TALLAHASSEE, Fla/COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Florida and Ohio each executed men by lethal injection on Tuesday, one for killing a mother and two daughters on vacation and another for shooting dead his three sons.
The executions brought to 41 the number of people put to death in the United States this year.
Oba Chandler, 65, was executed in Florida for the murders of Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14, who were traveling back to Ohio after a trip to Disney World in 1989.
They met Chandler in Tampa, where they stopped to ask for directions after becoming lost searching for their motel, authorities said. Chandler gave them directions to a Days Inn and then apparently offered to take them on a sunset cruise on his boat, “Gypsy One,” that evening on Tampa Bay.
The mother and daughters were never seen alive again. Their three bodies — bound, gagged and naked below the waist — were found floating in Tampa Bay three days later.
It took investigators three years to solve the case. Local officials posted billboards in the Tampa Bay area showing the distinctive handwriting found scribbled on a tourist brochure in Rogers’ car, which led to Chandler’s arrest in 1992.
At trial, prosecutors said Chandler had lured the trio to his boat, raped them and dumped them into the bay with cement blocks tied around their necks to make sure they sank. Chandler testified he had given Rogers directions but said he was out fishing alone the night of the murders.
A Canadian tourist testified that she had been raped by Chandler, an aluminum contractor by trade, under similar circumstances a few weeks before the murders.
Chandler was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death on three counts of first-degree murder. He was pronounced dead on Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. local time at Florida State Prison near Starke, said Amy Graham, spokeswoman for Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Chandler’s last meal consisted of two salami sandwiches on white bread and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He made no final statement, Graham said.
In Ohio, inmate Reginald Brooks on Tuesday became the first person put to death in that state since it revised death penalty procedures in September in response to concerns over inconsistent practices.
Brooks was convicted of shooting to death each of his three sons, aged 11, 15 and 17, while they were in their beds in East Cleveland in 1982. His wife had served him with divorce papers two days before the killings.
Brooks, who spent nearly three decades on death row, died at 2:04 p.m. local time, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. A corrections official said the mother of Brooks’ children watched him die.
Defense attorneys had argued that Brooks was a paranoid schizophrenic and suffered from mental illness before he killed his sons. He was denied clemency by both the Ohio Parole Board and Governor John Kasich.
Brooks, 66, was the oldest person put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999, according to Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
For his last meal on Monday evening, Brooks requested lasagna, garlic bread, ice cream, chocolate cake and root beer, along with almonds, beef jerky and caramel candy, LoParo said.
Brooks was the first person put to death in Ohio since a federal judge delayed the execution of Kenneth Smith in July, ruling that Ohio’s execution rules were enforced inconsistently.
But the state issued revised procedures in September that it said addressed the judge’s concerns, and the judge ruled that the state had corrected its course, paving the way for Brooks’ execution.
Brooks had claimed that Ohio had made only cosmetic changes and that its death penalty practices may have worsened in the last few months.
Ohio has executed five men in 2011, while Florida has executed two, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Additional reporting by Jo Ingles; Writing by Colleen Jenkins and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Cynthia Johnston