Thursday, September 26, 2002

Doomed Ohioan denies guilt

Buell executed for murder of girl, 11

By Charley Gillespie
The Associated Press

        LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Eyes closed and fists clenched, Robert Buell, who lived in northern Ohio but had ties to the Tristate, was executed by injection Wednesday for a 20-year-old killing he still denied.

        Mr. Buell, 62, wouldn't look at the family of the 11-year-old girl he was convicting of raping and strangling, but he directed his final statement to them.

        “Jerry and Shirley, I didn't kill your daughter. The prosecutor knows that ... and they left the real killer out there on the streets to kill again and again and again,” he said into a microphone held by an officer at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

        Krista Harrison was collecting aluminum cans when she was abducted July 11, 1982, from a park across the street from her home in the northeast Ohio village of Marshallville. Her body was found six days later.

        Mr. Buell, a former Akron city planner, was from nearby Clinton. The 1959 Norwood High School graduate has a sister who lives in Cincinnati.

        State and federal courts turned down last-minute appeals based on his objections to the hypnotizing of trial witnesses. His lawyers said the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnesses' memories.

        Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming, including fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Mr. Buell's van.

        It was the state's fifth execution in three years.

        Krista's father, Gerald Harrison, and her brothers Mark and Dana clasped hands tightly and stared at Mr. Buell as he was led into the dimly lighted execution chamber.

        They later issued a four-sentence statement that justice was done.

        “We came quietly and we will leave quietly,” the statement read.

        Mr. Buell climbed readily onto a gurney about 10 minutes before his death. He wore prison-issued blue pants with a red stripe down each leg, a white V-neck pullover shirt and tan boots with brown laces.

        Guards strapped down the chest, waist and feet of the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Mr. Buell. He clenched his left fist repeatedly and stared toward the ceiling as intravenous tubes were placed into shunts on each arm at 10:21 a.m.

        Mr. Buell was declared dead at 10:30 a.m.

        For the first time since Ohio resumed executions in 1999, the prisoner's family refused to claim the body, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Mr. Buell's sister, Carole Bye of Cincinnati, and his ex-wife, Sue Ross, had visited Mr. Buell in the past two weeks.

        His 37-year-old daughter had not visited.


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