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    Killer offers apology before lethal injection

    By KATHRYN WEXLER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000


    STARKE -- The prison guard snapped back the curtain in the death chamber Thursday, revealing a prostrate Edward Castro with arms outstretched and needles planted in each.

    Castro turned his head to the right, as if he could see through the one-way window of the witness gallery. He smiled, like he recognized someone, then winked.

    A moment later, at 6:01, Castro was given the chance to make a last statement. He had already polished off a T-Bone steak and accepted an injection of Valium, and now Castro had people to thank, mercy to bestow and forgiveness to request.

    "Tell my mother I love her, and I'd like to take the opportunity to apologize to the families of the victims," said Castro, 50, staring at the ceiling where the microphone hung.

    A California drifter who confessed in 1987 to three murders, Castro finished up with a thanks to "everybody who's shown me love. That's it." He then closed his eyes.

    At 6:02 p.m. the deadly potassium chloride mixture rushed into Castro's veins. A minute later, Castro's eyes jerked open and fluttered. His mouth twitched, and his head rose several inches off the gurney's small blue pillow. Then his body relaxed, his eyes shut again, and he appeared not to breathe.

    The medical doctor declared him dead at 6:15 p.m. The official witnesses, 13 in all, sat silently and unmoving for the 13 minutes in between.

    Castro was the sixth prisoner to die by lethal injection. Unlike most death-row inmates, who file loads of motions and appeals, Castro in recent years fired all his attorneys and told a judge he was ready to die.

    "To proceed any further would be to allow myself something I never allowed my victim, the opportunity to beg for my life," he told Circuit Judge Jack Singbush in 1997.

    Family members of the condemned are not allowed to watch the execution. Castro's mother, along with seven other siblings or relatives, bade him goodbye for the full three hours allowed Thursday by prison officials.

    C.J. Drake, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said officials hadn't been able to locate the families of Castro's victims.

    The death sentence was carried out for the 1987 murder of Austin Carter Scott, a 56-year-old Ocala resident.

    Castro told authorities he taunted Scott in the moments before his death.

    "Hey, man, you've lost. Dig it?" Castro said.

    He also confessed to the stabbing deaths of George Larry Hill of St. Petersburg and Claude J. Henderson of Polk County.

    Castro was sentenced to life in prison for Hill's death and was never tried for Henderson's.

    Hill's identical twin brother stayed in his Tampa apartment during the execution.

    "I feel weak in the knees," said Nathan Jerry Hill, 64, when told Thursday night of Castro's last-minute apology.

    Meanwhile, an inmate who was facing execution at 6 p.m. today received a stay Thursday from the Florida Supreme Court.

    Minutes before hearing arguments in the presidential election case, the court postponed the execution of Robert Dewey Glock II until Jan. 10 to give it time to review a last-minute appeal filed by his attorney. Glock and another man kidnapped and murdered a Bradenton schoolteacher in 1983.

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