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'A very long walk'
For Ross, end came quickly, quietly

The following account was put together from the statements of five members of the media who watched the execution of Michael Ross.  The News-Times/Wendy Carlson
State Trooper Michael Malchik comforts Jennifer Tabor while her sister, Debbie Dupris, talks about the execution of serial killer Michael Ross. Malchik was the State Police investigator that tracked down Ross in the 1980s.

By Karen Ali - THE NEWS-TIMES

SOMERS – The walk to the death chamber to watch the execution of serial killer Michael Ross started with a long hallway.

Gregory Smith, of the Norwich Bulletin, said it was a very "strange experience" to "walk through the silent walls of a prison" on Friday the 13th.

"I don't know if any one of us knew what to expect, but it was a very long walk," Smith said.

Gerry Brooks, of WVIT NBC 30, described it by referring to a book by Steven King about a man's execution, saying it was "kind of like the Green Mile."

The media witnesses were the first to file into the viewing room at 2:03 a.m.
The News-Times/Wendy Carlson
Lan Tu, brother of the first victim of serial killer Michael Ross, shakes hands with Edwin Shelley, father of another of Ross’ victims after his execution Friday morning.

Then, the family members of the victims and Ross' supporters filed in. Shelly Sindland, of WTIC Fox 61, said the next few moments were unnerving as they waited for the curtain that separated the viewing room from the execution chamber to open.

A total of 21 people watched Ross die.

The curtain separating the death chamber form the viewing room finally opened at about 2:08 a.m.

Ross, who was wearing his glasses, was strapped to a gurney, a white sheet pulled to his chest.

"It actually looked like he was asleep when the curtain opened," Sindland said.

None of the witnesses saw him open his eyes or look in the direction of his father and a Roman Catholic priest who was his spiritual advisor.

"Do you wish to make a final statement?" prison warden David Strange asked.

"No, thank you," Ross replied.

A victim's relative said something like: "He didn't have the (guts) to say anything."

Steve Kalb, of Connecticut Radio Network, said "it almost seemed surreal."

"He didn't say anything," Kalb said. "It looked like he was saying 'Let's just end this and off I go.'"

Next, the warden picked up the red telephone, which he talked on for about four minutes, to make sure there no last-minute glitches to the execution.

Then, at 2:13 a.m., Strange hung up the phone and the lethal combination of three chemicals was administered. Right about that time, witnesses heard a gasp from Ross and a sudden movement they described as a "quick shudder."

"He did gasp for air, shuddered and after that there was no movement whatsoever," Sindland said.

One of the victims' family members, a woman, could be heard saying sarcastically, "Are you feeling pain?"

Then, a man said, "It's too peaceful."

None of the victims' witnesses or Ross' witnesses could be heard crying, whimpering or praying. Sniffles were heard.

One witness, Kenton Robinson of The New London Day, noticed that at 2:13 a.m., the vein in Ross' throat was pulsating, but as of 2:14 a.m. it was not.

By 2:15 a.m., the viewing room was quiet.

Robinson recalled Ross' arms were flesh-colored before he was given his injection and turned a "blotchy red" at about 2:20 a.m.

The curtains closed at about 2:21 a.m.

At 2:25 a.m., Ross was pronounced dead.

At 2:28 a.m., the announcement was made to the media camped out at the nearby Carl Robinson Correctional Institution that Ross was dead.

"I gotta tell ya, it's really anti-climactic," Brooks said.

Ross has last meal

ENFIELD — Serial killer Michael Ross opted for the standard “meal of the day” for his final meal Thursday shortly after 3 p.m., according to Department of Correction officials.

That consisted of Turkey a la King, rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit and a beverage.

Legal challenges to the state’s attempt to execute Ross at 2:01 a.m. Friday are expected to continue throughout the night Thursday.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Chief State’s Attorney Christopher Morano said, however, they fully expect to prevail in the federal courts and proceed with the execution early Friday.

Ross still retains the final option and can bring the “machinery of death” to a halt at any time, Blumenthal said at 4:30 p.m. press conference.

How Michael Ross spent his last day
Associated Press

May 12, 2005

SOMERS, Conn. -- Here is how serial killer Michael Ross spent the day before his execution:

5:45 a.m. - Woke up.

6:00 a.m. - Ate oatmeal for breakfast.

6 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. - Read the newspaper, watched television.

8:10 a.m. - Moved to the holding cell next to the death chamber. He took with him a Bible, a book of Bible verses, some candy and a coffee cup.

9 a.m. - Received communion.

11 a.m. - Ate a cheeseburger and hash browns for lunch.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visited by family, friends and attorney.

3 p.m. - Ate final meal. He chose to eat the same meal served to all inmates on Thursday - turkey a la king, rice, fruit, mixed vegetables and white bread.

3 p.m. - Continued receiving visitors.

(Source: State Department of Correction)


Ross to girlfriend: I’ll wait in heaven
05/13/2005

By MICHELLE TUCCITTO

Journal Register News Service

Serial killer Michael Ross has told his girlfriend Susan Powers that they’ll be together again, like the two main characters in the movie "Titanic," Jack and Rose.

The cinematic couple was separated by Jack’s death when the ship sank, but the lovers were reunited when Rose died as an elderly woman years later.

"I will wait 40 or 50 years if need be, because you are worth the wait," Ross wrote to Powers. "I will be there to pull you to heaven to keep you safe, and to bring you back to me. Until then, remember, I can feel your love, even in heaven."

But this is not the stuff of Hollywood romance.

Ross, who admits killing eight young women in the early 1980s, was scheduled to be executed early thismorning for his crimes.

The romance between a Cyril, Okla., woman and Connecticut’s most notorious serial killer has gotten nationwide attention. Many wonder about the mysterious woman who would start a relationship with a man who killed several women, and raped most of them, to satisfy his sexual sadism.

Raymond Roode, the stepfather of one of Ross’ victims, April Brunais, is among those who find the phenomenon puzzling.

"Ted Bundy had a following too -- there is always someone who finds interest in someone who has some notoriety," Roode said. "I don’t see what (Powers) gets out of a relationship with Ross."

Powers has spent the past few months trying to convince Ross to change his mind and appeal his death sentence. But Ross has refused.

The relationship began when Powers first contacted Ross in late 2000. She stumbled on an Internet article Ross wrote about forgiveness, about how God forgives no matter how horrible one’s sins.

Curious, Powers wrote him a letter.

The details of how the relationship progressed is outlined in a deposition Powers gave for Ross’ recent competency hearing. Powers didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

Powers, a software engineer, indicated that she had recently gone through a divorce.

She researched Ross’ crimes, but concluded that they were the result of a significant mental illness.

Letters finally gave way to visits. Powers described being "petrified" the first time she met Ross. For Powers, romantic feelings for Ross developed over time.

Powers said she tries to see the good in people.

"I think that anybody -- everybody, regardless of what they had done, I think there is some good in them; that they deserve and need to be loved just like anybody else," Powers said in the deposition. "I do care very much for him and I love him."

She decided to help him, and put his writings, such as his "Walking with Michael" essays, on the Internet.

Powers’ ex-husband, Kevin Johnson of Oklahoma, has a different version of the timeline of events. He said he was still married to Powers when she began communicating with Ross.

"I thought it was a platonic thing," Johnson said. "She has had an interest in serial killers."

At the time, Johnson said he was aware Powers helped Ross by putting his writings on the Internet. Johnson didn’t get a hint that there was more to the relationship until one day when Powers got angry with him.

"She got mad at me one day and told me she and Michael were going to get married," Johnson said.

Johnson and Powers split up for a while, but tried to make their relationship work.

"One of the conditions was that she stop communicating with him," Johnson said. "I think she realized at the time that it was self-destructive."

He and Powers finally divorced in 2002, and he no longer has any contact with her, he said.

J. Edward Lynch, an associate professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern Connecticut State University, said Powers must know that Ross was never really available as a partner, and likely was attracted to him for that reason.

"Oftentimes, people are champions for the underdog," Lynch said. "She may feel that as bad as he is, he is a human being and not a monster."

Powers isn’t unique -- books have been written on the topic of women who begin relationships with convicted killers.

For many of these women, it is about control, according to Lynch.

"All the comings and goings and contact are controlled by the woman," Lynch said. "They feel like they are the lifeline to the outside, which probably makes her feel like she has control and power."

Ross and Powers would meet periodically, but glass always separated them. They would arrange to watch television programs at the same time, like "Charmed" and "Star Trek: Enterprise," which he and Powers would later discuss.

In mid- to late-2002, Powers cut off all communication with Ross, as she says she had second thoughts about being in a relationship with someone in prison.

Powers wrote to him again in December 2004, after seeing a news article about Ross’ upcoming execution.

Powers felt guilty, that she was responsible for his decision to forgo appeals because she left him. During their relationship, she claimed he never talked about waiving his appeals.

Powers tried to change his mind, sometimes crying on the phone with him.

Powers agreed to give a deposition and got involved with his recent competency evaluation, as she said she felt Ross’ life was more important than her job. Efforts were made to conceal her identity. Court documents identify her only as "Susan," and she didn’t appear in court.

Powers recently resigned from a Lawton, Okla.-based software company, and indicated that she would be moving out of state, according to a newspaper there, the Lawton Constitution.

Love letters entered into evidence in court provide insight into the relationship.

Ross begged for Powers’ forgiveness for accepting his death sentence and proceeding with his execution. He told her it was good to be with her again, even through glass.

"I need to feel your love to counter the hatred of the world that is directed toward me," Ross wrote.

Some of Ross’ letters were decorated with flowers and poetry. He told her that while they aren’t legally married, to him, she is his wife.

"I don’t want to be executed and leave you, but I have no choice," Ross wrote to Powers. "I cannot allow the system to continue to hurt the families of my victims."

Ross said he feared that she may not be able to forgive him for letting the execution go forward.

"I don’t want to leave you -- I just got you back -- but I have no choice, and it is tearing me apart inside," Ross wrote. "The woman of my life, who I love, who abandoned me, has come back into my life. But now I must go and abandon her. And I hate that."

Michelle Tuccitto can be reached at mtuccitto@nhregister.com, or (203) 789-5615.


Ross executed after 18 years on death row
Friday, May 13, 2005
By Trip Jennings:  Republican-American

SOMERS -- Serial killer Michael Ross was put to death shortly after 2 a.m. today, becoming the first person executed in New England in 45 years.

His execution came 18 years after being sentenced to death for murdering four Connecticut women and months after court battles during which several judges ruled him competent.

The legal wrangling continued until 11 p.m., when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected two appeals filed on behalf of Ross' father and sister. "As of right this moment, there is nothing more we know of filed in Connecticut that could block this," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said late Thursday.

Three hours later, about 20 witnesses -- relatives of Ross' victims, friends and several reporters -- watched prison staff inject a c*cktail of deadly chemicals into Ross' left arm.

For his last meal about 3:30 p.m., Ross ate the same as other inmates at Osborn Correctional Institution: turkey a la king, rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, a fruit cup and a beverage.

A few hours later, a vigil at Somers Congregational Church drew hundreds of protesters who gathered near the prison, anti-death penalty signs waving as they waited for word on whether Ross had become the first person executed in Connecticut since Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborksy was electrocuted in 1960. They sang "We Shall Overcome"and some silently carried candles.

Also among the crowd were some who called for justice, including four high school students from Somers who chose Ross' death watch over staying home to watch the popular teenage drama "The O.C."

"A lot of the victims were our age and that's the scary thing," said Ashley Winters, 14. "I haven't even had a life yet and he took theirs."

Ross tied the state's legal establishment in knots since October 2004, when he waived all remaining appeals and decided he wanted to die. In late January, state and federal courts swatted down numerous challenges to his execution before his attorney halted it 80 minutes before it was scheduled to occur. Ross' attorney, T.R. Paulding, wondered if his client suffered from "Death Row Syndrome," a malady suggested by a federal judge who earlier that day had threatened Paulding's law license if he didn't stop the execution.

A New London Superior Court judge found Ross competent last month after a weeklong hearing. The ruling provoked the latest round of legal challenges, the last of which were being contemplated by federal judges late Thursday.

An appeal by Ross' sister was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court shortly before 10 p.m. A second appeal was filed with the nation's top court earlier in the day.

By 11, Blumenthal had confirmed both appeals were denied.

Ross, an Ivy League-educated former insurance salesman, was sentenced to death for the murders of four young eastern Connecticut women in 1983 and 1984. He admitted to killing eight women in all, including 16-year-old Paula Perrera in upstate New York.

The details of the crimes were grisly. His victims ranged in age from 14 to 25. He raped all but one and straddled most from behind and strangled them. Two -- Leslie Shelley and April Brunais -- were 14- year-old best friends. His last victim, 17-year-old Wendy Baribeault, was buried within a stone wall off Route 12.

Ross' decision to die generated a statewide debate on the morality of the death penalty. An attempt to abolish the death penalty by some state lawmakers made it as far as the floor of the House of Representatives, where it was defeated 89-60.

Anti-death penalty advocates argued executions cost more than putting people away for life. They pointed to the state Department of Correction spending nearly $300,000 in the days before Ross' scheduled execution date in late January, including $241,000 for personnel costs, $2,817 for medical supplies and $9,637 for rentals.

They also argued the death penalty has never acted as a deterrent. From 1973 to 2003, Connecticut reported 4,330 murders or non-negligent manslaughters despite having the death penalty, or a little more than 100 a year, according to the Office of Legislative Research.

But supporters of the death penalty argued the state rarely sentences people to death and they are the worst of the worst. Since 1973, when the legislature re-wrote the state's capital punishment law, about 10 death penalties have been handed down by juries or three-judge panels out of the 194 people charged with a capital felony.

Connecticut and New Hampshire are the only New England states to have the death penalty. New York has no death penalty law after the courts declared it unconstitutional and that state's legislature refused this year to rewrite it.

Ross has said he wants to die to end the pain of his victims' families. But in 1998 correspondence to a friend, Ross admitted to having suicidal thoughts -- he has attempted to kill himself three times -- but admitted he was "driven more by a desire to end my own pain than out of" concern for the families of his victims.

Later in a June 2003 letter, Ross wrote "I honestly don't think that I can do much more of this," referring to life on death row.

Death row inmates spend 22 or 23 hours each day locked in cells only 7 feet by 12 feet at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, where Ross lived from March 1985 until Oct. 21, when he was transferred to Osborn Correctional Institution, where death sentences are carried out.


Victims' families, media members among witnesses to execution

SOMERS (AP) -- After waiting two decades for justice, the families of serial killer Michael Ross' victims expressed relief Friday that the man who brutally murdered eight young women in Connecticut and New York was put to death.

"They finally have the justice they deserve, and now they can all rest in peace," said Lera Shelley of Griswold, whose 14-year-old daughter, Leslie, was strangled.

Twenty-one people witnessed Ross' death by lethal injection early Friday, the first execution in New England in 45 years. The list included nine relatives of Ross' victims, a victim's advocate, the two state police detectives who worked on the case, five members of the media and four people chosen by Ross - a group that included two priests.

For the families, it was the culmination of a long roller coaster ride of emotions.

"None of you know what we went through tonight," said Debbie Dupris, sister of murder victim Robin Stavinsky. "I thought I would feel closure, but I felt anger just watching him lay there and sleep after what he did to those women."

According to the media witnesses, some of the family members could be heard commenting as Ross waited on the gurney. One was overheard complaining, "He didn't even look over here," when Ross declined to make a final statement. Another said, "It's too peaceful."

Ross was sent to death row for the killings of four young women and girls in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s. He admitted killing four others in Connecticut and New York. Lan Tu traveled from Maryland to Connecticut on Thursday to represent his family during the execution.

His sister, Dzung Ngoc Tu, was Ross' first victim. Although he wasn't allowed to witness Ross' death - the serial killer was not sentenced to die for killing Dzung Ngoc Tu - the Department of Correction let him wait in a room close to the death chamber. He said it was a comfort to be nearby.

"We will always miss my sister and I feel that this was only a small measure of justice for the pain Michael Ross caused our family and the loss. It is an ending," said Tu, who was asked by his family, including members living in their native Vietnam, to attend the execution.

Tu said he believed Ross' death would make him feel a little better.

"Probably because I will not have to hear about Michael Ross again and knowing he is not around and not hearing about all the people fussing about him," Tu said.

Ross, 45, decided last year to give up his appeals and accept his death sentence.

Jennifer Tabor, stepsister of Robin Stavinsky, and other family members expressed sorrow for Ross' family and thanked the police, prosecutors and state officials for pursuing the case all these years.

"We know that the sadness of losing Robin will always remain," Tabor said. "Now the anger caused by Michael Ross' crimes will begin to fade."

The Rev. John Giuliani, one of Ross' spiritual advisers, said the families of Ross' victims may finally find peace if they can forgive Ross for his horrific crimes.

"To forgive is profoundly difficult and yet, at the same time, unless we come to that act of forgiveness we will not find peace ourselves," Giuliani said.

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