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State follows through with execution

LUCASVILLE – This morning, convicted killer John W.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

LUCASVILLE – This morning, convicted killer John W. Byrd became the third Ohio man put to death by the state since 1963.

Byrd, 38, died by lethal injection at 10:09 a.m. this morning, Joe Case, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery said.

Byrd was executed for the 1983 slaying of Monte Tewksbury, 40, who was stabbed during a robbery at the suburban Cincinnati convenience store where he worked. Tewksbury, a Procter & Gamble Co. employee, was moonlighting to pay for his daughter’s education.

Byrd had insisted he couldn’t remember the events of the night Tewksbury was killed because he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He said the evidence in the case does not prove he’s guilty.

Attempts were made this morning by Byrd’s attorneys to receive a stay of execution, but the legal wranglings were to no avail. A federal appeals court refused this morning to stop the execution.

Byrd arrived at the prison just before noon yesterday. Last night, according to prison officials, Byrd was served a meal of his choice which included a T-bone steak with steak sauce, a chef salad with bleu cheese dressing and grape soda for his ”special” meal.

This morning, prison officials said, Byrd awoke at about 5:13 a.m., shaved and showered. Byrd opted to forgo a pancakes and grits breakfast given to all prisoners.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ended an appeal by Byrd based on his ”actual innocence.” Gov. Bob Taft denied Byrd clemency the next day.

The ”actual innocence” appeal had been based in part on a confession signed by John Brewer, an accomplice in the robbery who claimed that he stabbed Tewksbury. Prosecutors discounted the confession, saying Brewer is trying to spare Byrd’s life.

Byrd had originally chosen the electric chair as his method of execution, first scheduled for Sept. 12. He said he wanted to demonstrate the brutality of capital punishment by choosing the chair, which has not been used for an Ohio execution since 1963.

However, the Legislature has since banned the chair’s use, leaving lethal injection as the sole means of execution in Ohio.

Byrd’s execution would be the third in Ohio since 1963. All have taken place in the past three years. Wilford Berry, who waived his appeals and asked the state to execute him for a 1989 murder, was put to death in 1999. Jay D. Scott was executed last June 14 for a 1983 murder.

Byrd was the first inmate executed since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981 to claim he was innocent.

Including Byrd, Ohio has 201 men on death row including one Lawrence County resident, Keith LaMar.

LaMar has been on death row since Dec. 31, 1995 for the part he allegedly played in the 1993 inmate insurrection at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility in Lucasville.

During the 11-day Easter riots, the state alleges, LaMar was implicated in the deaths of nine prisoners and the murder of a corrections officer, Robert Vallandingham.

<I>The Associated Press contributed to this article.<I>