Convicted murderer sings Christian hymns before execution

(Wikimedia Commons/CACorrections)The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California.

An Ohio man who was convicted of killing two people in back-to-back robberies in suburban Cleveland in 1992 sang Christian hymns as he was executed on Wednesday.

Gary Otte, 45, was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville and was declared dead at 10:54 a.m., The Associated Press reported.

Before he was injected with a lethal combination of three drugs, Otte apologized to the relatives of his victims and sang the religious song "The Greatest Thing," with words such as "I want to know you Lord" and "I want to serve you Lord."

He quoted the Bible with his last words: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they're doing. Amen."

Otte was the second person to be executed in Ohio this year after the state ended its three-year execution hiatus prompted by difficulties finding drugs to use in capital punishment.

He was sentenced to death for fatally shooting Robert Wasikowski and Sharon Kostura in two separate home invasion robberies in February 1992.

According to authorities, Otte had asked to go inside Wasikowski's he shot the 61-year-old man and stole about $400.

The next day, he forced his way into the apartment of Kostura in the same building, shot her and stole $45 and her car keys.

Otte's public defenders claimed that his drug addiction, intoxication and depression led to the killings, and that he had poor legal assistance at trial.

County prosecutor Michael O'Malley noted in a Jan. 30 filing with the parole board that the killings were not spur-of-the moment decisions by Otte, who lingered in the victims' apartment to rob them and turned up the volume of the TV to drown out Kostura's pleas for help.

In his last-ditch appeals, Otte claimed that the use of the execution sedative midazolam is unconstitutional and he contended that he should not be put to death because he was under 21 when he committed the crimes. His attorneys argued that the drug may not render prisoners so deeply unconscious that they avoid suffering pain when the last two drugs are administered.

The anti-execution activist Sister Helen Prejean also testified that he has a low IQ and psychological problems. However, both the U.S. Supreme Court and the state's highest court denied the appeals to halt the execution.

A spokeswoman for the prison system said that he did not sleep overnight, spending his last hours visiting with his parents and calling friends and family. The last meal he ate included a mushroom and Swiss cheese hamburger, a quart of Health Bar ice cream and a slice of banana cream pie.

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