With Eyes Closed, Convicted Killer Is Executed
By CHARLEY GILLESPIE, Associated Press Writer
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) - Eyes closed and fists clenched, Robert Buell was executed by injection Wednesday for a 20-year-old killing he still denied.
Buell, 62, wouldn't look at the family of the 11-year-old girl he was convicting of raping and strangling but directed his final statement to them.
"Jerry and Shirley, I didn't kill your daughter. The prosecutor knows that ... and they left the real killer out there on the streets to kill again and again and again," he said into a microphone held by an officer at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
Krista Harrison was collecting aluminum cans when she was abducted July 11, 1982, from a park across the street from her home in the northeast Ohio village of Marshallville. Her body was found six days later.
Buell, a former Akron city planner, was from nearby Clinton.
State and federal courts turned down last-minute appeals based on his objections to the hypnotizing of trial witnesses. His lawyers said the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnesses' memories.
Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming, including fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell's van.
It was the state's fifth execution in three years.
Krista's father, Gerald Harrison, and her brothers Mark and Dana clasped hands tightly and stared at Buell as he was led into the dimly lighted execution chamber.
They later issued a four-sentence statement that justice was done.
"We came quietly and we will leave quietly," the statement read.
Buell climbed right onto a gurney about 10 minutes before his death. He wore prison-issued blue pants with a red stripe down each leg, a white V-neck pullover shirt and tan boots with brown laces.
Corrections officers strapped down the chest, waist and feet of the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Buell. He clenched his left fist repeatedly and stared toward the ceiling as intravenous tubes were placed into shunts on each arm at 10:21 a.m.
The injection consists of sodium pentothal, which induces unconsciousness; pavulon, a muscle relaxant that stops breathing; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The chemical cost $43.23.
Buell took deep breaths before making his statement, then closed his eyes and clenched his fists.
At 10:25 a.m. he stopped moving, and his mouth opened as if he were sleeping. A minute later his chest did not expand and his mouth opened slightly wider.
A member of the execution team then pulled a white curtain across the witness window. Buell was declared dead at 10:30 a.m. Ernie Sanders, a Baptist pastor, told reporters afterward that Buell told him the names of at least three men he believes are responsible for child killings in northeast Ohio -- but that Buell swore him to secrecy.
"Certainly I sympathize with the Harrison family," Sanders said. "At the same time, guess what? They're still killing little girls."
Buell had pleaded no contest to raping two women but denied killing Krista. He eventually was named as the chief suspect in the slayings of two other girls and identified by other victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio.
In the hours before his execution, Buell listened to classical music on the radio, ate bran flakes and drank a glass of milk.
He ate his special meal Tuesday -- a single black, unpitted olive. Inmates about to be executed in other states have said they ate unpitted olives so that an olive tree would grow from their graves as a sign of peace.
For the first time since Ohio resumed executions in 1999, the prisoner's family refused to claim the body, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Buell had a sister, ex-wife and a daughter.
He will be buried Friday at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, in a prison-made wooden casket costing about $200 and a prison-made suit costing about $50. The total price of the burial is about $500.
About seven protesters were outside the prison Wednesday. Tom O'Brien, 38, a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said his research convinced him the death penalty is inherently unfair.
"I saw the injustices that were prevalent throughout the system, and said I need to take a stand against it," he said.
One of the rape victims said Buell's execution was overdue.
"The law protects the criminal with too many years of court pursuits. The law should show more regard for the victims and the victim's family," the woman said in a written statement released by the state.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)