more, including an execution-style shot to the back of Turner’s head. Granberry was caught the next day, but for a week, Centobie eluded a massive police search that brought hundreds of lawmen to Moody and kept the St. Clair County town on edge. Centobie, however, slipped through the dragnet and carjacked a Moody man, forcing him to drive him to Mississippi. The man escaped from Centobie at a Mississippi rest area and Centobie hitched a ride in a van of tourists. Police caught him later that day – two interstate exits away from his ex-wife’s home. Centobie had a Mississippi sheriff’s engraved pistol tucked in his waistband when caught. He thought about resisting, his lawyer later said, but opted not to because the family was nice enough to give him a ride and he didn’t want them shot in crossfire. Three months later, Centobie escaped again when he walked out of Etowah County’s maximum-security jail. Investigators say Centobie charmed guard Donna Hawkins, convincing her he loved her. He was captured in Atlanta almost two weeks later, traced there through the syrupy love letters he wrote to Hawkins. Hawkins was convicted in the escape, and spent 18 months in prison. After his second capture, women sent cards, letters and pictures to him in jail. His lawyer once asked him how he charmed women. "He said, `I’m nice to them and I tell ’em what they want to hear,’" Brown said. Shortly before his trial, Centobie went on a hunger strike to protest harsh conditions in prison, which included one of his female lawyers being strip-searched before she could see him. He was also caught with a makeshift plastic handcuff key in his mouth during a court appearance in Tuscaloosa. Brown said it’s been over a month since he’s had contact with Centobie, who was on Death Row at Donaldson Correctional Facility until recently being moved to Holman Prison in Atmore for the execution. "His attitude has changed a lot," Brown said. "He’s more pessimistic than he used to be." Lancaster said he’s made his peace with Centobie. "I realize how close I came to death and I’m trying to make the most of the second chance God has given me," he said. "Mario Centobie shot the uniform; he didn’t shoot me personally. And that’s what he did to Keith Turner." "I hope Mario has made peace with God and is ready to walk into eternity," Lancaster said. "I hold no ill will toward him and wish him the best he can possibly have."

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