PHOENIX (Reuters) - A man who tortured, raped and strangled two co-workers in 1987 was put to death in Arizona on Wednesday, more than a year after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked his execution to consider whether he had adequate counsel.
Daniel Wayne Cook, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:03 a.m. from a lethal injection administered at the state prison in Florence, 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, state officials said.
Cook was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Carlos Cruz-Ramos, 26, and Kevin Swaney, 16, in northwestern Arizona, together with an accomplice, a roommate named John Matzke. All four worked together at a restaurant in Lake Havasu City.
Cook initially won a reprieve in April 2011 when the nation’s highest court blocked the execution to consider claims that he did not have effective legal counsel during his trial or appeals process.
Lawyers for Cook said previous counsel failed to present evidence that he was physically and sexually abused by family members and a foster care worker when he was a child, according to court documents.
But the Supreme Court later dismissed the appeal, clearing the way for him to be executed.
“I’d like to say I‘m sorry to the victim’s family. I know that’s not enough,” Cook said in a final statement before thanking his lawyers, according to prison officials. Moments before he was rendered unconscious, he uttered the words, “Red robin, yum. I‘m done. I love you.”
His last meal consisted of eggplant lasagna, garlic cheese mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, broiled asparagus, ice cream and root beer, state Corrections Department spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said.
Cook was sent to the state’s death row for a brutal crime spree that authorities say began on July 19, 1987, when he stole money from Cruz-Ramos, who was also his roommate, then tied him to a chair in their apartment before he and Matzke began beating Cruz-Ramos with their fists and a metal pipe.
Cook cut Cruz-Ramos with a knife, burned him with cigarettes and raped him before he and Matzke lethally crushed Cruz-Ramos’s throat with the pipe, according to court documents. The ordeal lasted some six hours.
Swaney, a dishwasher at the restaurant, arrived the next morning at the apartment, where he had been staying as a guest. He was tied to a chair and raped by Cook before he was strangled with a bed sheet by Cook and Matzke together, court records say.
Cook was later arrested at the apartment, where he told police: “We got to partying. Things got out of hand. Now two people are dead.” He admitted to choking Swaney to death, but said: “My roommate killed one and I killed the other.”
Matzke was persuaded by a friend to go to the police to confess, according to court testimony. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified against Cook. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and has since been released.
Cook, who was sentenced to death in 1988, became the fifth person to die by lethal injection in Arizona this year and the 33rd since the state reintroduced the death penalty in 1992.
Twenty-six people have been executed in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthis Johnston and Mohammad Zargham