The clanging of prison bars coincided with a death row inmate's last breaths Tuesday night as was he executed for killing a Tulsa convenience store manager almost 37 years ago.
Michael Bascum Selsor, 57, had already uttered his last words to his son and his sister at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. It was the end of more than three decades of legal proceedings, in which Selsor was twice convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the Sept. 15, 1975, shooting death of Clayton Chandler.
"My son, my sister, I love you till I see you again next time," Selsor said. "I'll be waiting at the gates of heaven for you. I hope the rest of you make it there as well."
He didn't address Chandler's relatives, some of whom were watching him. Chandler, 55, was shot eight times during an armed robbery in which the thieves got away with a little more than $500. Selsor and Richard Dodson were arrested a week after Chandler's death in Santa Barbara, Calif., where their car with Oklahoma tags had been spotted.
Selsor said he was ready and soon the lethal three-drug mixture was administered.
The clanging began. Prison officials said it was other death row inmates showing respect for Selsor.
He breathed heavily a couple of times, and then stopped. The clanging did, too. He was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m.
Selsor's son and sister wept quietly in the family viewing room.
Shortly after, Debbie Huggins, one of Chandler's daughters, said her family has waited for almost 37 years for justice.
"Today, we got that justice," she said. "We're glad that it's finally over. Be at peace. The race is finally over."
She said she thought about her father as she watched Selsor die.
"This was much kinder what we did to him today than what he did to my dad," Huggins said.
Selsor was originally convicted and sentenced to death following a 1976 trial, but the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Oklahoma's mandatory death penalty statute. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals modified Selsor's sentence to life in prison without parole.
In 1996, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Selsor's murder conviction, as well as two related convictions. And in the 1998 retrial, Selsor again was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Last month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 against commuting Selsor's death penalty to life in prison without parole. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Selsor's request for a stay of execution Friday.
Dodson, meanwhile, is serving a prison sentence of 50 to 199 years after he was convicted of robbery and shooting with intent to kill. Now 71, he has a parole hearing scheduled for late 2013, according to corrections department records.
In the state capital, about 25 people protested in front of the governor's mansion on Tuesday. The group fell silent a couple of minutes before the scheduled execution time, and about 10 minutes later, they formed a circle to pray.
Ellen Watson, a nurse who previously worked with adolescent psychiatric patients, was among the protesters. She said she believes a proactive approach to combatting crime would be a better solution than executing criminals.
"I just don't believe in killing people," Watson said.
Vince Kish, 70, an Air Force veteran from Moore, said he hoped drivers who passed the group would take notice.
"Whether they agree with us or not, at least they can be thinking about it," he said.
Selsor was the third Oklahoma death row inmate to be executed this year after Gary Welch in January and Timothy Stemple in March.
State prison officials say they have enough of one of the drugs _ pentobarbital _ used in the lethal injection mixture for one more inmate. But Gary Allen's April 12 execution was postponed, and no other executions have been scheduled.
Associated Press writer Katie Fretland contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.