Death Row Inmate Executed For Las Vegas Thrill Killing

By  | 

Nevada death row inmate Lawrence Colwell Jr. was executed by injection Friday night for strangling an elderly tourist in Las Vegas.

Colwell, 35, was executed at the Nevada State Prison after refusing to seek a stay from a federal judge - who had said he would stop the execution if Colwell asked.

The inmate, shackled at the ankles and wrists and wearing jeans, a blue cotton shirt and shiny black boots, was led into the prison's old gas chamber. He briefly glanced at the 20 witnesses in a viewing area and closed his eyes as he was hoisted onto a gurney.

Colwell died at 9:08, six minutes after being injected with three lethal drugs.

Prison Director Jackie Crawford said Colwell had no final statement, spoke no final words and didn't express remorse.

Earlier, he met with his parents and federal defenders, and dined on a last meal of pizza, a cheeseburger, french fries and ice cream.

His parents, Lawrence Colwell Sr., and mother, Ruby Culp, both from the Grants Pass, Ore., area where Colwell was raised, remained inside the prison but did not witness his death.

Colwell was executed for strangling Frank Rosenstock, 76, a New York widower who had retired to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. The March 1994 slaying occurred after Colwell's girlfriend lured Rosenstock to his Las Vegas hotel room and summoned Colwell.

Colwell strangled the retired Brooklyn furrier with a belt, took $91 in cash and Rosenstock's credit cards, but missed $300 the victim had hidden in a sock. Afterward, prosecutors said, Colwell and Merrilee Paul returned to their motel "and had sex and breakfast."

Paul later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Some 30 people lit candles, carried signs and sang hymns outside the prison to protest the execution.

"We're sad that the state of Nevada is taking one of its citizen's lives tonight," said Nancy Hart, who heads an anti-death penalty group.

Chris Daugherty of Carson City carried a sign supporting Colwell's execution "Nevada is the Old West - Hang Him High."

The execution was the first in Nevada since April 2001 when Sebastian Bridges was put to death and the 52nd at the Nevada State Prison since 1903.

Executions are held in the prison's gas chamber, though lethal gas hasn't been used since convicted killer Jesse Bishop was executed in 1979. Lethal injections have been used for the nine executions since then, including Colwell's.

All but one of the condemned inmates cleared the way for their executions by voluntarily surrendering their rights to appeal.

Colwell said at recent court hearings that he wanted no more appeals.

"I can't sit here and say I'm 100 percent for this," Colwell said at a Feb. 25 hearing in Las Vegas, where a judge issued a death warrant. "Like I've told the attorneys all along, I'm about 90-10 and I don't think that will ever change."

"Do I want to die? No, I don't want to die," he said." But is the value of life there for me now? No, it isn't."

Colwell lost two state Supreme Court appeals, including one in 1996 and another in 2002 in which Nevada justices said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against using judicial panels in capital cases couldn't be applied retroactively. Colwell receiving the death sentence from a three-judge panel after pleading guilty and requesting he be executed.

At his initial 1995 sentencing hearing, Colwell told the sentencing panel that he planned for weeks to kill someone and murdered Rosenstock "for the kicks of it, I guess."

He said he was sorry for what he did, but added the murder "was like taking a walk in the park, taking a drive down the street."

The victim's son, Terry Rosenstock, 47, a New York banking consultant, and his sister, Mindy Dinburg, 52, a New Jersey probation officer, witnessed the execution and issued a statement afterward.

"After 10 years of following this case from our homes in New York and New Jersey, and countless trips to Nevada to face our dad's killer in court, today we feel that our family finally has justice."

"We have been asked if the execution brings closure to our family and the answer is no. We see today as just the end of another painful chapter in a story we wish had never been written."

Eighty-four inmates remain on death row in Nevada.