December 99 Executions

Nine killers were executed in the month of December 1999. They had murdered at least 19 people.
Ten killers were issued stays of execution. They have murdered at least 13 people.
One killer received a commuted life sentence. He has murdered at least 2 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 1, 1999 Arizona Lida Burhaus Robert Walden stayed
On June 13, 1991, Robert Lee Walden, Jr. broke into Lida Burhaus’s Tucson apartment, beat her with a lamp, raped her and tortured her, slashing her with a knife in the head, breasts and throat. Walden had previously been arrested for assault at least seven times. The murder weapon, DNA evidence, hair and fingerprints all linked Walden to the murder. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 2, 1999 Pennsylvania Daniel Faulkner Mumia Abu Jamal
(Wesley Cook)
Danny Faulkner, murder victim On December 9, 1981 a Philadelphia Police Officer was shot and killed. Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Faulkner was a decorated five-year veteran of the police force, recently married, a U.S. military veteran, a son and a brother. When police arrived, the shooter was still at the scene. His name was Mumia Abu-Jamal, AKA Wesley Cook. On the morning he murdered Daniel Faulkner, Jamal was working as a cab driver. At 3:55 AM on December 9, 1981, Faulkner, a twenty five year old Philadelphia police officer, observed a light blue Volkswagen driving the wrong waydown a one-way street and then turning east onto Locust Street. Officer Faulkner then pulled the Volkswagen over in view of several eyewitnesses. Prior to leaving his car, Faulkner radioed for a police wagon to back him up. Unknown to him, this would later help preserve the scene of his own murder. Officer Faulkner exited his vehicle and approached the driver’s side of the Volkswagen, which was being driven by Mr. William Cook. Officer Faulkner asked Mr. Cook to exit his car. As the officer was looking away, several witnesses stated that they saw Mr. Cook punch Officer Faulkner in the face, violently attacking him. The officer responded by striking Cook, apparently with his flashlight, and then turned Cook towards the car attempting to subdue him. For reasons that remain unknown today, sitting in a taxicab across the narrow street and watching the events as they unfolded, was William Cook’s older brother, Wesley Cook (AKA Mumia Abu Jamal). According to witnesses, Jamal exited his taxi and ran across the street toward the officer and his brother. While Officer Faulkner was distracted by Cook, with his back turned to Jamal, Jamal was seen raising his arm and then firing one shot that found it’s mark in Officer Faulkner’s back. Tests showed that the shot was fired from approximately 10-12 inches. Officer Faulkner was able to draw his gun and fire one return shot at his assailant. This bullet was later extracted from Jamal’s upper abdomen. Having fired this shot, Officer Faulkner fell to the sidewalk. While the wounded officer lay helpless on his back, Jamal stood over Danny with his five-shot,.38 caliber Charter Arms revolver and from approximately 3 feet, began to fire at the officer’s upper body. In an attempt to save his life, Faulkner began to roll from side to side as Jamal fired at him. Jamal missed his first several shots. He then moved closer to Faulkner and bent down over him. Jamal put the muzzle of his gun within inches of Officer Faulkner’s face, and squeezed off the final, and fatal, shot. The bullet entered the officer’s face slightly above the eye and came to rest in his brain, killing him instantly. In June of 1982 a trial was convened to hear the case against Mumia Abu-Jamal for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. In the 1982 courtroom, acts of civil disobedience, shouting, chanting, violent outbursts, disruptions, forced removals, threats and even physical altercations were daily occurrences. Jamal regularly disrupted the proceedings, and because of his intentionally disruptive actions, he was removed from the courtroom over 13 times. A running verbal battle was waged between Jamal and his attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge. On July 3rd, 1982, having heard the evidence against him, it took the jury just 3 hours to unanimously convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal of the premeditated murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. In the sentencing phase of the trial, which proved to be plagued by the same disruptions as the guilt phase, the same jury unanimously sentenced Jamal to death. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 2, 1999 Oklahoma Jennie Ridling, 87 Cornel Cooks executed
In March 1983, Cornel Cooks and a co-defendant, Rodney Madson Masters, a/k/a William Wallace Troxell, were tried together for the murder of Cooks’ disabled, eighty-seven-year-old neighbor, Jennie Ridling. Mrs. Ridling suffocated to death after a piece of gauze-like material had been tightly wrapped around her head. The evidence indicated Mrs. Ridling was raped, and her home ransacked and burglarized. Both were convicted. Patricia Smith said she thought little of it when she met the man who mowed her grandmother’s lawn. Cornel Cooks was just another neighbor, she thought. But then, one afternoon the phone rang with the news that her 87-year-old grandmother, Jennie Ridling, had been gagged, beaten and raped during a burglary at her Lawton home. It took almost 2 hours before the disabled woman eventually suffocated from the gauze wrapped around her face. Cooks is scheduled to be executed by drug injection for the crime. Mrs. Smith says she will be there to watch. “He has to take the consequence for his actions,” she said. `”I will be there for my grandmother.” Cooks, 43, has spent 16 years on death row for Mrs. Ridling’s death in 1982. He still had one appeal pending Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court as the state prepared to execute him at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. The state Pardon and Parole Board rejected his request for clemency last month. Defense attorneys argued that Cooks grew up in a dysfunctional family and was addicted to drugs. “I just don’t think being executed is the right answer here,” Cooks told the board. “There is so much in prison a person could do if he wanted to… I know in my heart I’m not a cold-blooded person.” Mrs. Smith of Burleson, Texas, will witness the execution with her 2 daughters, Stephanie Anderson of Fort Worth, Texas, and Margaret Wolfe of Cleburne, Texas, and Ms. Wolfe’s husband, Mike. Mrs. Smith was 42 when her grandmother was killed. “She was a very neat, hardworking individual who came through the Depression and worked in laundry and food services,” she said. “It has been a long time coming for justice,” Mrs. Smith said. “He already had more than enough clemency by having 16 years of added life – more than my grandmother.” The 87-year-old neighbor who was beaten, raped and killed by Cornel Cooks was waiting for him in heaven when Cooks was executed, the victim’s family said. The family of Jennie Ridling gave Cooks a letter in his final hours Wednesday. “We can only hope that you have made peace with your God,” the letter read. It went on to say that Jennie “will be waiting on your arrival in Heaven, because she has also forgiven you.” Her family, including her granddaughter and great-granddaughters, was hidden behind a darkened window as Cooks, 43, expressed his gratitude in the death chamber. “It means a lot to me to get a letter from the victim’s relatives to say I’ve been forgiven,” he said in his final statement. “A lot of people didn’t expect a person like me to change and that’s the part they don’t understand.” In his parting words, he urged, “Keep peace with your soul, strive to be happy and keep God in your life.” Jennie’s granddaughter, Patricia Smith, witnessed the execution with her 2 daughters. “We would like Mr. Cooks’ family to know that they have been in our thoughts and prayers and will continue to be,” the family statement read. “We can only hope that this will bring some kind of closure to us all.”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 3, 1999 South Carolina James Todd Green, 24
Alexander George Hopps, 19
David Rocheville executed
David Rocheville and Richard Longworth were sentenced to die for the January 7, 1991 murder of James Todd Green in Spartenburg, South Carolina. Todd was a 24-year-old college student who was the assistant manager of a movie theater that Rocheville was robbing. He also killed Alexander George Hopps, 19 and also a college student. Both victims were shot with a handgun. Rocheville knew both of his victims since he was a former manager of another theater in the chain. Alex was shot and killed outside the back door of the theater at about 11 p.m., prosecutors said. They then forced Todd to open the safe and their take for the robbery was $3,088. Todd was kidnapped and taken in a minivan to Inman, about 10 miles away, where he was made to kneel down in a ditch and was shot once in the back of the head. Rocheville received a life sentence for Alex’s murder and Longworth was sentenced to death for both murders. Rocheville admits that he killed Todd but says that he was coerced into it and claims that he was afraid that Longworth would kill him. “Basically, my crime was I was no hero that night,” Rocheville said. “I was a coward.” He said his role in the crimes did not warrant the death penalty, and he received poor legal representation and deserved another trial. “I think he’s a complete liar,” said Alex Hopps Sr., the father of one of the victims. Hopps believes the prosecutor’s contention that Rocheville masterminded the murders and robbery at the theater. Hopps said Rocheville’s statements are just another example of a murderer deflecting blame for his crimes. Rocheville, he said, is a pathological liar. “He showed no remorse. He’s never shown remorse,” Hopps said. Rocheville, however, said his execution might help end the suffering of the victims’ families. “I’m sorry for the pain they’re going through,” Rocheville said. “If this happening Friday will somehow give them closure, then the pain that my family is going through might not be in vain.” Rocheville’s family and friends said he had no criminal record before the killings, and he has been a model prisoner since. They describe him as an avid reader and writer who serves as a role model to younger prisoners. But Green’s mother, Mary Ann Green, said she was looking forward to Rocheville’s execution. “I’m happy for the simple reason that it’s coming to the end for one of them,” she said. “I just don’t have any mercy for them.” Longworth also is on death row. His execution has not been scheduled. If the governor does not grant clemency, Rocheville’s execution will be witnessed by Spartanburg County Sheriff Bill Coffey; 7th Circuit Solicitor Holman Gossett; and the victims’ surviving relatives — Mary Ann Green, Todd Green’s mother, and Alec Hopps Sr. and Caroline E. Hopps, Alex Hopps’ father and sister. Rocheville exhausted his appeals in October. Longworth’s case is still under appeal. Alec Hopps said he’s looking forward to seeing Rocheville die. “I believe strongly in the death penalty for people like this who have complete disregard for life,” Hopps said. Hopps said a lethal injection is an easy way for Rocheville to die, and he believes the death sentence should have been carried out sooner. Todd Green’s best friend, Larry Prince of Boiling Springs, hopes the execution will bring the victims’ families some sense of justice. “It’s been a long ordeal, a long process, and we’re anxious to finally get some conclusion to this,” Prince said. As the years have gone by, Prince said he’s concerned that public attention has shifted to Rocheville and whether he will receive a last-minute reprieve. “The more time that goes by, people… tend to focus more on the criminal that’s being executed, and they forget about the victim’s family,” Prince said. Todd Green was an innocent person whose life was taken for no reason, Prince said. “This is a punishment that’s being carried out for a heinous crime,” he said. Prince has remained close to Green’s mother, and he plans to accompany her to Columbia today to provide emotional support. The looming execution has caused many of the emotions that surrounded the murders and the trials to resurface, Prince said. “It’s very hard for me to have to watch Todd’s mother go through having to re-experience some of those emotions,” Prince said. The execution date also is bringing back terrible memories to people who worked with Green and Hopps at the theaters, said Todd Nelmes, 26, of Charlotte, N.C. Nelmes was a senior at Boiling Springs High School in 1991, and he was working as a projectionist at the Westgate Mall Cinemas on the night Green and Hopps were killed. Nelmes hopes Rocheville will die, as scheduled, this evening. “We’re not vengeful, hateful people,” Nelmes said, “but it would put some closure on what happened.”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 7, 1999 Pennsylvania Christopher Counterman, 6
James Counterman, 4
Scott Counterman, 10 wks
Dennis Counterman stayed
Dennis Counterman received 3 death sentences for burning his Allentown house down and killing his 3 sons (6 years old, 4 years old and 2 months old) who were trapped inside. Counterman’s 3 sons — Christopher, 6, James, 4, and Scott, 10 weeks — died in the July 25, 1988, fire in their Chestnut Street row house. His wife, Janet, suffered burns over half of her body. 5 firefighters were injured. Minutes before the fire swept through their home, 2 of the boys entered Janet Counterman’s bedroom and told her, “Daddy is downstairs starting a fire,” according to court testimony. Janet Counterman and the boys went downstairs and saw Dennis Counterman in the dining room with a bucket and a lighter. They went back upstairs after he told them he would set them on fire if they didn’t. Counterman started the fire with a flammable liquid that was first poured onto the dining room floor, then up the stairs to the second floor. Flames on the stairway prevented the boys from escaping. Their mother was unable to rescue them. Janet Counterman escaped onto the roof through a second-story window and was helped into a neighbor’s home. Dennis Counterman was convicted in 1990, and the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in October 1998. Stephens credited arson experts with convincing the jury of Counterman’s guilt. He recalled Wednesday that Counterman, who has denied setting the fire, told him he went outside and saw a fire after smelling smoke, then jumped onto the roof with a hose when he couldn’t get back in the house. Stephens believed that story until forensic evidence indicated that injuries Counterman sustained more likely came from starting a fire than trying to reenter his burning home through the second floor. “I don’t think we ever got to” his motivation for starting the fire, Stephens added. “I think that there was anger there, and I think that anger turned on his wife and his family. And I think he was a very selfish person. He didn’t like not having his way with things.” The day before the fire, Counterman had smoked marijuana and played video games, according to trial testimony. Early the next day, he tried to have sex with his wife, but she rebuffed him because of his marijuana use. He slapped her and went downstairs. Stephens said the case was a tough one for him. “I have 3 children and they were the same age as those children at that time, so it was tough for me — having to go to the autopsy of those three children who were burned beyond recognition,” he said. Asked if he thought Counterman’s sentence was just, he said: “It’s not our job to say this guy deserves to die, this guy deserves to live. My job is to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. After that, it’s up to the jury.” There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 8, 1999 Texas Donna Sue Jester, 38
Dalpha Lorene Jester, 64
Laura Lee Owen, 20
Bob Neal Rogers, 37
one unnamed victim
David Long executed
David Martin Long was convicted in the9/27/86 hatchet slaying of his three female roommates in Lancaster, a Dallas suburb. The victims were Donna Sue Jester, 38; her cousin Dalpha Lorene Jester, 64 and blind, and Laura Lee Owen, 20. Laura was a drifter from Florida who was staying in the same house as the Jesters and Long. All three victims were hacked to death with a hatchet. Long had lived at the house for only a week when he killed the women. In a diary that police found, Donna Jester said she picked up Long as he was hitchhiking. A few days later, she also let Ms. Owen move into her house. They had been at the home several days before the murders. Long later told authorities that the provocation for the slayings was the constant arguing among everyone in the household. “They objected to my drinking,” he said, explaining his rampage. “I just got tired of hearing all the bickering.” Long had told Laura Lee Owen he wanted to see her outside. As she walked down the front steps, Long swung a foot-long hatchet. He walked back inside and used the weapon on Donna Jester and her bedridden, blind adoptive mother, Dalpha Jester. All three women were cut down from behind. Long left hatchet wrapped in a towel in the sink. All three victims were struck repeatedly on the head and neck. Ms. Owen suffered 21 hatchet blows, including some to her hands, police said. Afterward, Long packed a bag and drove away in one of the women’s cars. He was arrested a month later in Austin on an unrelated charge and linked to the Lancaster crimes. Long called the murders a “satanic experience” and said he would kill again if he was not given a death sentence. He testified, “I don’t want to die, but I don’t see any other way. I’m afraid I will kill again.” In a statement to police, Long claimed to have murdered his former boss three years earlier, and a service station attendant in California in 1978. Long never denied killing the women, telling a judge he was “guilty as hell” and telling trial jurors he was “irreparable.” The slayings 13 years ago were called the most brutal in Lancaster’s history. “I’ve been a policeman 25 years. You see tragedy all the time,” said Lancaster police Lt. Sam Turner, who investigated the slayings in September 1986. “I’ll probably remember this one forever.” Police also linked Long to the fatal bludgeoning of a service-station attendant in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1978 and Bob Neal Rogers, 37, a former employer in Bay City, Texas, who burned to death in a fire at his mobile home. He was never tried in either case. Those who dealt with Long described him as an intelligent, charming, handsome man – and one of the most vicious killers they have ever seen. “He threatened to kill me once,” said John Read, who was Mr. Long’s court-appointed attorney. “He is the most dangerous… coldblooded killer I’ve seen.” Long recently wrote a letter to the half sister of victim Donna Jester, saying that the slayings were the result of a dream he’d had years earlier. “I was consumed by a revelation from God that what had happened was a manifestation of the dream I’d had 5 years before,” he wrote. “Consumed with guilt, self-loathing and utter despair I only knew one thing for sure. I deserved death and desired death.” He also wrote that “God warned me in many ways and forms to leave Donna’s house,” but alcohol “blinded him.” Long wrote that he regrets the murders. Ms. Jester’s half sister Janis, who did not want her last name disclosed, said the letter renewed the horror of the murders. “Why now?” said Janis, who was also the niece of Dalpha Jester. “I was devastated. It totally reopened the wound like it happened yesterday… That was literally half of my family that he took.” Janis described Donna Jester as a caring woman who tried to help people in need, including the hitchhikers she picked up. Ms. Jester, who worked at a telephone company, also cared for her bedridden adoptive mother, she said. “She just gave and gave of herself,” Janis said. “That’s what got her killed.” During the trial, defense attorneys argued that Long was insane at the time of the killings. Mr. Read described his client as “nuttier than a fruitcake. This sucker was mean…. This guy was far more lethal than Ted Bundy,” he said. Lt. Turner remembered sitting in back of a car with Long as authorities drove him back to Dallas County. They talked about cars and other things not related to the killings. “You looked in his eyes, and there was nothing there,” Lt. Turner said. Janis said she had not planned to witness Long’s execution but changed her mind after receiving the letter through another relative who corresponded with the inmate. Lt. Turner said he too wants to witness the execution because it is the only guarantee that Long will never harm anyone again. “He is a monster, and he will tell you he is a monster if he is truthful about it,” Lt. Turner said. 12/8/99 – State officials were going ahead with plans Wednesday to execute condemned murderer David Long, whose apparent suicide attempt earlier this week left him seriously ill and in a hospital. Long, 46, was found “unresponsive in his cell” about 6:30 a.m. Monday. “We are proceeding as if there is an execution,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said Wednesday morning. “Our orders here are to not stand down.” Long remained hospitalized in Galveston, about 125 miles south of Huntsville, where he was taken by ambulance Monday after overdosing on prescribed anti-depressants authorities believe he hoarded in his death row cell. Long’s attorneys sought a court order to have the execution postponed. The death warrant issued by State District Judge Ed King specifies Long be given lethal injection after 6 p.m. Wednesday. “Absent a court order, they (prison officials) will comply,” Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general’s office, said. Ms. Browne said while Long’s health had deteriorated early Wednesday, by morning his condition had improved. Court rulings have determined an inmate must be aware of his surroundings and know why he is being punished before he can be executed. Prison medical staff or officers dispensing medications are supposed to make certain the inmate swallows the drugs. “Inmates can be devious,” Fitzgerald said. Julius Whittier, a former assistant district attorney in Dallas County who prosecuted Long, described the former cable television technician as intelligent and dangerous. Authorities determined Long had received care from 8 to 10 mental institutions. “One thing consistently showing up was that David Martin Long would feign mental illness successfully enough to get doctors to prescribe drugs,” Whittier said. “Apparently he was getting off on them. He knew exactly what he was doing.” Long told detectives he would confess to the Lancaster killings if they would guarantee he received a death sentence. At his trial, where he had tried to plead no contest to capital murder, he stood up after his lawyer passionately argued for a life sentence and warned jurors he would kill again. “I appreciate everything my lawyer has just said but everything he has told you is bullshit.” Former Dallas assistant district attorney Andy Beach, who assisted Whittier in the prosecution, recalled Long saying. “If you give me a life sentence, some day they’re going to put an 18-year-old crew-cut boy in my cell down there for auto theft and I’m going to go into one of my little snits and I’ll kill him.” “It was amazing,” Beach said. Less than an hour later, jurors returned a death sentence. 12/8/99 – Despite a recent suicide attempt and a last-minute effort by his lawyers to have his execution postponed, David Long was executed by injection Wednesday for the hatchet slayings of 3 women in 1986. In a strong voice, Long, 46, apologized for the murders. “I was raised by the California Youth Authority,” he said, looking at the niece of one of his victims watching through a window a few feet away. “I was in their reformatory schools and their penitentiary, but they create monsters in there.”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 8, 1999 Arizona Darrel Wagner Ernest Valencia Gonzales stayed
On the evening of February 20, 1990, the Wagner family returned to their town house in Phoenix from dinner where they had celebrated Darrel Wagner’s recent promotion. When they entered their court yard, Deborah Wagner noticed a light shining out their opened front door. Darrel went inside while Deborah and her 7-year-old son remained in the court yard. Inside, Darrel saw Ernest Gonzales, a parolee, standing on the landing holding their VCR tucked underneath his arm. Deborah sent her son for help. When she turned back, Gonzales had shoved her husband out the front door, stabbing him. When Gonzales ignored her pleas to stop stabbing, Deborah climbed on his back. Gonzales stabbed her twice. One cut damaged her spleen, colon and diaphragm and the other punctured her lung. Gonzales then fled. Darrel Wagner lived long enough to help his wife up and then began a conversation with the 911 operator while gasping for air. Gonzales had stabbed him 7 times. Darrel Wagner died from stab wounds to his chest, one skewered the lower lobe of his right lung and another went into the left ventricle of his heart. Phoenix police arrested Gonzales on February 23, 1991. In addition to the murder, he was convicted of first-degree burglary, aggravated assault, armed robbery, theft, and of another residential burglary committed minutes before the murder. In addition to the death penalty, Gonzales was sentenced to three consecutive life terms. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 8, 1999 Pennsylvania David Bolasky Edwin Romero stayed
In 1995, Edwin Romero and three other men murdered Allentown architect David Bolasky. Romero and George Ivan Lopez were both given the death penalty for co-defendant Edwin Rios Romero. The other 2 men were sent to prison. Bolasky, 41, was killed in January 1995 after he went to an apartment building he owned to collect rent from a tenant, Miguel Moreno. There, Bolasky was robbed. In March 1996, a jury convicted Lopez and Romero of 1st-degree murder. The jury also sentenced both men to death. The other 2 defendants were spared the death penalty in exchange for their cooperation with prosecutors. George Ortiz Barbosa pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a life sentence. Moreno, who admitted to setting up the robbery, was sentenced to 20-40 years. Bolasky, of Macungie, was an architect nearly 15 years. He was vice president of Wallace & Watson Associates, Allentown. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 1999 Oklahoma Steve Mahan, 30 Bobby Lynn Ross executed
Bobby Lynn Ross was convicted of the 1983 murder of Elk City Police Sgt. Steve Mahan, 30. Two other co-defendants were convicted of second degree murder in this case. 30-year-old police Officer Steve Mahan was making a routine check when he drove up to the Los Cuartos Inn in Elk City on Jan. 5, 1983. Mahan interrupted the armed robbery of motel clerk Debra Sandefur, and died early that morning after being shot three times in the head by Bobby Lynn Ross. Ross was convicted of 1st-degree murder and robbery with firearms on Oct. 21, 1983. At least four of Mahan’s relatives are scheduled to witness the execution, said Charlie Price, a spokesman in the Attorney General’s Office. Ross had threatened to kill Sandefur before Mahan arrived at the motel. Ross disarmed Mahan and ordered him to lie down. Although the officer complied, he was shot multiple times at close range with a.25-caliber pistol. At a failed clemency hearing before the state Pardon and Parole Board on Nov. 19, Ross asked Mahan’s family for forgiveness and claimed he was a changed man. Mahan’s daughter, Heather, was 18 months old when her father was murdered. “I missed out on all the opportunities that most children had,” she wrote in a letter to the board. “My father was stolen from me before I even had a chance to know him…My father was doing his job, not out trying to disrupt peoples’ lives. All I ask for is justice to be served.” Elk City police Detective Jim LaFarlette raced through the darkness in a patrol car, his dying co-worker in the back. A child lost her daddy, parents lost a son and “we all under the badge were deprived of a brother,” LaFarlette said Tuesday of the murder of Elk City police Sgt. Steven Mahan on Jan. 5, 1983. LaFarlette is counting on Thursday morning to finally bring him peace. The officer’s killer, Bobby Lynn Ross, is scheduled to die by injection early that morning at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. “It will help me to know there is some justice that if you commit a cold-blooded, heinous crime like that, you will pay the penalty” assigned by a jury, LaFarlette said. Ross, 41, who has one last-minute appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, received the death sentence after a jury heard his taped confession. “Whatever happens to me, I deserve it,” he sobbed on the tape. “I do. I deserve it.” Ross had a drug problem at the time, and the Clinton man has expressed nothing but remorse for the crime ever since his arrest, his attorney David Autry said. Autry said Ross was spending his final days talking with a chaplain and remained hopeful of reprieve, something the lawyer described as “a very long shot.” The state Pardon and Parole Board rejected Ross’ clemency request in November. Autry had argued that Ross has diminished mental capacity. But prosecutors said Ross demonstrated he knew what he was doing when he concocted a story before his confession about how another man grabbed his gun and shot Mahan. At the clemency hearing, Mahan’s father, Herbert, said Ross had lived “about 10 years too long.” Mahan, 30, was on his early morning patrol when he happened upon a robbery of the Los Cuartos Inn. Mahan pulled into the hotel parking lot and was leaving his car when he encountered Ross, who ordered him to drop his weapon and get down on the ground. Mahan was shot 3 times. Fellow officers found him lying on the ground in a pool of blood, LaFarlette said. The motel clerk performed CPR on the officer as they raced for help. They sought a helicopter to take him to an Oklahoma City hospital but it was too foggy and icy, LaFarlette said. LaFarlette said Mahan’s family has invited him to be present as some members witness the execution. He said the department of about 20 officers doesn’t dwell on the slaying. But as Ross’ execution date nears, he has found himself reliving the memories. “It was quite a shock it could happen in this part of western Oklahoma,” he said. “It cost some of us a lot of sleep.”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 1999 Indiana Billy Harlow
Nyla Jean Harlow
D.H. Fleenor executed

D.H. Fleenor, 41, was sentenced to die in the electric chair for the 1982 murders of Bill and Nyla Harlow. Friends of Fleenor’s testified that he bought a.22-caliber pistol on Dec. 12, 1982 — the day of the killings. The friends dropped Fleenor off near the Harlow home. He went in and waited for them to return from church. With the Harlows were Nyla’s daughter and Fleenor’s wife Sandra; her son from a previous relationship; and Bill Harlow’s 2 grandchildren. As their daughter and three grandchildren looked on, Fleenor shot Bill Harlow in the abdomen. When his mother-in-law went to help, Fleenor shot her in the head. He told his wife to drag her mother’s body to another room. Then he left, taking Sandra and the children. Eventually, they returned to the Harlow home to find Bill Harlow still alive. Experts said he could have survived his original gunshot wound. Fleenor shot him again, killing him. Fleenor fled with his wife and the children to Greeneville, Tenn., where police captured him at a relative’s home. Fleenor pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that he was under the influence of drugs, alcohol and mental stress. At trial in Johnson County, Fleenor was found guilty on Dec. 1, 1983. The jury recommended the death penalty, which then-Johnson Circuit Judge Larry McKinney imposed on Jan 4, 1984. The Harlows’ bodies were found 6 days before Christmas, said Bill Harlow’s daughter, Tammy Gilbert. “Now I measure December by those dates,” Gilbert said. “Before this happened, all I had to worry about was Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. And now Christmas kind of is overshadowed by all the other things that happened…. This is an every-year thing.” Gilbert, who lives in Fortville, supports Fleenor’s execution. But she knows better than to think that Fleenor’s death will help put the horror of the murders behind her. “It won’t bring closure,” Gilbert said. “It will just be something that I don’t have to deal with anymore. I just want it to be over with.” Many activists opposed to the death penalty continue to flood the governor’s office with appeals for clemency. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, Gilbert concedes. But she knows she’ll never forget what she saw in her father’s house 17 years ago. “My dad and his wife laid in that house for four days before anybody found them,” Gilbert said. “There was a spot on the floor where my dad had lain, and somebody covered it with a sheet. And the television had blood spattered on it, and there’s a bullet hole — and then over in front of the window is a Christmas tree, with all kinds of presents underneath it…. “I go through what I’ve seen. You just re-create it, over and over again in your mind, and then you start thinking, ‘God, what did they go through? What was it like?'”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 1999 Pennsylvania Robert Berger, 76 Jerome Gibson stayed
Gibson was sentenced to death on Aug. 24, 1995, for the Sept. 29, 1994 murder of Robert Berger, a 76-year-old store clerk, during a robbery. On Nov. 17, 1998, the state Supreme Court affirmed Gibson’s conviction and sentence. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 1999 Virginia Sheryl L. Stack, 20
Richard Rosenbluth, 40
Rebecca Rosenbluth, 35
Andre Graham executed
Mark Arlo Sheppard and Andre Graham were convicted of the double murders of a Chesterfield County Virginia couple. Richard Rosenbluth, 40, and Rebecca Rosenbluth, 35, were killed in their home on November 28, 1993. The Rosenbluths had been buying cocaine from Sheppard and Graham. The couple’s bodies were found in the den of their home. Richard had been shot twice in the head; his wife, Rebecca was shot 4 times in the head and neck from close range. Sheppard was executed for these murders in January 1999. Graham received a life sentence + 23 years in these murders. He was sentenced to die for the shotgun murder of Sheryl L. Stack, 20 on 10/8/93. Sheryl was a waitress at a Steak & Ale and was shot in the parking lot for her car. She died two days later. Graham also shot a 23-year-old man, who survived his injuries but lost an eye and most of the use of one arm and leg and suffers from brain damage. Graham was convicted of a maiming charge in this case.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 9, 1999 Texas Gene Hathorn Sr, 45
Linda Sue Hathorn, 35
Marcus Hathorn, 14
James Beathard executed
James Beathard is awaiting lethal injection for the 1984 slaying of a 14-year-old boy, 1 of 3 members of a family killed in a scheme to collect insurance benefits. Gene Hathorn Jr. promised to pay Beathard $12,000 to help kill his family members so that Hathorn could inherit an estate valued at $150,000. The pair ransacked the home and murdered Gene Hathorn Sr, 45; Linda Sue Hathorn, 35; and their son Marcus, 14. They stole electronic equipment, guns and a vehicle in order to make the killings appear to be part of a robbery. It was not until after the murders that the younger Hathorn discovered that his father had cut him out of his will weeks before the murders. Gene Hathorn was also sentenced to die for these murders.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 14, 1999 Texas Thomas Carlson, 56 Robert Atworth executed
Robert Ronald Atworth shot to death a man he met on the side of a road in April of 1995. Thomas Carlson, 56, was found shot in the head, torso and groin, and stabbed in the abdomen and chin. His body had been dumped between two trash dumpsters behind a health club in Richardson, Texas. His wallet was missing and his little finger was severed in order to obtain his ring. Atworth was arrested the next day when he was caught burglarizing a home in Garland, Texas. He was still driving Thomas’s car and had in his possession the 9mm gun Thomas was killed with and the pistol that Thomas carried for protection. Kris Mosley and Kim Beyer won’t trek to Huntsville this week to watch their father’s killer be put to death. They say there’s no point. “I have worked so hard to move forward, and going down there would be a detour,” said Ms. Mosley, 36. “I don’t want to give him my time, my energy, my thoughts.” Ms. Beyer, 39, added, “Him dying doesn’t help me one bit.” Thomas Carlson, a former senior insurance executive living with Ms. Mosley in Plano, was found shot to death between 2 trash bins behind a Richardson health club in 1995. One of his pinkie fingers had been cut off, and he had knife wounds in his chest, which detectives said suggested torture. Robert Ronald Atworth, who told police that his alter ego, “Nino,” had killed the 56-year-old man, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. Authorities said Atworth spotted his victim at an intersection and posed as an off-duty police officer while tapping at Mr. Carlson’s car window. Mr. Carlson was not feeling well and asked Atworth to call his daughter for heart medication, according to court testimony. Mr. Carlson had been living with Kris, the youngest of his daughters, in Plano while he looked for a job. Kris Mosley thinks her father became ill as he drove home and was headed to a hospital when Atworth approached him on Campbell Road just west of North Central Expressway. The sisters say they have survived the tragedy with support from family and therapy from a victim’s assistance program through the Richardson Police Department. “Dad would have wanted me to get past this,” Ms. Mosley said. “You can survive no matter what tragedy hits your life. There are positives. There are always things to be grateful for.” Mr. Carlson’s family thinks he reached a greater peace in the last year of his life. He was looking inward and re-examining his faith as if “part of him was getting ready for something,” Ms. Mosley said. Atworth requested in May that all appeals on his behalf be ended so his lethal injection could take place as soon as possible. The request was granted by an appeals court after 2 psychiatrists found him competent, officials said. Toby Shook, the prosecutor who tried Atworth, said he thought the inmate was the 1st from Dallas County to make such a request. The day after Mr. Carlson was slain, Garland police arrested Atworth while answering a burglary call in a residential back yard. When officers found Atworth, he was carrying two guns and had Mr. Carlson’s wallet and credit cards. Mr. Carlson’s car was parked nearby, police said. He had gone to the Garland address to kill another man because of a drug deal gone bad, police said. Mr. Carlson’s severed finger was found in Atworth’s freezer. “It was more of souvenir for him,” said Richardson Detective Dan White, who was assigned to the murder case and will witness the execution. At one point in Atworth’s videotaped statement to police, he began speaking as if in a trance and identified himself as “Nino.” Speaking as “Nino,” Atworth claimed self-defense as a motive and said he tampered with evidence to get caught. “He said he had fingers in jars all over the country. He said he had a mentor who trained him how to be killer,” Detective White said. “It was pretty freaky…,” he said. “The dual-personality act was unique.” Wayne Huff, who represented Atworth at trial, said his client was difficult to defend. “He pretty much sealed his fate before we got appointed,” Mr. Huff said. Atworth’s family could not be reached for comment. Detective White said he remembers Atworth’s leers when he was sentenced to death in 1996. “He turned around and nodded and winked at me,” the officer said. “I thought, ‘Well, Bob, you got what you asked for.’ ”

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 14, 1999 Arkansas Tommy Greene
Sidney Burnett, 69
Jack Gordon Greene stayed
In North Carolina, Jack Greene shot his own brother Tommy five times, stole his car and left for Arkansas where, a week later, he invaded the Johnson County home of 69-year-old Sidney Burnett on July 23, 1991. Sidney, a preacher, was beaten, tied up, tortured, stabbed and shot. Greene then stole Sidney’s truck and fled to Oklahoma. When he was arrested, he still had the weapon he used in both murders, a.25-caliber handgun. The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay of execution on 12/9/99 for Jack Gordon Greene, who has changed his mind about wanting to die and is appealing his death sentence. A 1-page order by the court stayed the execution to give the court time to hear Greene’s appeal of his capital murder conviction in the 1991 slaying of a retired minister. It also granted Greene’s request to replace his public defender with the Capital Conflicts and Appellate Division of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. The actions come about 5 months after Greene formally waived his right to appeal. His new attorney, in arguing for the stay in court papers filed this week, has cited the court’s Dec. 2 decision to review all death penalty cases, regardless of whether defendants waive their rights to appeal. Attorney General Mark Pryor opposed Greene’s stay request. He said that in order for a belated appeal to be granted, the defendant at least must be able to show he waived his right to appeal involuntarily. “As [Greene] neither alleges nor demonstrates that his waiver was involuntary, he cannot proceed with a belated appeal,” wrote David R. Raupp, senior assistant attorney general for Pryor. Dorcy K. Corbin, Greene’s new attorney, said the issue is that “Greene is about to be executed despite not having had the review which this court determined, only a week ago, was to be mandated for all death-sentenced defendants.” “The merits of the Greene appeal are for another day,” Corbin wrote. “The question before the court is merely whether Greene will survive long enough” to have his sentence reviewed. In a separate proceeding, U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson denied a bid by the Arkansas Abolitionist Committee to postpone Greene’s execution so mental health experts the committee has retained can examine Greene and determine his competency to waive his right to appeal. The committee has no standing to intervene on Greene’s behalf, Wilson ruled, noting that this was the committee’s third attempt to intervene on behalf of a death-row inmate. The two previous attempts also failed. Greene was convicted in 1992 of killing Sidney Burnett, 69, of Knoxville in Johnson County. In 1991, Burnett, a retired minister, was bound and gagged, beaten with a can of hominy and stabbed twice. His throat also was slit. In November 1998, Greene’s 2nd death sentence was overturned. He was sentenced to death a 3rd time in July. Greene also received a life sentence in North Carolina for killing his brother and abducting his niece. He arrived in Knoxville 3 days after the North Carolina slaying. The same day the court issued its decision requiring review of death penalty cases, Greene contacted his attorney to rescind his waiver immediately and proceed with an appeal because “significant issues which would require the reversal of the death sentence are present,” according to court papers. Associate Justice Don Corbin did not participate in the court’s decision. He has said that he will recuse from all cases in which his wife, who is Dorcy K. Corbin, is participating.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 14, 1999 Arkansas Jo Ann Kennedy Andrew Sasser stayed
Andrew Sasser was sentenced to be executed in 1994 for the murder of a woman in Miller County. Jo Ann Kennedy was murdered in 1993 during an attempted kidnapping and rape. Jo Ann was working at a Garland, Arkansas convenience store when Sasser entered the store around midnight on 7/12/93. Sasser forced her to remove her pants and then beat and stabbed her repeatedly. A neighbor who lived across the street saw the attack and called 911 but police arrived too late and Jo Ann died on the sidewalk in front of the store. Sasser had a previous conviction for a similar attack on a convenience store clerk. The State Supreme Court has denied Sasser’s appeal, however there are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 14, 1999 Pennsylvania Janice “Sissy” Williams, 22 Orlando Baez stayed
Orlando Baez was convicted of stabbing Janice “Sissy” Williams to death on Jan. 6, 1987. Williams’ autopsy showed that she had been stabbed 86 times in the chest, back and torso; and 15 times in the face. She also had been raped and beaten, and would have been conscious while many of the wounds were inflicted, according to trial testimony. Her body was not discovered until Jan. 7, when a motorist stopped after finding Williams’ two toddlers wandering outside their home in their pajamas. The children led the motorist inside the 1st-floor apartment to their dead mother’s bloody body. The young woman’s murder went unsolved for 4 years until a witness, Henry Gibson, came forward and told police he was in the apartment that night and saw Baez stabbing Williams. After Williams was dead, Baez and Gibson walked home, leaving the 2 children alone in the apartment with the mutilated body. Gibson told police he kept quiet about the murder because Baez threatened to kill him if he talked. At first, Baez told police he didn’t know Gibson. Then he said it was Gibson who stabbed Williams and he tried to help her. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 15, 1999 Texas James Hanks, 42 Sammie Felder executed
Sammie Felder had previous convictions for burglary when he was convicted of the February 26, 1975 stabbing death of James Hanks, 42, a paraplegic war veteran who was living at an apartment complex designed for people with disabilities. James was stabbed with a pair of scissors and robbed. Felder was working as an attendant at the apartments at the time of the murder. He was arrested by Idaho police for a traffic violation a month after James’s murder. He was convicted in 1976 and sentenced to die. His conviction was overturned by an appeals court due to an improperly obtained confession and on retrial was again sentenced to die in September of 1986. During Felder’s 23-year death row residency, many of his victim’s closest relatives have died. Those who survive either have lost track of the case or simply despaired of living to see the killer’s sentence carried out. “This should have happened long ago,” said Hanks’ elder sister, 73-year-old Lorene Autry of Birmingham, Ala. “I’ve often wondered what happened to that man.” Andy Kahan, the Houston mayor’s crime victims advocate, says “From the victims’ perspective, justice, like in the Felder case, moves excruciatingly slowly. It prolongs the pain, grief and misery.” Additionally, he has noted, long delays undercut the value of capital punishment as a deterrent. Felder is among 13 Texas inmates who have spent 20 or more years on death row. Only 3 have been there longer than the Taylor native, who, if executed, will fall only one year short of Excel White’s record 24-year tenure. White, 61, was executed in March for the murder of 3 men at a McKinney grocery store in 1974. “I resent the fact that we’ve been feeding this man this long,” Hanks’ sister, Autry, said. “Maybe he doesn’t have much of a life on death row, but he’s alive.” By the time Felder, a 7th-grade dropout, began working as an orderly at the Westbury Country Village Apartments on Houston’s southwest side, he had spent most of his adult life in prison. At 29, he had been free on parole only a few weeks. Hanks, 42, an Alabama native who had been paralyzed in an auto accident while serving in Korea, came to Houston after stays in Alabama and Mexico. Westbury Country Village, his sister recalled, seemed like heaven to him. It was outfitted for the mobility impaired. His apartment, No. 45, was a 2-bedroom, ground-floor unit just feet from the complex’s swimming pool. At first, he shared the apartment with his aged mother, Essie Hanks. But by mid-March — the time of the murder — she was confined in a hospital as the result of a car crash, and her son was alone. Among family members, Hanks was a saint. Although his legs were paralyzed and his hands frozen into near-useless claws, the former serviceman adopted two of his nephews, Lonnie and Rusty Hanks, after their mother was killed in a fire. “He had a heart of gold,” said Lonnie Hanks, now a Brewton, Ala.-based truck driver. “He was an even-tempered guy. We weren’t always the best of kids. But he rarely got upset about things that would put other people in a rage.” A third nephew, a Katy businessman who asked not to be named, called Hanks “a really bright guy.” For a time, he recalled, Hanks worked as an accountant, laboriously calculating figures with a fountain pen wedged between his immobile fingers. “Our family was very close,” the man said, noting that his parents visited Hanks at least weekly and often more frequently. “He had good control of his arms and wrists and could feed himself and smoke a cigarette. He actually could function pretty darn well. But he couldn’t shave. One of the reasons some of us felt close was that we would periodically have to pick him up, put him in the wheelchair and shave him.” “He had a hard life,” Lonnie Hanks said. “The way he had bedsores — all the things he had to live with.” Hanks’ infirmities required frequent attendance by orderlies, police noted in their 1975 investigation. At 11 p.m. on March 13, an attendant visited the handicapped man to turn him in his bed. When she left, she left the front door unlocked. A 2nd attendant arriving 3 hours later found Hanks lying unconscious on his blood-soaked bed. In the meantime, Felder entered through the unlocked door. According to Felder’s later confession, he had come in search of valuables. First he took a camera from the front room; then he advanced to the rear bedroom. Hanks, he knew, kept his wallet beneath his pillow. “That’s what’s so ironic,” Lonnie Hanks said. “He didn’t need to rob. If he had asked Jim for money, he probably would have given it to him.” As Felder — then a 6-foot-tall man who weighed almost 200 pounds — advanced, Hanks awoke. “Sammie,” Hanks said, “what are you doing?” Felder panicked. He jammed a pillow over Hanks’ face. Hanks, a man of moderate height and weight, struggled and yelled. Felder grabbed scissors from a bedside table and plunged them into Hanks’ head and neck. In his confession, Felder told police he paused after the initial attack. But then he saw Hanks still was breathing. He resumed stabbing him — at least 8 times in all — until he thought his victim was dead. Hanks later died at a Houston hospital of a 1 1/2-inch-deep wound in his brain. “Had Hanks not woken up, it would have been a theft, and Felder would have been on down the road,” said J.W. Clampitte, the homicide detective who worked the case. “However, that ain’t the way it worked. Hanks did wake up. Consequently, Felder felt he had to shut him up. Hanks’ head was the only thing moving, so Felder stabbed him in the head. He was not remorseful whatsoever.” Police said Felder took about $340 from Hanks and fled to Denver, where, claiming to be a Jamaican national named George Bonita, he boasted of the murder to a girlfriend. In early April, he stabbed the woman’s father and fled again. Police said he stole a car and aimlessly began driving. Later that month, he was arrested for a traffic violation in Idaho and was returned to Houston to stand trial for capital murder. On May 21, 1976, a jury of 5 men and 7 women in the 176th District Court convicted Felder of capital murder and sentenced him to die. The same verdict was returned in 2 later trials. Since Hanks’ murder, his mother, a brother and his nephew Rusty Hanks have died. Autry, Lonnie Hanks and the Katy businessman admitted they had lost track of the case. “I never did hear a description of the man,” Hanks’ nephew in Katy said. “I have no idea of his age, race or ethnicity. I do believe in the death penalty, though. I think someone accused deserves a fair trial. He goes through the judicial system. If he committed murder and is found guilty, the judge or jury decides the punishment. That punishment should be carried out. I think anyone who attacks a paraplegic or elderly or incapacitated person — well, that’s a pretty bad crime.” Autry and Lonnie Hanks also called for execution, though Hanks said he would also be satisfied if Felder were locked up for the rest of his life. None desired to witness Felder’s death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 16, 1999 Pennsylvania Sherry Miller Dennis Miller stayed

Dennis “Chubb” Miller showed no emotion when he was formally sentenced to die for the rape and murder of his wife, Sherry, in 1995. In imposing the sentence, Chester County Court Judge Howard F. Riley Jr. said he was troubled that Miller showed a lack of remorse for the killing. In a letter Miller wrote to the court, he placed the responsibility for the murder on his wife, Riley said. Miller was convicted of first-degree murder, rape and related charges after a non-jury trial that ended Oct. 1. Riley announced that Miller would get the death penalty, but he held off on the formal sentence so appeal periods from other related charges would run together. Miller served jail time in 1995 for holding a gun to his wife’s head. While there, his cell mate, Michael D. Torres, testified during the trial, Miller told him that he planned to kill his wife. Sherry Miller wrote a letter asking a judge to parole him early. Dennis Miller was released in September 1995. Two months later, his wife was found murdered. According to an account Dennis Miller gave to a clinical psychologist, the couple returned to their Chatham home from a tavern about 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. He had about 12 beers that day, and he and Sherry Miller had taken methamphetamines. Then his wife said she wanted him to move out the next day because her boyfriend was moving in. He went into a rage and “everything went black,” until he found himself sitting on top of his wife, who appeared to be dead. Dennis Miller, who was featured on America’s Most Wanted, spent five months on the run before he was arrested in Florida in May 1996. Miller’s lawyer has 30 days to appeal the sentence. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
December 17, 1999 North Carolina Rufus Watson
Thomas Greer
Wendell Flowers commuted
Wendell Flowers was sentenced to death for the 1989 slaying of another inmate at Piedmont Correctional Institution near Salisbury. At the time of that killing, Flowers was serving a life sentence for a 1981 murder in Wilkes County. Flowers was convicted of stabbing inmate Rufus Watson 31 times with a homemade knife at the Piedmont Correction Institute. 2 other inmates were convicted of murder in the prison killing, but only Flowers was sentenced to die. He testified at the others’ trials that the slaying was his idea. In addition to the death sentence, Flowers has two life sentences, plus sentences for armed robbery, assault and kidnapping. Flowers was convicted of the December 1981 murder of 81-year-old Thomas Greer, who owned a country store in Wilkes County. After a night of drinking, Flowers and two friends broke into Greer’s house by crashing through a bedroom window. They beat Greer to death and severely wounded his 76-year-old wife, Clara Greer. They made off with about $2,000 in cash, a watch, two cases of cigarettes and.22-caliber pistol. While serving a life sentence for that murder, Flowers stabbed another inmate, Rufus Watson, to death with a homemade shank at the Piedmont Correctional Center in Salisbury. Flowers said Watson was mistreating an inmate with whom Flowers was having a homosexual relationship. At trial, Watson was described as a homosexual pimp, drug dealer and loan shark. Flowers said he acted alone, but a witness said Flowers was helped by three other inmates. The three were charged with murder, and two were convicted on murder charges. Neither was sentenced to death. 12/15/99 – Gov. Jim Hunt commuted the 1st death sentence of his career Wednesday when he ordered that Wendell Flowers be locked up for life for a 1989 prison slaying. Flowers, 45, was sentenced to die for his part in the slaying of Rowan County prison inmate Rufus Watson in 1989. At the time, Flowers was serving a life sentence in the death of 81-year-old Wilkes County storekeeper Thomas Greer. Flowers, who served as a lookout while 3 other inmates attacked Watson, had fired his attorneys and dropped appeals. He was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 2 a.m. Friday in Central Prison. “I am convinced from all that I have learned about this case that several inmates were involved in this murder,” Hunt said. “From the testimony of the eyewitness, it is not clear exactly what role Flowers actually carried out.” Flowers hasn’t granted interviews, but said in a handwritten statement: “I am thankful for the governor for commuting my death sentence and I thank the many people that went to the governor.” Opponents of the death penalty said they were surprised, but pleased with the governor’s action. “I think the governor did the right thing,” said Ken Rose, director of the North Carolina Center for Death Penalty Litigation. “This is what clemency should be about. It should be about considering the relative culpability of defendants for their crimes, the fairness of the sentences.” State Appellate Defender Malcolm Hunter, who argued alone on Flowers’ behalf before Hunt and his legal counsel Jack Jenkins last week, said the governor’s action was courageous. “I think the governor has taken a lot of hits for not commuting sentence when people thought he should,” Hunter said. ‘Here’s a case where he did and he should get credit for it. There’s no way this is something he thinks he’s getting political credit for.” Hunter, who had been one of Flowers’ lawyers, requested the clemency hearing despite Flowers’ decision to stop all appeals on his behalf. “I think it came down to the facts,” Hunter said. In a statement, Hunt said “it is clear as a bell that Flowers did not kill Rufus Watson alone. None of the other participants in the crime received the death penalty. 2 of them are in prison for life, and one was never convicted. I believe the right and fair thing to do is to commute Wendell Flowers’ sentence to life in prison without parole.” Hunt added that Flowers remains “a very dangerous criminal. He should, and will, spend the rest of his natural life in prison with absolutely no possibility of parole.”

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