Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ohio death row inmate clings to hope

The Associated Press

MANSFIELD - Condemned inmate Richard Cooey hasn't decided how he will spend the last hours of his life, but he has made funeral arrangements in case his final appeal isn't successful.

Cooey, 36, is scheduled to be executed July 24 for killing two University of Akron students. He told prison officials he wants to be cremated, but won't divulge what he wants done with his ashes.

"If I was the victims' families, I'd want me dead. There'd be no argument," Cooey said.

In death row interviews at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, Cooey, 36, said Tuesday that his heart tells him he is guilty but his head clings to 11th-hour legal challenges. "Right now, all I can do is put forth legal arguments and say why they should not kill me legally, because morally I don't have a foot, a leg, or a toe to stand on," Cooey said.

Cooey is to be transferred to Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, where he will be executed by lethal injection.

He has an appeal pending before the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals and a clemency request before Gov. Bob Taft. Last week, the state parole board recommended against clemency.

Cooey admits he kidnapped, robbed and raped sorority sisters Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20, in September 1986 - but he denied he killed them.

"I take full responsibility," he said. "I'm guilty of every one (of the 13 charges) but the murders. That's legally. Morally, I am guilty of the murders."

He has chosen two lawyers and a childhood friend to witness his death. "I've tried not to deal with it," he said. "Stuff like that, you put in a data bank and not bring it forward all the time because it will drive you crazy," he said. "I've been mentally preparing for it for 12 years," he said. "You don't let it eat you up, but it's hard. ...

"But come the 24th when I wake up in Lucasville, a couple hours away, I don't know how I'll react. Hopefully, it's calm, cool and collected. I guess you could say ... it's nothing I can stop. Only the courts can stop it."

According to court documents, Cooey was on leave from the Army when he and a friend, Clint Dickens, threw a large chunk of concrete over the side of a bridge as the women traveled below on Interstate 77 in Akron. The concrete hit Offredo's car, forcing her to pull over. Authorities said the men offered the women a ride to call for help. After driving them to a nearby mall so they could use a telephone, the men took the women to a field, raped them and beat them.

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