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Carl Elson Shriner, who spent most of his 30...

By BILL LOHMANN

STARKE, Fla. -- Carl Elson Shriner, who spent most of his 30 years behind bars but found 'the light' on death row, died in the electric chair today for the murder of a young mother in a convenience store holdup.

Shriner, who was sent to reform school when he was 8, died at 7:12 a.m. in the wooden electric chair at Florida State Prison.

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He was the 20th man executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and the sixth in Florida -- twice as many as any other state.

After he was strapped into the chair, the lanky Shriner read a final statement from a paper held in front of him by Prisons Superintendent Richard Dugger.

'Many of my friends have mentioned for me to look for the light,' Shriner said in a steady voice. 'But I already saw the light when I accepted Christ years ago. Only now I get to go stand in it and enjoy it with the Lord.'

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Shriner nodded to his attorney, Ken Lawrence, one of 25 people in the witness chamber. When black-hooded executioner -- hired for $150 a job through classified advertising -- threw the switch, up to 2,000 volts surged through Shriner's body. His chest heaved and his fists clenched, and the body did not relax until the current was turned off 90 seconds later.

Prison spokesman Vernon Bradford said Shriner spent a sleepless night meeting with his minister, the Rev. Fred Lawrence, and ate a hearty last meal of steak, potatoes, corn on the cob, salad, cantaloupe, strawberries and ice cream.

'He ate everything from the cream on the strawberries to the ice cream in the cantaloupe,' said Bradford.

Shriner then took a shower and was shaved in preparation for the 7 a.m. EDT execution in the three-legged, oaken electric chair called 'Old Sparky' by the 219 men and one woman on Florida's death row.

About 40 demonstrators, nearly all of them agaist the death penalty, gathered in pre-dawn fog outside the gate of the sprawling Florida State Prison.

Shriner told reporters Monday he had found Christ in prison and was prepared to die.

'Spiritually I ain't scared, but physically, as long as I'm in this human form, I'm scared,' Shriner said.

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He was sentenced to die for the Oct. 22, 1976, murder of Judith Ann Carter, 34, during the robbery of a Gainesville convenience store where she worked. Mrs. Carter, the mother of four young children, was shot five times.

Shriner, one of 10 children of a Cleveland window washer and his wife, who now lives in Phoenix, Ariz., had been released from a Florida prison only 23 days before the murder after serving most of a five-year term for robbery in Miami.

He admitted driving the getaway car, but another man, whom he refused to name, killed Mrs. Carter. That claim was never made at his trial.

Shriner was first scheduled to be executed April 21, 1982, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta intervened after attorneys claimed he had ineffective trial counsel.

The Atlanta court intervened again Monday, but lifted the temporary stay late Tuesday, saying his claims of ineffective trial counsel had 'either been previously determined, have no merit or constitute an abuse of the writ.'

Defense lawyers then went to the Supreme Court, which took only 90 minutes to vote 6-2 vote not to block the execution.

Shriner said he felt sorry for Mrs. Carter's family, but added 'I don't know the people personally. My family loves me just like your family loves you.'

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He said neither his parents, nor any of his seven brothers and two sisters could afford tocome across country from Phoenix to witness the execution.

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