Ohio executes man who said he didn't recall crimes

May 17, 2011 - 12:45 PM
Death Penalty Ohio

This undated photo released by the Ohio Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Daniel Bedford. Bedford is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, May 17, 2011 for killing 25-year-old Gwen Toepfert and 27-year-old John Smith in April 1984. (AP Photo/Ohio Department of Corrections)

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — The state on Tuesday executed a man who said he didn't remember fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend at the woman's Cincinnati apartment in 1984.

Daniel Lee Bedford, 63, became the third inmate in Ohio and the nation to be put to death using the surgical sedative pentobarbital as a stand-alone execution drug. He was pronounced dead at 11:18 a.m.

Bedford, in glasses and a short gray beard, declined to give a formal final statement but yelled "I love you" to his adult daughter, Michelle Connor, who was in the witness room and shouted back, "I love you, Daddy" after he had climbed onto a gurney. He also called out to witness Kristi Schulenberg, a friend and pen pal with whom he had kept in touch since the mid-1990s. She said she loved him, too.

"God bless you," he said as the injection began. His mouth moved slightly and his chest appeared to rise and fall several times before he became still.

Prison staff had appeared to have some difficulty inserting the IVs into one arm, prompting an attorney witnessing the execution to leave the witness room to call a colleague with concerns about how many times Bedford's arm had been poked. She also shouted to Bedford through the glass viewing window and asked if there were problems. He replied that he'd been poked several times.

The attorney declined to comment after the execution.

Bedford's attorneys had pushed to block the lethal injection in a last-minute legal battle. They argued Bedford had dementia and a mild mental disability and wasn't competent enough to understand why he was being executed. They also said he was denied legal proceedings to which he was entitled.

Prosecutors challenged the idea that Bedford wasn't competent and successfully appealed a stay of execution issued Monday by a federal judge. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused the defense's request to block the execution.

Bedford is the fourth Ohio inmate put to death this year.

He was sentenced to death after confessing to authorities that he shot Gwen Toepfert, 25, and John Smith, 27, at Toepfert's Cincinnati apartment, apparently because he was jealous after finding the couple there several days before the slayings.

Bedford learned from Toepfert's roommate that the couple were home and waited at the apartment where, armed with a revolver and a shotgun, he killed Smith and shot Toepfert multiple times before returning to her body and firing a shotgun blast into her groin to be sure she was dead, prosecutors said.

Relatives of Toepfert and Smith had expressed support for the execution, saying they believe the killings were merciless and Bedford knew what he was doing.

"From day one, there was never any doubt that Bedford committed this brutal, double murder," they said in a statement released Tuesday. They vowed to remember the slain couple.

Toepfert's brothers, Robert and Rick Toepfert, watched the execution, as did her uncle. The men were still and silent throughout the process, resting their chins on their hands. Rick Toepfert held a photo of his sister, a smiling, feather-haired blonde in a striped shirt, and aimed it toward the death chamber. He didn't turn it around until Bedford was pronounced dead.

Robert Toepfert said afterward that he felt justice had been served.

Bedford told the state parole board in March he didn't remember the slayings but that his attorneys had told him details and he was "sorry it happened."

Gov. John Kasich denied clemency, and the Ohio Supreme Court also refused to block the execution, rejecting the defense's arguments about Bedford's competency.

Bedford told mental health staff early Tuesday morning that he understood he would die and was preparing himself, a state prisons spokesman said.