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Ohio executes second inmate since 2014

By Jim Provance • Sep 13, 2017 at 6:00 PM

LUCASVILLE (TNS) — With a brief apology and a hymn, two-time killer Gary Otte, succumbed to a combination of three drugs Wednesday as Ohio completed just its second execution in 3 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 p.m. — 31 minutes after the process began.

Otte looked at the members of the victims' families and said, "I'm sorry," before singing several versus of the hymn "Just 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, took effect. The third drug, potassium chloride, stopped his heart.

There were no indications of any of the problems that were seen in the execution of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 13, 2014, which had prompted the delay of executions for more than 3 years.

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. "God is good, all the time. Baby Blue, see you again. Keep your eye on the mark."

After completing the hymn, he said, "Father, forgive them for they know what they are doing. Amen."

Otte spent Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday on the phone with relatives and friends in advance of the scheduled 10 a.m. execution.

The Ohio Supreme Court denied his final appeal Wednesday morning.

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.

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 the Cleveland suburb 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 robbed and shot 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 afterwards.

One of Otte's attorneys, Vicki Werneke, assistant federal public defender, issued a statement suggesting that Otte was not rendered unconscious by the first drug to the point that he was incapable of feeling pain from the second two drugs.

"To be clear, blame lies exclusively in the flawed, three drug protocol, which representatives 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 then through federal court pleadings and arguments... the state chose to disregard those warnings."

His attorneys had argued before the parole board that he had been a victim of bullying as a child, leading to a life of drug abuse and school absenteeism. The prosecution, however, said Otte bought another gun as well as drugs from the proceeds from the Wasikowski robbery, suggesting he planned to continue his crime spree.

Gov. John Kasich recently agreed with the parole board's unanimous recommendation that he not show Otte mercy.

"Otte's crimes were heinous in character, and the degree of victimization was extensive," the board wrote in its report. "Otte senselessly shot two vulnerable victims in their own apartments, stole from them, and callously left them alone to suffer and die on their floors.

"The similar locations of the bullet wounds in the foreheads of each victim demonstrate a clear purpose to kill," it wrote.

This marks Ohio's second lethal injection gurney at the Ohio Southern Correctional Facility in Lucasville in two months. Ronald R. 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.

That was the first Ohio execution since January 2014 when an execution involving a previously untried two-drug process went awry. Witnesses described McGuire, of Preble County, as struggling against his restraints and making choking noises during an unusually 26-minute process.

That prompted Ohio to abandon that two-drug process and set the stage for three years of litigation that ultimately led to the courts clearing the way for the state to use a new three-drug process similar to that used in other states but never before used in Ohio.

Otte ate just a portion of his requested "special meal," which included a mushroom Swiss burger with tomato onion, mayonnaise; sliced jalapeno poppers, a double cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, a two-liter bottle of orange soda or Pepsi, a quart of Health Bar ice cream, mozzarella sticks, banana cream pie, and glazed and cream-filled doughnuts.

He also had the option of having the same breakfast as other inmates Wednesday morning.

Check back later for updates.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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