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Keene Executed For "Thrill Killings"

Published: Monday, July 20, 2009 @ 1:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 @ 5:55 PM

Ohio has put a Dayton man to death for a 1992 Christmas holiday killing rampage that left six people dead and two wounded.

There were no final words this morning from Marvallous Keene before he died by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. The execution came just one week after the state's last one.

The 36-year-old Keene and three accomplices went on a three-day binge of murder and robbery in Dayton that began on Christmas Eve 1992.

Keene died seven days after Ohio's last execution. It was the fastest turnaround since the state executed two inmates in six days in 2004.

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The Ohio Supreme Court, in denying a request last month to delay Keene's execution, said it would schedule future executions at last three weeks apart so that public defenders will have more time to prepare clemency cases for inmates who wish to pursue it.

Ohio has one execution scheduled per month through February 2010.

Keene and three accomplices went on a three-day murder and robbery rampage in Dayton that began on Christmas Eve 1992.

Victims included Sarah Abraham, 38, a convenience store clerk shot in the head after handing over $30 from a cash register, and Marvin Washington and Wendy Cottrill, two teenage acquaintances who Keene feared would tell police about his crimes.

Cottrill's mother, Donna Cottrill, stood when Keene entered the death chamber, but he didn't acknowledge her or look directly at anyone as he lay on the gurney.

When the prison warden asked Keene if he wanted to make a final statement, Keene replied, "No, I have no words."

He stared at the ceiling, then closed his eyes. His chest slightly heaved as the drugs were administered.

Seven members of the victims' families who witnessed the execution declined to speak to reporters afterward, as did Keene's attorneys.

According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., Keene's was the 1,171st execution -- and the 1,000th by lethal injection -- since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The European Union presidency, currently held by Sweden, released a statement noting the number and calling on the U.S. to halt executions, pending the abolition of the death penalty.

"The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances," the statement said.

"We believe that the abolition of the death penalty is essential to protect human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights."

The death penalty is abolished in the European Union, and the United Nations General Assembly has called upon all countries that use it to stop executions and end the practice.

Keene did not fight his execution. At a June 17 clemency hearing, he directed his attorneys not to present evidence on his behalf, saying he didn't want to cause additional pain to his family or to the victims' families.

Gov. Ted Strickland last week denied clemency for Keene, who didn't request it.

Defense attorneys have said Keene, who was 19 at the time of the slayings, was despondent over the death of his brother, who was shot and killed a year earlier. At his trial, Keene also told a three-judge panel that a falling out with his father contributed to his troubled emotional state.

Prosecutors described Keene as the ringleader of a group that called itself the Downtown Posse. The killings began with 34-year-old Joseph Wilkerson. Keene and his accomplices arrived at Wilkerson's home under the pretext of wanting to participate in an orgy, prosecutors said. They tied Wilkerson to his bed and ransacked the house, and when Keene found a .32-caliber handgun in the garage, he returned to the bedroom and shot Wilkerson twice.

Later Christmas Eve, Keene and accomplice DeMarcus Smith approached 18-year-old Danita Gullette at a pay phone, took her jacket and shoes and fatally shot the woman, prosecutors said. Gullette was the mother of a 2-year-old girl.

Washington, 18, and Cottrill, 16, were acquaintances who sometimes stayed at Keene's apartment and observed Keene returning with stolen items, prosecutors said. They were shot and killed behind a gravel pit.

Keene's accomplices are serving life sentences.

Ohio has put 31 men to death since it reinstated the death penalty in 1999. John Fautenberry, 45, a former Oregon truck driver who went on a multistate killing spree in the early 1990s, was executed last week.