Death Row Inmate's Final Words

By: Karen Todd
By: Karen Todd

The brother of Terry Jess Dennis,executed late Thursday for strangling a woman in Reno in 1999, said Dennis told him in their final meeting just hours before his lethal injection that he was sorry he "screwed up his life" - but wasn't remorseful about the murder.
"He said he wished he hadn't screwed up his life so bad, and
went down this spiral of drugs and alcohol. He wished he would have
been a better brother, father, friend," Gary Dennis told The
Associated Press.
"But he said he didn't feel bad about the crime. I found that
pretty disgusting that he wouldn't admit some remorse to me."
Gary Dennis, who spent nearly three hours with his brother
Thursday in a small visiting room at Nevada State Prison, said he
had "no sympathy for murderers" - but still urged his brother to
consider an appeal that would have stopped his execution.
But the condemned man refused, describing his lethal injection
as "an easy way to go, relatively painless," the brother said,
adding that's what Dennis had said he wanted for several years.
"It's not like it happened yesterday and he made up his mind
today," Gary Dennis said.
Gary Dennis also said that during a Tuesday visit his brother
told him "it felt good to kill somebody." But on Wednesday, he
said his brother - whose mental problems include bipolar disorder -
told him "he didn't remember much about it."
During Thursday's final visit, Dennis, 57, also was asked by a
prison staffer if he wanted to speak with his estranged wife,
Bonnie Dennis, who tried to reach him by telephone. He said he
didn't.
Bonnie Dennis said she left a message stating, "My heart is
with him and my prayers, and I love him although I don't love the
choices he made. Farewell."
She also said that at Dennis' trial she saw his videotaped
confession to police, in which he described in detail how he
strangled Ilona Strumanis after several days of drinking vodka and
beer and having sex in a motel room. She believed he wasn't
exaggerating.
"I had been on the end of that same kind of rage," she said in
a telephone interview, adding that when Dennis drank or used drugs
"he was like a demon."
Court records show Dennis claimed he had been drinking since he
was a teenager, had been jailed at age 14 for marijuana use and had
made his first suicide attempt in 1966.
His early substance abuse was confirmed by his brother, who said
that as a teenager Dennis started "hanging out with a bad crowd"
in their hometown of Alderwood Manor, Wash.
"About 20 years ago I told him to stay away because he was
drinking, drugging, thieving a lot," Gary Dennis said. "He was
just somebody I didn't want around me."
"He was screwed up," he added. "He was the most cynical
person that I've ever been around. He just saw conspiracies in
everything."
After he was contacted late last year by lawyers trying to
persuade his brother to appeal, Gary Dennis said he renewed
contact. He said he decided to spend as much time as possible with
his brother this week "because I didn't want to regret later on
not being there."
During their final meetings, Gary Dennis said, "We talked about
fishing, different movies, events in our childhood. Basically he
just wanted someone to talk to, so I listened a lot. He wanted to
unload. He was nervous, but steadfast in his commitment" to go
through with the execution.
"I asked him how he'd feel when he went to the death chamber
and he said he'd just be relieved it's over," Gary Dennis said.
He added he arranged to have his brother's remains cremated.
"I'm having the ashes shipped to me and I'll put them in the creek
where we used to fish when we were kids," he said.


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