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Two-time murderer executed

By
MARY SCHLANGENSTEIN

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Jay Kelly Pinkerton, a butcher who killed and mutilated two women when he was a teenager, was executed Thursday, the youngest person to be put to death in the United States since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment.

Pinkerton, 24, of Amarillo was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. EDT.

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He was executed by injection for the 1979 murder-rape-mutilation of Amarillo housewife Sarah Donn Lawrence, killed when Pinkerton was 17.

'Be strong for me,' Pinkerton said to his father, Gene,his only personal witness, from the gurney in the death chamber. 'I want you to know I'm at peace with myself and with my God. Say goodbye to Mom.'

After the fatal drugs began to flow into his arm, the killer said a Moslem chant. His father said, 'Bye, Jay.'

Pinkerton answered, 'I love you, Dad.' His final words were, 'I feel dizziness. I feel dizziness.'

The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected two frantic appeals by Pinkerton. The second he wrote from his prison cell Wednesday night and had his mother rush to Houston.

But U.S. District Judge Hayden W. Head Jr. rejected the appeal, as did the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and the Supreme Court.

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Gov. Mark White also refused to intervene.

Pinkerton was the 57th person executed in the United States and the 13th in Texas since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in 1976. He was the youngest person put to death since executions resumed in 1977 and the third executed for crimes committed as a minor.

June Morgan of New Waverly, Lawrence's aunt, waited at the prison early Thursday for word that Pinkerton had been executed.

'That man is an animal,' she said. 'It should have been done a long time ago. I'm here for Sarah and her babies.'

In his final appeal, the second to come before the high court Wednesday, Pinkerton claimed he received ineffective counsel and that a prosecution fingerprint witness had lied at his trial.

The earlier appeal rejected by the court claimed the jury was not asked to determine whether Lawrence's death was a justifiable homicide.

Charles Brown, spokesman for the Texas Department of Corrections, described Pinkerton, who was moved Wednesday morning from his death-row cell to a holding cell adjacent to the death chamber, as 'tired but calm.'

Pinkerton was visited during the afternoon by his parents, Margie and Gene Pinkerton, and a friend, Sari Chase, prison spokesman Phil Guthrie said.

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His last meal was a fish sandwich, french fries and milk. The condemned man had fasted all day in observance of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, Brown said.

In Pinkerton's first appeal with the high court Wednesday, Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall voted in favor of the stay, against the majority, with Marshall citing Pinkerton's age at the time of the crime.

'This court has not yet considered whether imposition of the death penalty for a minor's crimes is so antagonistic to civilized notions of morality as to transgress the bounds imposed by the Constitution,' Marshall said. 'I believe it is time for this court to address this issue of profound significance.'

The apprentice meat cutter was convicted of breaking into Lawrence's house, raping her and stabbing her more than 30 times with a Bowie knife while her children slept in nearby bedrooms. The woman's throat was slashed, and she was sexually abused and mutilated after her death, investigators said.

Pinkerton also was sentenced to die for the 1980 rape-slaying of Amarillo beauty queen Sherry Lynn Welch, who was attacked and stabbed more than 30 times while waiting for her husband at a furniture store.

A series of state and federal courts refused to intervene Tuesday.

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Pinkerton had escaped three earlier execution dates for Lawrence's murder, though he once came within 25 minutes of death before the Supreme Court intervened.

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