Three condemned prisoners — one repentant, the other two defiant — were put to death today in a rare triple execution nationwide.
Missouri carried out the first execution today at 12:07 a.m. CT when Gary Lee Roll was put to death by lethal injection. Roll, 47, was executed for killing three members of a Cape Girardeau family during a robbery at their home in 1992. He became the third Missouri inmate put to death this year and the 44th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1989.
Atypical Death Row Resident
Roll didn’t fit the profile of a condemned killer. Unlike many on death row, he didn’t grow up facing physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse. He was from a respected, hard working Cape Girardeau family. His brother became a top FBI agent in Kansas City.
Death penalty opponents often point out that many on death row are borderline mentally retarded. Roll had an IQ of 125, well above average. And he wasn’t a drifter — he was a Vietnam veteran who dropped out of college 10 hours short of graduation to help run the family heating and air conditioning business.
As he awaited death, Roll accepted his fate and apologized to his family and the relatives of his three victims, Sherry Scheper and her sons Randy and Curtis.
“I failed my family,” Roll said in his final statement. He also expressed his remorse to the Scheper family.
Drug Path to Death Row In an interview the day before his execution, Roll said it was a single, painful event in 1973 that turned his life down the wrong path.
Roll had dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University to volunteer for the Army at the height of the Vietnam War. Stationed in Germany, Roll suffered from six impacted teeth. An Army oral surgeon extracted all six at once, in the process exposing a nerve in Roll’s lower mouth.
The excruciating pain never went away, Roll said.
“It hurts to talk about it,” Roll said. “It affected my life so much. It changed me.”
Roll first sought help through conventional means, even suing the Veteran’s Administration when officials there wouldn’t provide the medication he felt he needed.
Eventually, Roll said he would do anything to relieve the pain, including experimenting with illegal drugs. In 1991, his drug use was a factor in his wife’s decision to divorce him. Through two teenage friends of his son, Roll began to use LSD. Roll said his need to relieve his pain through LSD eventually led him to murder during his fateful robbery-gone-bad at the Scheper household.
Another Execution in TexasIn Huntsville, Texas tonight , a paroled burglar convicted of killing parents and sister by beating them with a hammer claw and stabbing them with a butcher knife was executed by lethal injection tonight.
Jeffrey Henry Caldwell continued to deny involvement in the murders in the moments before his death.
“I still to this day scream out that I did not kill them,” Caldwell said. “I accept the blame for what happened to my parents and only sister but did not kill them or beat them or shoot them.”
In a lengthy statement, Caldwell expressed love for his family and his daughter. He thanked his attorneys and urged fellow death row inmates to “keep your heads up.” Addressing his brothers, who testified against him at his trial, Caldwell said he loved them with all his heart.
“You will have to face the justice of God,” he said. “I can forgive you all but you must ask for forgiveness from God. I leave now to join my parents and my only sister.”