December 2014 Executions

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 2, 2014 Pennsylvania Unnamed victim
Denise Merhi
Dennis Marsh
Alvin Marsh
Steven Zernhelt
Michael Ballard stayed
In 1992, Michael Eric Ballard pled guilty to an unrelated third-degree murder and was sentenced to a minimum of fifteen years in prison. Ballard was released on parole in 2007 and met Denise Merhi, an assistant in the medical office in which he was receiving a physical examination for employment. The two began dating and briefly lived together at Denise’s residence in Northampton Borough, Pennsylvania. Denise lived with her father, Dennis Marsh, her grandfather, Alvin Marsh, and her daughter and son (roughly 8 and 12 years old, respectively). Ballard was re-incarcerated for violating his parole and released again in April 2010. As a term of his release, Ballard was required to live at the Allentown Community Corrections Center. He and Denise resumed their relationship, though Ballard came to believe that Denise was dating other men. On June 23, 2010, Denise and her friend, Debbie Hawkey, took Denise’s daughter and Debbie’s two young children to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, to celebrate Denise’s daughter’s birthday. During their time away, Ballard repeatedly called Denise’s cell phone, but she ignored his calls. The group returned from the beach on June 25, 2010, and Debbie lent Denise her van because Denise’s car was under repair. That evening Ballard was still not receiving any response from Denise. Ballard then phoned Denise’s friend, Marilyn Rivera, to inquire as to Denise’s whereabouts. Ballard appeared agitated, and asked Marilyn if Denise was romantically involved with other men. Marilyn told Ballard that Denise was seeing another man named Peter Hoff. Ballard became upset and told Marilyn that he loved Denise so much that he could not let her go, that he felt anger like he had never felt before, and that he “did not know how to handle it.” The next morning, June 26, 2010, Ballard again made several attempts to call Denise from the correction center payphones. Just before noon, Ballard left the center wearing a light blue shirt with a Superman emblem on the front and carrying a green canvas knapsack and a radio. Ballard visited two different pawn shops and unsuccessfully attempted to trade in his radio for credit toward the purchase of a knife. At the second location, Ballard purchased a Muela Ruko knife. Ballard caught a city bus to Northampton Borough and, once there, entered a bar and ordered a drink. About twenty minutes later, neighbors observed Ballard walk slowly up an alley near Denise’s residence and peer around the corner of a garage in order to view Denise’s home. Ballard proceeded to a liquor store, purchased a bottle of vodka, and called Denise’s cell phone twice from a gas station payphone. During the phone calls, Ballard confronted Denise about Peter Hoff, and Denise responded that Hoff was merely a friend. At approximately 4:45 p.m., Debbie arrived at Denise’s house to retrieve her van. Failing to find her keys in Denise’s mailbox, Debbie entered the front door of the home, which was unlocked. Debbie found her keys on the dining room table and laid her purse down. She could hear noises from the kitchen, and when Debbie entered the kitchen to see if anyone was home, she found Denise lying on the floor in a pool of blood and heard rustling noises coming from the rear of the house. Debbie ran from the house and to the porch of Denise’s nearby neighbors, Steven and Janet Zernhelt. After Debbie told them what she had seen, Mr. Zernhelt ran into Denise’s house while Debbie and Janet called 911. At the same time, another neighbor saw Ballard exit onto Denise’s front porch shirtless and covered in blood. The neighbor, a 13 year old girl, knew Ballard as Denise Merhi’s boyfriend, Michael. Ballard left Denise’s residence in Denise’s Pontiac Grand Prix before the police arrived. Shortly thereafter, Ballard crashed the car into several trees off the side of a nearby highway. Corporal Mark Rowlands of the Pennsylvania State Police observed the crash and approached the vehicle. Cpl. Rowlands noticed that Ballard was unconscious and covered in blood. As Ballard began to regain consciousness, Cpl. Rowlands asked Ballard for his name and where he was coming from. Ballard replied, “I just killed everyone.” Cpl. Rowlands, who at the time had no knowledge of the homicides that had occurred in Northampton Borough, asked Ballard what he meant, and Ballard responded, “Isn’t it obvious, I just killed everyone.” Eventually, Emergency Medical Services workers arrived at the scene of the accident and transported Ballard to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. Appellant’s blood was drawn and later testing revealed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over.10%. At the hospital, Ballard made several statements to hospital personnel that he had killed his girlfriend, “her family, and the neighbor who came over later.” As police were photographing Ballard’s injuries, Ballard also stated, “Give me the papers. I’ll sign them. Make your report. I shouldn’t have lived through this. I’ll plead guilty. Blame the parole board.” In response to the 911 call, State Trooper Raymond Judge and Coroner Zachary Lysek entered Denise’s residence and found the bodies of Mr. Zernhelt, Denise, and Denise’s grandfather, Alvin Marsh. Denise’s body was located on the floor in the kitchen; Mr. Zernhelt was found on the floor of the living room; and Alvin Marsh, who was deaf and partially blind, was found in his wheelchair in front of the television in his bedroom. Each area was “heavily saturated with blood,” and there were signs of an “extensive struggle.” Each victim had suffered from “multiple sharp force injuries.” Trooper Judge and Coroner Lysek later re-entered the home after becoming concerned that Denise’s children might be somewhere in the house, at which point they found the body of Dennis Marsh, Denise’s father, in the basement. Dennis likewise had been stabbed to death, suffering from multiple wounds. The police located additional evidence in the basement, finding: (1) the words “Denise is a Whore” written on the wall in what was later determined to be Ballard’s own blood; (2) a light blue t-shirt bearing the Superman logo; and (3) a green canvas duffle bag containing some of Ballard’s personal belongings. The police also found a white cotton sleeveless undershirt in the first floor bathroom. During a search of Denise’s Grand Prix, police recovered the Muelo Ruko knife and a butcher knife that police believed came from Denise’s home. Both knives contained DNA evidence of Ballard and Zernhelt. On June 27, 2010, Ballard was charged with four counts of criminal homicide, and on April 20, 2011, Ballard pled guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. On May 17, 2011, after a penalty phase hearing, the jury returned a sentence of death on each of the four counts. Regarding the murder of Denise, the jury found two aggravators, multiple first-degree murders here and previous murder conviction, and one mitigator, extreme mental or emotional disturbance. Regarding the murder of Dennis Marsh, the jury found one aggravator and no mitigators. Finally, regarding the murders of Alvin Marsh and Zernhelt, the jury found two aggravators and no mitigators as to each victim.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 3, 2014 Pennsylvania Anita Gordon
Anil Thakur
Ji-Ye Sun
Thao Pak Pham
Garry Lee
Richard Baumhammers stayed
At approximately 1:40 p.m. on April 28, 2000, Mt. Lebanon firefighters responded to an activated fire alarm set off at the Gordon residence at 788 Elm Spring Road, Mt. Lebanon. The responding firefighters, and police officers who later arrived at the scene, discovered at this residence the body of Anita Gordon, an Orthodox Jew, who had been shot multiple times in the chest, abdomen, and both hands, and who exhibited no signs of life. An incendiary device known as a Molotov cocktail was also discovered as having been thrown and ignited in a first-floor bedroom of the Gordon residence. During the discovery of the violence perpetrated at the Gordon residence, police began to receive reports regarding other nearby acts of violence, specifically, shootings occurring at the Beth El Synagogue, 1.3 miles from the Gordon residence, and at the Scott Towne Center, a strip mall less than one mile from the synagogue. These reports identified the shooter as a white male driving a black Jeep. While these reports were coming in, Officer Mary Susan Joyce was interviewing neighbors of Anita Gordon. Officer Joyce was questioning Inese Baumhammers, the mother of Richard Baumhammers, when Officer Joyce received a radio dispatch that the vehicle used in the reported shootings was a black Jeep registered to an individual named Baumhammers. Officer Joyce asked Ms. Baumhammers if she owned a black Jeep. Ms. Baumhammers replied that she did and that her son Richard was then using the vehicle. With respect to the first of two synagogue incidents, Susan Finder, a worshipper at Beth El Synagogue, testified that sometime after 1:20 p.m. on April 28, 2000, she was leaving the parking lot of the synagogue when she observed a black Jeep pull into the lot. Finder was able to identify Baumhammers as the driver of the Jeep. Dennis Wisniewski testified that on the day of the incident he was stopped at a red light three car lengths from the synagogue when he heard a bang and turned to see a man matching Baumhammers’s description discharging five or six pistol rounds into the synagogue. Wisniewski testified that he then observed the shooter walk casually back to a black Jeep Cherokee. Philip Balk, a member of the synagogue, testified that at approximately 2:00 p.m., he arrived at the scene to observe that windows had been broken out and that a swastika and the word “Jew” had been spray-painted in red paint on the building. Detective Edward Adams of the Allegheny County Police testified that when he arrived at the synagogue at approximately 2:50 p.m., he observed the broken glass and the desecration with the red spray paint. He also observed two bullet holes in some of the glass and bullet fragments in the synagogue’s vestibule. Regarding the shooting at the Scott Towne Center, Joseph Lanuka testified that at approximately 1:30 p.m. on April 28, 2000, he dropped off Anil Thakur at the India Grocery, an establishment in the shopping mall. Lanuka told Thakur that he would be back in fifteen minutes to pick him up. When Lanuka returned, he saw police entering the grocery store and Thakur’s grocery bag lying on the ground. Lanuka went into the store and saw Thakur lying on the ground with three or four bullet holes in his chest. He also saw a man lying behind the counter, who was identified at trial as Sandip Patel. Thakur died from his wounds and Patel was paralyzed from his neck down as a result of the gunshots he had received.   Also regarding this incident, John McClusky testified that at approximately 1:45 p.m., he heard a noise, which he ascertained were gunshots, and observed Baumhammers pointing a gun at an individual who ran past Baumhammers into the grocery store.   Baumhammers turned and followed the man into the store;  McClusky then heard three more gunshots. Baumhammers left the establishment, made eye contact with McClusky, and then walked slowly, calmly, and collectedly toward a lower area of the mall parking lot. McClusky then observed Baumhammers drive away in a normal fashion in a black Jeep Cherokee. Jennifer Lynn Fowler also testified that she witnessed the events described by McClusky. A second synagogue incident occurred that afternoon at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Carnegie, approximately 2.1 miles from the Scott Towne Center. Carole Swed testified that at approximately 2:00 p.m. she was stopped at a traffic light across the street from the synagogue. Swed heard two loud pops and turned to observe Baumhammers, with a calm demeanor, standing outside of the synagogue.   She observed him fire several shots into the synagogue, then get into a black Jeep and drive away. Swed was able to record the license plate number of the Jeep, and she promptly provided this information to the police, whom she immediately called.   Detective Edward Fisher of the Allegheny County Police testified that when he arrived at the synagogue, he observed five bullet holes in the structure, including one in a flyer advertising a meeting of Holocaust survivors that was scheduled at the synagogue. David Tucker testified that between 2:15 and 2:30 p.m. on April 28, 2000, he was the lone diner at the Ya-Fei Chinese Restaurant in the Robinson Towne Center, a strip mall located approximately ten minutes away by car from the Ahavath Achim Synagogue. In the restaurant at the time was Ji-Ye Sun, the restaurant manager, and Thao Pak Pham, a delivery person. During this period, Baumhammers walked into the restaurant carrying a briefcase. Baumhammers and Pham had a verbal exchange, and then Tucker saw Pham begin to run. Tucker testified that Baumhammers pulled a pistol from his case and shot Pham in the back as he was running past Tucker. Sun was shot in the chest. Although paramedics arrived quickly at the establishment, both Pham and Sun died from their gunshot wounds. George Lester Thomas II testified that at approximately 2:40 p.m., he met his best friend, Garry Lee, at the C.S. Kim Karate Studio, located in the Center Stage Shopping Center, which was not a far distance from the Robinson Towne Center.   Both men were warming up in the studio when Baumhammers entered and pointed a handgun at Thomas. Baumhammers did not shoot but turned the gun in the direction of Lee, who was standing next to Thomas. Baumhammers shot Lee twice in the chest and then calmly walked away as Thomas ran to the back of the studio in an effort to summon help. However, Lee died from his gunshot wounds. Thomas is white; Lee was black. Diane Wenzig, the owner of a pizza shop two doors away from the karate studio, testified that she observed Baumhammers walk into the karate studio with a gun in one hand and a briefcase in the other. After hearing the gunshots, Wenzig instructed her son to call 911. Wenzig observed Baumhammers get into a black Jeep Cherokee, whose license plate number she recorded and provided to the police. Following the report of this incident, Officer John Fratangeli of the City of Aliquippa Police Department was instructed to station himself on the Aliquippa-Ambridge Bridge along Route 51 so that he could intercept Baumhammers. Officer Fratangeli testified that at approximately 3:10 p.m., he observed Baumhammers’s black Jeep Cherokee turn onto the bridge.   Baumhammers was not driving erratically; in fact, he was driving within the speed limit and using proper turn signals. Officer Fratangeli followed Baumhammers’s vehicle, and when assisting units arrived, he initiated a traffic stop, two blocks from another synagogue. Baumhammers was arrested and his.357 caliber pistol was found in a soft-sided briefcase in the Jeep. A criminologist with the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office testified that forensic tests confirmed that the bullets recovered from the bodies of Anita Gordon, Anil Thakur, Ji-Ye Sun, Thao Pak Pam, and Garry Lee had all been discharged from Baumhammers’s weapon. At trial, the Commonwealth also introduced the testimony of Appellant’s cellmates at different correctional facilities. Bobby Jo Eckles testified that Baumhammers told him that he had “shot a nigger” and that Baumhammers made other derogatory comments regarding blacks and Jews. David Brazell testified that Baumhammers told him that he had killed Anita Gordon “to make a statement” and that he had desecrated the Beth El Synagogue because that was where Mrs. Gordon had worshipped. Other fellow inmates testified that Baumhammers spoke of his anti-immigration and pro-segregation views, his desire to start a white supremacist party, and his hatred for all “ethnic” people. The foregoing evidence was amply sufficient to permit the jury to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Baumhammers intentionally, deliberately, and with premeditation killed Anita Gordon, Anil Thakur, Ji-Ye Sun, Thao Pak Pam, and Garry Lee. Each of these victims was unlawfully killed;  Baumhammers committed the killings; and the mere fact that Baumhammers shot four of the victims in the chest, sometimes several times, was sufficient to permit the jury to find a specific intent to kill. Additional evidence of Baumhammers’s specific intent to kill included (1) the statements he later made indicating his desire to “make a statement” by his shooting of Mrs. Gordon;  (2) his disparagement of the ethnicities of the victims;  and (3) his violent desecration of synagogues.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 3, 2014 Texas Joe Gaitan Alvarado, 55
Amanda Carrion Alvarado, 56
Scott Panetti stayed
About one month before the double murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, Scott Louis Panetti and his wife, Sonja, separated due to Panetti’s drinking and generally abusive behavior. Sonja took their three-year-old daughter and went to stay with her parents, Amanda and Joe Alvarado, a short distance away in Fredericksburg. The Alvarados told Panetti to stay away from their home and called the police at least once during Panetti’s occasional visits there. On September 2, 1992, Sonja obtained a protective order, which was ineffective in keeping Panetti away. On September 7, Panetti asked his friend, David Morquecho, to take Panetti’s dog because he was going somewhere. The two men discussed the protective order Sonja had obtained and Morquecho told Panetti he had better stay away from Sonja and leave town for awhile. Panetti later got drunk and awakened early on the morning of September 8, 1992. He shaved his head and sawed off a shotgun. He donned camouflage jungle gear and web gear including a belt with knives. He took the shotgun and a 30.06 rifle with him and drove to the Alvarado’s home. Panetti broke the glass in a sliding door near Sonja’s bed with the shotgun. He broke the gun as well in the effort. He chased Sonja out of the house and confronted her in the front yard. He disappeared momentarily, allowing Amanda Alvarado to shepherd Sonja back inside and to lock the front door. Panetti then came after Sonja, her mother, and her father, Joe, who was also present. Panetti cornered Joe and Amanda in the kitchen with Sonja in the adjoining hallway. He asked Sonja who she wanted to see die first – her or her parents. Panetti then yelled at Joe Alvarado and fatally shot him in the chest with the 30.06 rifle. Sonja realized that their three-year-old daughter had entered the hallway. Despite Sonja’s begging Panetti not to kill her mother, Panetti pressed the rifle against Amanda Alvarado’s chest and shot her. Sonja and her daughter were sprayed with Amanda’s blood. Sonja begged Panetti not to shoot her or take her daughter and Panetti responded that his rifle was jammed. He took the two of them back to the bunkhouse where he had been living, had them wash the blood off of themselves, and gave them fresh clothes. When Sonja asked to be allowed to go check on her parents, Panetti responded, "I just shot your parents. No more mommy, no more daddy; get that through your head." He told her that she and her parents had betrayed him and then he forced her to read aloud the language of the protective order. He reloaded the 30.06 rifle. He made Sonja lie on the bed with her daughter while he talked to her about "what I’ve done to you," generally about what people would think of him, and that he had only wanted to provide for Sonja and her daughter. At her request, he then let her go and suggested he might shoot it out with the police until he was killed. Arrested later that day, Panetti told police that his alter ego "Sarge" committed the murders.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 4, 2014 Delaware Lindsay Bonistall , 20 James Cooke stayed
Lindsay Bonistall, murder victimOn April 30, 2005, Lindsay Bonistall was a 20-year-old student at the University of Delaware. That night, Lindsay went to her friend Nicole Gengaro’s dorm room and watched Saturday Night Live with Nicole, Katie Johnson, and Isabel Whiteneck. When the show ended at 1:00 a.m. on May 1, 2005, Lindsay left, telling her friends that she might stop at a convenience store along the way home to pick up some food because she was hungry. After Lindsay came home, someone broke into the apartment that Lindsay shared with her roommate, Christine. Christine was out of town that weekend. The intruder attacked Lindsay in her bedroom, tied her hands with an iron cord, and shoved a t-shirt into her mouth as a gag. The intruder beat Lindsay, striking her above her eye and on her chin, and raped her. The intruder then knelt on Lindsay’s chest and strangled her to death, using another t-shirt that had been tied and knotted around her neck like a ligature. The intruder scrawled messages on the walls and countertops of the apartment. The intruder wrote “KKK” at multiple locations around the apartment. In the kitchen area, the intruder wrote, “WHITE Power.” On a wall in the living room, the intruder wrote, “We Want Are weed back” and “Give us Are drugs back.” The intruder also wrote, “More Bodies Are going to be turn in up Dead.” To eliminate evidence of the crime, the intruder doused Lindsay’s body in bleach. The intruder then dragged her body to the bathtub, put it in, covered it with flammable items, and set it on fire. The fire burned until it set off the hallway smoke alarm and other residents began to evacuate the apartment building. The fire department was called at 2:49 a.m. and the Newark volunteer fire department responded. After putting out the fire, the firefighters discovered Lindsay’s burned body in the bathtub, still bound and gagged. The Fire Marshal determined that the fire had been intentionally set, and testified that the fire would have had to burn for at least an hour before it was put out to cause the damage it did. An autopsy determined that the cause of Lindsay’s death was strangulation, and that Lindsay was dead before the fire was started. In other words, the fire would have been set at around 1:45 a.m. at the latest, meaning that Lindsay was killed less than an hour after she left her friends at around 1:00 a.m. Following the murder, an anonymous person who was attempting to disguise his voice made at least three calls to the Newark Police Department’s 911 call center. In the first call on May 2, 2005, the caller said that Lindsay’s murder was related to two break-ins that had occurred at nearby apartments during the week before Lindsay’s murder. The phone call led the Newark Police to investigate connections between Lindsay’s murder and the break-ins at the nearby apartments. The first break-in occurred four days before Lindsay was murdered. Around 1:00 a.m. on April 26, 2005, Cheryl Harmon returned to her apartment. Harmon discovered that someone had written “I WHAT My drug Money,” “DON’T Mess With My Men,” and “we’ll be back” on the walls of her apartment with red fingernail polish. Harmon noticed that she was missing several DVDs and two personalized rings. The point of entry was a living-room window with a pried-off lock. The second break-in occurred three days later, on April 29, 2005 — the evening before Lindsay was murdered. Amalia Cuadra woke up in the middle of the night because someone was shining a flashlight in her face. Cuadra called out to see if it was her roommate, and the intruder responded, “Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you” and “I know you have money. Give me your fucking money.” Cuadra gave the intruder $45 in cash, but the intruder said, “Give me your fu**ing credit cards or I’ll kill you.” Cuadra gave him an American Express card and a VISA card. The intruder then demanded, “Take off your fucking clothes or I’ll kill you.” Cuadra screamed for her roommate and dialed 911 on her cell phone. The intruder fled, taking Cuadra’s backpack, which had her name on it and contained an iPod and some diet pills in a tin container. The anonymous caller made two additional calls to the 911 call center on May 7, 2005. In those calls, the anonymous caller gave detailed information about the three crimes, including information that had not been released to the public. The calls convinced the Newark Police that the crimes were linked and had been committed by the same person. Evidence also emerged that focused the investigation on James E. Cooke. Cooke lived with Rochelle Campbell, his girlfriend and the mother of three of his children. Campbell was pregnant with a fourth child by Cooke at the time. Harmon, Cuadra, and Lindsay’s apartments were all within a quarter mile of Cooke’s residence and could be seen from his back door. Campbell saw Cooke with the backpack from the Cuadra robbery in the early morning hours of April 30, 2005. Cooke told Campbell that he got the backpack from some college kids who had gotten into a car accident and had left it outside their house. Cooke showed Campbell the credit cards and told Campbell that he was going to try to use them. Cooke tried to use Cuadra’s VISA card at a nearby ATM, but it did not work because Cuadra had already cancelled the card. Cooke then returned home without the backpack or the credit cards. But Cuadra’s credit card company noticed that someone tried to use her stolen credit cards. The Newark Police retrieved the ATM surveillance video of the person who tried to use the card. Cuadra had described the intruder as a light-skinned black male with bumps or freckles on his face and puffy cheeks. That general description matched Cooke. Cuadra also said the intruder was wearing a gray hoodie, a hat, knitted gloves, and light blue pants. When Cuadra was shown the surveillance video from the ATM, she was fairly sure that it was the intruder, but when the Newark Police showed Cuadra a photo array including Cooke, Cuadra did not pick out Cooke’s photo. The Newark Police used the ATM surveillance video from the Cuadra robbery to create a wanted poster for Lindsay’s murderer, which was displayed around Newark, including at the Payless shoe store where Cooke worked part-time. Campbell, Cooke’s coworkers from the Payless shoe store, and a woman who recognized Cooke from seeing him playing basketball in nearby Dickey Park, all identified Cooke as the man in the posters. They based their identification in part on the distinctive way the man in the poster stood on his toes and the type of gloves he was wearing. Both the distinctive foot position and the gloves were characteristics these witnesses associated with Cooke. The gloves contained small grips on the inside of the hand in a dotted pattern. The same dotted grip pattern from the gloves was found on the balcony railing outside Lindsay’s apartment, on a CD cover in her living room, and on her bed sheets. Campbell also later testified that she was 100 percent certain that the voice on all of the 911 calls was Cooke. Cooke quit his job without notice after the murder, left Newark, and went to Atlantic City. Cooke then committed four more violent crimes, including three home invasions. In one, Cooke entered the apartment through a second floor window, and when the victim woke up she saw Cooke sitting on her bed. Cooke started to choke the victim before taking several of her credit cards and a necklace. As Cooke was leaving, he tugged at the victim’s underwear, but then did not go further. The victims from those four crimes identified Cooke as the perpetrator, and Cooke admitted to committing those four crimes. Cooke was arrested on June 7, 2005 in connection with the murder of Lindsay. Cooke was then charged with Murder First Degree (2 counts – the second count being felony murder); Rape First Degree; Burglary First Degree; Arson First Degree; Reckless Endangering First Degree; Burglary Second Degree (2 counts); Robbery Second Degree; and Misdemeanor Theft (2 counts). After Cooke was arrested, he was interrogated by Detective Andrew Rubin of the Newark Police Department for four to six hours. Cooke told Detective Rubin that he did not know Lindsay. But when Cooke was arrested at his sister’s house, a hoodie was discovered at the house that had Lindsay’s hair on it. Investigators analyzed the handwriting of the messages left on the walls in Lindsay’s and Harmon’s apartments and determined that Cooke could have written both. Investigators analyzed the scrapings recovered from Lindsay’s fingernails and determined that they matched Cooke’s DNA, as did the sample of semen taken from Lindsay’s body. After the evidence showed that Cooke had contact with Lindsay, Cooke did a one-eighty. Cooke then said that he not only knew Lindsay, but also claimed that they had smoked marijuana together and had consensual sex on the evening of Friday, April 29, 2005, more than 24 hours before Lindsay’s death and the same night Cooke broke into Cuadra’s apartment and stole her backpack and credit cards. But Cooke said that he did not kill Lindsay. Cooke’s first trial began on February 2, 2007. Although Cooke insisted that he was innocent and wished to plead not guilty, Cooke’s first set of counsel pursued a defense of guilty but mentally ill. The jury found Cooke guilty of all charges on March 8, 2007, and did not accept the contention that Cooke was mentally ill when he committed the crimes. The jury unanimously recommended death at the penalty phase. The Superior Court sentenced Cooke to death on June 6, 2007.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 4, 2014 Oklahoma Gay Westbrook Carter , 58 John Grant stayed
On November 13, 1998, Grant savagely and repeatedly stabbed Gay Carter, a food service supervisor at the Connor Correction Center in Hominy, Oklahoma. Grant used a prison-made “shank” similar to a sharpened screwdriver. Grant was serving a total of one-hundred thirty (130) years for four separate armed robberies and had been in prison for about twenty years prior to this offense. On a previous stay at Connor Correctional Center, Grant had worked in the kitchen and he knew Gay Carter; however, Grant lost this job because he was fighting with another inmate. The morning of and the morning before this murder, Grant and Gay argued over the breakfast tray served to Grant. The previous morning Grant told Gay, “I’ll get you bitch,” and the morning of the murder Grant stated, “Your mine.” Inmates Jerry James and Ronald Kuykendall, who held jobs in the dining area, witnessed these arguments. After the last argument, James and Kuykendall saw Grant loitering in a storage area where cleaning supplies were kept, adjacent to the main dining area. Gay left the dining area to go to another building where the kitchen was located. When she returned, Grant grabbed her and pulled her into a mop closet. Inside the closet, Grant stabbed Gay numerous times in the chest while holding her mouth closed. Witnesses summoned Sergeant Daniel Gomez, the first Correctional Officer to arrive. Gomez saw Grant still struggling with Gay Carter. Grant then stood up and faced Gomez, looked at him with a vacant stare, and ran across the dining hall to the storage room, while still carrying the shank in his hand. Grant shut the door, closing himself inside. After Grant left the mop closet, medical personnel arrived to aid Gay. They found that she was not breathing, and they could not find any vital signs. Gay Carter was transported to the hospital, but efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. Medical Examiner Robert Hemphill determined that Gay died as a result of sixteen stab wounds. Her aorta was punctured, causing rapid blood loss resulting in her death. The storage room to where Grant fled, has a wire mesh ceiling through which Correctional Officer Tony Reeves observed Grant. Grant ignored orders to lie down on the floor. Grant held the shank to his chest and ran into the wall, apparently in an attempt to stab himself. A special team of correctional officers entered the storage room and Grant made stabbing motions toward the officers. The officers were able to subdue Grant with the use of an electrical shock device.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 4, 2014 Pennsylvania James Joseph Warunek Robert Flor stayed
On September 29, 2005, Robert Anthony Flor and his then-girlfriend, Patricia Kairis, had an argument at his grandmother’s home, to which police responded following a 911 call. Both Flor and Ms. Kairis had been drinking alcohol, and their argument stemmed at least partially from their recent loss of custody of their young daughter. Prior to the arrival of police, Flor got into his vehicle and drove away with Ms. Kairis in the passenger seat. As Flor was driving, he repeatedly struck Ms. Kairis, who unsuccessfully attempted to escape from the vehicle. Joseph Carcaci, an off-duty state trooper, stopped Flor’s car after he observed Flor driving erratically, recklessly, and at high speed while repeatedly assaulting his female passenger. Officer Brian Gregg, of the Newtown Borough Police Department, arrived on the scene to assist Trooper Carcaci shortly after the vehicle stop. The officers arrested Flor, handcuffed him, placed him in the back of a patrol car, and drove him to the police station. By this time, Officer James Joseph Warunek, also of the Newtown Borough Police Department, had arrived at the station to assist Officer Gregg. Detecting an odor of alcohol on Flor’s breath and believing that Flor had been driving under the influence of alcohol, Officers Gregg and Warunek transported Flor to St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne for collection of blood and urine samples for testing. Flor was calm and cooperative, conversing with the officers and with the emergency room personnel. Officer Warunek then accompanied Flor to a lavatory in the emergency room in order to obtain his urine sample. After Flor gave Officer Warunek the urine sample, the officer started to re-handcuff Flor, at which time Flor suddenly grabbed the officer’s gun out of its holster and immediately shot Officer Warunek in the chest at close range. When Officer Gregg ran to assist, Flor shot him in the abdomen. Flor also shot Joseph Epp, an emergency medical technician on duty at the medical center. At some point during this initial gunfire, one of the bullets also struck Flor’s own hand. Flor then walked to the spot where Officer Gregg was lying wounded on the floor, and fired the gun twice at close range into the officer’s head. Finally, Flor returned to Officer Warunek, who was also lying on the floor, pointed the gun at the officer and pulled the trigger; however, by this time there were no more bullets in the gun. Flor ran from the scene, leaving a trail of blood, but shortly thereafter police found him lying in a vehicle parked in the hospital garage. They re-apprehended him and returned him to the emergency room for treatment of his hand injury. During his re-apprehension and medical treatment, Flor acted in a threatening, hostile, and verbally abusive manner toward hospital and law enforcement personnel, and he stated that he shot the officers, who, he said, "got what they fu**ing deserved." Officer Gregg died almost immediately from massive brain injury caused by the gunshots to his head. Officer Warunek remained in the hospital for two days and subsequently underwent surgery to remove the bullet from his chest. Mr. Epp was unconscious for approximately two days, spent a total of six days in the hospital, experienced excruciating pain, and underwent five surgeries to repair extensive damage to his shoulder and collarbone.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 2014 Tennessee John Dale Dotson
Jimmy Porter
Ed Zagorski stayed
On April 5, 1983, Edmund George Zagorski first appeared at the Lakeland Trout farm in Bucksnort in Hickman County, Tennessee. The Trout Farm was managed by Zagorski’s friend, Jimmy Blackwell. Zagorski, calling himself "Jesse Lee Hardin," claimed to have been working as a mercenary in Honduras and El Salvador. He was wearing camouflage clothing, and was carrying a survival knife, an HK 91.308 semi-automatic rifle and other weapons and survival gear. Although he claimed to have made as much as $100.00 a day as a mercenary, Zagorski did not seem to have any money. During his stay at the trout farm, Zagorski met John Dale Dotson and his wife Marsha. Dotson and Zagorski arranged a marijuana purchase involving them and a third man, Jimmy Porter, who lived in nearby Dickson, Tennessee. According to Marsha Dotson, Porter was to pay $23,000.00 for one hundred pounds of marijuana Zagorski would arrange to have dropped from an airplane into the woods. Dotson was to receive $10,000.00 from Porter for his part of the deal. (Zagorski in a statement to investigating officers stated that the sale was to be of 200 pounds of marijuana at $150.00 per pound). The date of the transaction was to be April 23, 1983. At about midnight, on April 21, 1983, an airplane flew very low over the Trout Farm. Zagorski, who was with Blackwell, commented "It’s here," and left. Zagorski later told Dotson the marijuana had arrived and was in the woods with a man called Dave; that Dotson and no more than two other men were to meet Zagorski, who would be on foot, at 6:00 p.m. at Spot, Tennessee, which was within walking distance of the Trout Farm. Zagorski also told Dotson to come armed. On the afternoon of April 23, 1983, Porter and Dotson were together at the Eastside Tavern in Dickson, Tennessee. There Porter showed the tavern operator a bank bag containing cash and a.357 Magnum pistol. Dotson and Porter left the tavern in Porter’s red Datsun pick-up at about 4:30 p.m. They were never seen alive again. Also on April 23, 1983, Zagorski left the trout farm, taking his gear. He had been heard to tell Dotson that he would meet him at 6:00 p.m. on the road "up behind Spot." At around 5:30 p.m., Blackwell and his girlfriend heard gunshots from the general area where Zagorski had walked into the woods. According to Blackwell, it was not unusual to hear gunshots on a daily basis in that part of Hickman County because of the frequency of deer hunting in the area. On May 6, 1983, the badly decomposed bodies of Porter and Dotson were discovered in a secluded, wooded area near I-65 in Robertson County. The men had been shot in the chest and abdomen and their throats had been cut. A search of the area turned up a military snake-bite kit, a knife scabbard (later identified as Zagorski’s), a case for "Red Specs" glasses (the type worn by Zagorski), six flares, three size "C" Duracel flashlight batteries and an ink pen. Officers also found a.308 cartridge on the ground between the bodies of the victims. Ballistic tests showed that the cartridge had been fired from Zagorski’s HK 91 semi-automatic rifle. An autopsy was performed on the bodies of the victims, but due to the advanced stage of decomposition, the time of death of the victims could not be fixed with any degree of certitude. The pathologist stated that the time of death could be any time from a week to a month prior to the time the autopsies were performed. The pathologist also testified that he could not determine whether the victims were shot or cut first, but that the actual cause of death of each of the victims was the gunshot wounds. According to the pathologist, neither Porter nor Dotson would have died immediately upon being shot, but they would have lived five to seven minutes. The record further shows that at the time of death, Porter had a blood alcohol level of.10 and Dotson had a blood alcohol level of.25. Johnny Baggett, who found the bodies, testified that a week to ten days before at around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., he had heard gunshots in the area. When questioned closer about the gunshots, he fixed the time at around April 25 or 26, 1983. At about that time, Zagorski showed up at the home of Rodney Bruce in Ironton, Ohio, driving Porter’s Datson truck. He also had with him the deceased men’s coveralls and Porter’s.357 Magnum pistol. While in Ironton, Zagorski spent large sums of cash on survival gear, weapons, horses, a four-wheel drive pick-up, and a motorcycle. At one point he showed Bruce what he said was $25,000.00 in cash. He first claimed he had earned the money working off-shore and later said he had earned it working as a mercenary in South America. He also said he had made a "quick" $10,000.00 in Nashville. Zagorski also told Bruce and an army surplus dealer that he had lost his knife scabbard. On May 26, 1983, Zagorski, armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, was apprehended by Ohio law enforcement officers after a shoot-out in which Zagorski rammed a police car and shot a special deputy five times. Over $9,000.00 in cash was found in Zagorski’s fatigue jacket and suit. Zagorski gave different versions of his role in the killings of Dotson and Porter. When he spoke with police on June 1, 1983, he told them that he and another mercenary in their own vehicle had met Dotson and Porter near Spot. Two other mercenaries in a third vehicle had joined them as they drove up I-40. When they stopped on I-65 in Robertson County, the other mercenaries took Zagorski’s rifle, silencer and gear and went into the woods with Dotson and Porter. Zagorski was instructed to drive Porter’s pick-up to a Welcome Center at the Kentucky border and watch for law enforcement officers. Thirty to forty-five minutes later the other mercenaries met him, gave him $5,000.00 and Porter’s.357 Magnum and returned his rifle and gear. Zagorski then left in Porter’s pick-up since, he said, it was not unusual to trade cars in a drug deal. In statements made on July 27 and August 1, 1983, Zagorski claimed he was hired to kill Porter but that Dotson’s death was a mistake. He also said that two other men had been hired to kill Porter, that the deaths occurred in Humphreys County and that the bodies were put in plastic bags and carried to Robertson County. Zagorski never admitted killing the men and refused to tell the identities of the other men he claimed were involved. Zagorski told some visitors at the jail that he had only been at the killings to "blow away" FBI agents. The defense proof was directed toward showing that the killings did not occur in Robertson County. One witness, Ruby Winters, testified that at about 4:00 p.m. on April 23, 1983, she had heard loud music and four shots coming in a wooded area near Spot. Another witness testified as to how the HK 91 rifle fired and how far cartridges were expelled from the gun. This was in contradiction to testimony of state witnesses on the issue. The jury found from the evidence that Zagorski was guilty of murder in the first degree in killing John Dotson and Jimmy Porter. Implicit in the verdicts was a finding by the jury that the killings occurred in Robertson County, Tennessee. In a separate proceeding, and based upon the testimony introduced during the guilt phase of the trial, the jury imposed the sentence of death on Zagorski for each killing on its finding (1) that the murders were committed by Zagorski while he was engaged in committing robbery of the victims, (2) that the murders were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel in that they involved torture or depravity of mind, and (3) that there was no mitigating circumstance sufficiently substantial to outweigh the statutory aggravating circumstances found by the jury.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 2014 Georgia Will Robinson Robert Holsey executed
Shortly before 1:30 a.m. on December 17, 1995, Robert Wayne Holsey entered the Jet Food Store in Milledgeville with a gun and demanded money. After receiving money from the store’s cash register, Holsey directed the store clerk to open the store’s lottery machine. Although Holsey ordered the clerk into a back room, the clerk was able to observe Holsey leave in a small red automobile. The clerk immediately called the police and provided a description of Holsey and his car. Less than four minutes after Holsey left the food store, Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson stopped a red Ford Probe at a nearby motel. He relayed the vehicle’s license plate number by radio and approached the vehicle; Holsey then fired. Forensic evidence showed that the deputy suffered a fatal head wound. Several guests at the motel observed a person matching Holsey’s description returning to the red Ford Probe and speeding away. The police soon discovered the vehicle and gave chase, but Holsey was able to avoid apprehension. One witness testified that she observed the red Ford Probe and recognized Holsey, with whom she was personally acquainted. Holsey’s girlfriend testified that shortly after the shooting Holsey called and asked her to meet him at his sister’s house. He told her to drive her blue Jeep Cherokee rather than her red automobile because the police were searching for a red Ford Probe. When she arrived at the house, Holsey was hiding behind a fence. Holsey had his girlfriend drive him past the murder scene. When she refused his request to be driven to his mother’s house where he could monitor a police scanner, Holsey had her drive him through back roads to his sister’s house where she had picked him up. Holsey instructed her to park directly behind the red Ford Probe in order to conceal its license plate. While Holsey and his girlfriend were still in the Jeep, a law enforcement officer drove up to the red Ford Probe. The officer checked the Probe’s license plate number, which matched the number transmitted by the victim. The officer then illuminated the Cherokee and the Probe with his headlights and transmitted a request for additional support. When Holsey exited the Cherokee "very quickly," the officer turned on his blue police lights, exited his own vehicle, drew his service weapon, and twice commanded Holsey to raise his hands. Holsey failed to comply, began looking around as though searching for an escape route, and, after the officer threatened to shoot, Holsey finally raised his hands. The officer then commanded Holsey to lie prone on the ground. When the chief deputy sheriff arrived less than two minutes later, he confirmed that the Probe’s license plate number matched the number from the victim’s radio call and discovered a fresh bullet hole in the back of the Probe. He then awakened and interviewed the occupants of the residence. The occupants, Holsey’s sister and another woman who was the owner of the Probe, both stated that Holsey had borrowed the vehicle that night. The chief deputy then, less than fifteen minutes after Holsey was initially detained, asked Holsey his name and placed him under arrest. Clothes matching the description of those worn by the armed robbery perpetrator were discovered nearby. Shoes removed from Holsey after his arrest matched the description given by witnesses to both the armed robbery and the murder. A sample of blood taken from one of the shoes proved through DNA analysis to be consistent with the blood of the victim.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 10, 2014 Missouri Joan Crotts , 64 Paul Goodwin executed
Joan Crotts, murder victimIn the summer of 1996, Paul T. Goodwin moved into a boardinghouse near North Hanley Road in St. Louis County. The boardinghouse was next door to Mrs. Joan Crotts’ home. Within a week or so of his arrival at the boardinghouse, Goodwin began confronting Joan. Goodwin continued to insult and curse her throughout the summer. In August, Goodwin was having a barbeque in the backyard of the boardinghouse and began throwing beer cans over the fence into Joan’s yard. When Joan came out to complain, Goodwin picked up a sledgehammer and smashed a rock with it saying:  “this is your head – if you keep messing with me.” A short time later, Joan left her home to attend a social function. Goodwin confronted her in the driveway and yelled: “get your fat a$$ back in the house, bi+ch. I’ve got one coming for you.” Joan’s daughter intervened and ended the confrontation, but Goodwin was evicted from the boardinghouse. As he left the boardinghouse, he said to Joan: “I’m going to get you for this, bitch.” A year and a half later, Joan Crotts called the police at 5:00 a.m. to report that someone had tampered with her vehicle. An officer arrived, and Joan reported that she had found some papers taken from her car and thrown on the ground. She also reported that her dogs had been let out of her backyard and that a step on the back porch was out of place. The officer found no suspicious persons in the neighborhood. Goodwin had already entered Joan’s house that morning and hid in the basement until after the police left. Goodwin then came up the basement stairs carrying a sledgehammer and confronted Joan in her kitchen. He grabbed her arm and forced her into the living room where he forced her to perform oral sex on him. He then took her back to the kitchen. While drinking a two-liter bottle of Pepsi, he wrote on a piece of paper “you are next,” and forced her to walk to the head of the basement stairs. With both hands, he shoved her down the stairs. As she lay face down and unmoving at the bottom of the stairs, Goodwin watched her for a while.   Then he hit the back of her head several times with the sledgehammer and left the house. Joan’s daughter found her, still alive, that afternoon, and Joan related these events to a police officer at the hospital. Joan died that evening. An autopsy revealed that Goodwin inflicted injuries all over her body. In addition to the skull fractures, which caused her death, she had bruises and injuries on her face, chest, shoulders, back, buttocks, knees, thighs, and both arms and hands. She had eight broken ribs and a broken hip. Many of the wounds were defensive wounds. Many of the injuries were not consistent with a fall down the stairs, but instead of a beating. The police found the note and Pepsi bottle. Goodwin’s fingerprints were on both.   They also found bootprints in the spilled Pepsi. Two cigarette butts and a wrapper, the brand Goodwin smoked, were found in the basement. Just outside the door, police found Goodwin’s hearing aid. After obtaining a warrant to search Goodwin’s home, the police found blood stains on a pair of his jeans, underpants, and boots. The boots matched the bootprints left in the spilled Pepsi. The police picked Goodwin up at work that day. After being offered a sign-language interpreter and being advised of his Miranda rights, Goodwin admitted to killing Mrs. Crotts and provided the details above. A jury convicted Goodwin of murder and sentenced him to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 11, 2014 Texas Vickie Ann Gardner, 38 Robert Ladd stayed
On 25 September 1996, firemen responding to a fire in Tyler, Texas, found the body of 38-year-old Vickie Ann Gardner. She was on the floor in her apartment, her wrists bound together in front of her. The fire had been started on or around Gardner’s body, most likely on bedding that had been placed between her legs. An autopsy revealed Gardner died as a result of strangulation and had sustained blunt force trauma to the head. A vaginal smear revealed the presence of spermatozoa. Gardner’s apartment had been ransacked and several items were missing, including: a microwave oven; a combination television and video recorder; and two telephones. The day firemen responded to the fire, Edwin Wright pawned the missing combination television/video recorder and one of the telephones. Wright testified he received the items from J.T. Robertson. Also that day, other items identified as Gardner’s were recovered from Robertson’s apartment. Robertson testified: at some point between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. on 24 September, he received the items from Ladd in exchange for five $20 "rocks" of crack cocaine; early the next morning, Ladd returned with additional items, for which Robertson gave Ladd two more $20 "rocks". Ladd was arrested the same day the items were recovered from the pawn shop and Robertson’s apartment; various pieces of jewelry on his person when he was arrested were identified as Gardner’s. A fingerprint lifted from the microwave oven that had been missing from Gardner’s apartment matched Ladd’s, as did a palm print lifted from a kitchen cabinet in Gardner’s apartment. Ladd had previously worked at, and been a client of, a rehabilitation center where Gardner was employed. DNA tests indicated Ladd was in the group that could have produced the spermatozoa found in the vaginal smear. On 23 August 1997, Ladd was convicted of capital murder under four separate theories — the murder having taken place during the commission of burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and arson. At the sentencing phase, the State presented 11 witnesses, including testimony that Ladd had previously committed a triple murder and testimony by two psychiatrists that, in their opinion, Ladd constituted a continuing danger to society. The defense did not present evidence at that phase. The jury answered the special issues as follows: the killing of Gardner was deliberate; there was a probability Ladd would commit acts of criminal violence that would constitute a continuing danger to society; and there was not sufficient mitigating evidence to justify imposing a sentence of life imprisonment. On 27 August 1997, the trial judge sentenced Ladd to death.

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