Ohio executes man who said he didn't recall crimes

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2011 3:13 PM
Ohio executes man who said he didn't recall crimes

An Ohio inmate who said he didn't recall fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend 27 years ago was put to death Tuesday after an appeals court overturned a stay of execution and the nation's highest court declined to intervene.

Daniel Lee Bedford, 63, was pronounced dead at 11:18 a.m., making him the third inmate in Ohio _ and the nation _ to be put to death using the surgical sedative pentobarbital as a stand-alone execution drug.

Bedford's attorneys had fought to the wire to block the lethal injection, arguing that he was improperly denied legal proceedings and that he had dementia and a mild mental disability, leaving him not competent enough to understand why he was being executed. A judge granted a stay of execution Monday, but a federal appeals court lifted it.

Bedford, in glasses and a short gray beard, declined to give a formal final statement after he laid down on the gurney but later yelled "I love you" to two witnesses. His adult daughter, Michelle Connor, shouted back, "I love you, Daddy!" He also called out to Kristi Schulenberg, a friend and pen pal with whom he had kept in touch since the mid-1990s. She said she loved him, too.

"God bless you," he said as the injection began. His mouth moved slightly and his chest appeared to rise and fall several times before he became still.

Bedford was sentenced to death after confessing to authorities that he shot Gwen Toepfert, 25, and John Smith, 27, at Toepfert's Cincinnati apartment, apparently because he was jealous after finding the couple there several days before the slayings. He learned from Toepfert's roommate that the couple was home and waited at the apartment where, armed with a revolver and a shotgun, he killed Smith and shot Toepfert multiple times before returning to her body and firing a shotgun blast into her groin to be sure she was dead, prosecutors said.

Relatives of Toepfert and Smith had expressed support for the execution, saying they believe the killings were merciless and Bedford knew what he was doing.

"From day one, there was never any doubt that Bedford committed this brutal, double murder," they said in a statement Tuesday. "Unfortunately, it has taken 27 long years to get to where we are today."

Toepfert's uncle and her brothers, Robert and Rick Toepfert, watched the execution. The men were silent and stoic throughout the process, resting their chins on their hands. Rick Toepfert held a large photo of his sister, a smiling, feather-haired blonde in a striped shirt, and aimed it toward the death chamber. He didn't turn it around until Bedford was pronounced dead.

Robert Toepfert later said he felt justice had been served.

Bedford is the fourth Ohio inmate put to death this year. Gov. John Kasich denied clemency, and the Ohio Supreme Court also refused to block the execution, rejecting the defense's arguments about Bedford's competency.

Bedford had told the state parole board in March he didn't remember the slayings but that his attorneys had told him details and he was "sorry it happened."

Bedford told mental health staff early Tuesday that he understood he would die and was preparing himself, state prisons spokesman Carlo LoParo said.

Prison staff had appeared to have some difficulty inserting the IVs into his arms, prompting an attorney to leave the witness room and call a colleague with concerns about how many times Bedford had been poked in the arm. When she shouted to Bedford through the glass viewing window and asked if there were problems, he said he'd been poked several times.

The attorney, Carol Wright, didn't comment after the execution.

Medical staff reported two attempts were made in each arm, LoParo said.