Victims’ last words
by Robert A. Waters
Every time some killer is executed, the news media cycles his last words to the world, as if something profound can be fathomed. The final ranting of cold-blooded thugs means little, but the last words of those murdered speak volumes about the killer, the crime, and the victim.
In 1971, eight-year-old Cary Ann Medlin was abducted from Greenfield, Tennessee by serial flasher Robert Glen Coe. Taken to an isolated area and brutally raped, Coe then cut the young girl’s throat. In his confessions, Coe said that just before dying, Cary looked him in the eye and said, “Jesus loves you.” Coe was executed in 1999.
Jerry Terrell Jackson broke into the Williamsburg, Virginia home of Ruth Phillips. When the eighty-eight-year-old seamstress awoke and saw Jackson rummaging through drawers in her bedroom, she cried out, “What do you want? I'll give you whatever, just get out.” Jackson attacked Phillips, smothering her with a pillow while he raped her. He died by lethal injection in 2011.
In 1994, 79-year-old Grace Blackwell was kidnapped by Rodney Gray and forced to withdraw cash from her bank. At the drive-through window, she presented a blank check to the teller and asked her to fill the check out in the amount of $1200. Although the teller's view of the car's back seat was blocked, she heard Blackwell say, "I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying." The clerk called police, and a search was launched. But after leaving the bank, Gray had time to rape, shoot, and drive the car over the elderly widow. The state of Mississippi executed Gray in 2011.
In 2002, Julian Lewis, 51, and his twenty-five-year-old son C. J., were killed in a murder-for-hire plot. The “head of the snake,” as the prosecutor put it, was Julian’s wife, Teresa Wilson Bean Lewis. Hoping to collect $250,000 in life insurance, she hired two hit-men. Julian and C. J. were in their beds when they were blasted multiple times with shotguns. As he lay dying, Julian’s indictment of Teresa rang out loud and clear when he said, “My wife knows who done this to me.” The usual anti-death penalty groups protested that Teresa was mentally handicapped, but in 2011, she was executed by the state of Virginia.
The last words of Margaret Park, a Florida Wildlife Officer, were, “I’m hit.” Park found Martin Edward Grossman and Thayne Taylor target-shooting a stolen pistol in Pinellas County. Park confiscated the weapon and Grossman’s driver’s license. Since he was on probation for burglary, he likely would have gone back to prison. He and Taylor attacked Park, beating her. Park drew her weapon and fired an errant shot, then kicked Taylor in the groin, disabling him. Grossman wrenched her service revolver from Park and shot her in the back of the head, killing her. Her last words echoed on her police radio, sending officers to the spot where they arrested the assailants. In 2010, Grossman was exectuted.