LUCASVILLE — With a brief apology to his victims’ families and a few verses of a hymn, two-time killer Gary Otte succumbed to a combination of three drugs Wednesday as Ohio completed just its second execution in three and a half years.
Otte, 45, was put to death for the 1992 murders of Robert Wasikowski, 61, and Sharon Kostura, 45, during separate robberies a day apart in apartments in the same Parma complex. He was pronounced dead at 10:54 a.m., 31 minutes after the process began.
Otte turned his head to look at the members of his victims' families and said, “I'm sorry,” before singing several verses of “The Greatest Thing.”
He breathed deeply after the first drug, midazolam, rendered him unconscious and stopped breathing altogether at 10:44 a.m., when the second drug, rocuronium bromide, apparently took effect. The third drug, potassium chloride, stopped his heart.
Like Ronald Phillips in July, Otte showed no signs of the problems seen with the January 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire, of Preble County, the execution that led to three years of litigation and delays in executions.
Otte briefly looked at the witnesses who had attended on his behalf and gave them a thumbs-up.
“I'd like to profess my love for my family,” he said.
After completing the hymn, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Amen.”
A Blade reporter was a witness to the execution.
On Feb. 11, 1992, Otte stole his grandfather’s car and gun and an aunt and uncle’s credit cards and set out from Terre Haute, Ind. to Parma near Cleveland where he tried unsuccessfully to use the credit cards.
Police already had Otte in mind as a suspect for the Wasikowski murder when they arrested him the next day, but not before he had already shot and robbed Ms. Kortura. Police found her still alive after they discovered her checkbook in Otte’s possession, but she died eight days later.
Otte later told the Ohio Parole Board that he had intended to use his grandfather’s gun to kill himself. He had attempted suicide before.
The victims' families did not speak to reporters afterward.
One of Otte's attorneys, Vicki Werneke, assistant federal public defender, issued a statement suggesting Otte was not rendered unconscious by the first drug to the point he was incapable of feeling pain from the second two drugs.
“To be clear, blame lies exclusively in the flawed, three-drug protocol which representaives of the state continue to present as an efficacious method of execution,” she said. “The state was well aware of these concerns, if by no other means than through federal court pleadings and arguments. The state chose to disregard those warnings.”
Attorney Carol Wright briefly walked out of the witness room after the execution was under way in an unsuccessful attempt to get a judge to issue a last-minute stay to stop the process.
Much of the litigation over the past three years had focused on the first drug, midazolam, as attorneys for the condemned argued that it could not be trusted to induce deep enough sleep to prevent the inmate was experiencing unconstitutionally cruel and unusual pain and suffering from the next two.
Otte spent Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday in “emotional” visits with his parents and talked on the phone with relatives and friends. The Ohio Supreme Court denied his last ditch effort for a stay earlier Wednesday.
JoEllen Smith, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Otte was “talking and laughing with his parents.” They prayed and shed tears.
This marks Ohio’s second lethal injection at the Ohio Southern Correctional Facility in Lucasville in two months. Phillips —convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of Sheila Marie Evans, his Akron girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter — was put to death on July 26 after frequent delays.
In 2014, witnesses had described McGuire as struggling against his restraints and making choking noises. Witnesses noted no similar reaction with Otte, as he appeared to fall asleep, breathe deeply, and then made no further movements once his breathing was stopped.
He appeared calm throughout the process.
Ms. Kostura’s sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Larry Stillwell; her niece, Rhonda Rogers; Mr. Wasikowski’s daughter, Laurie, and brother, Dale, calmly witnessed the execution, along with Robert DeSimone, the original investigator in the case.
Witnessing on behalf of Otte were the Rev. Mendle Adams, chaplain Alfred Marcus, Ms. Wright, and nurse Laura Depas.
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