Rook executed for killing nurse


RALEIGH, N.C. -- Wearing his favorite cowboy boots and proclaiming 'Freedom, freedom -- at last, man!' John Rook was executed by injection today for the rape and murder of a 25-year-old nurse.

Rook, 27, lost his bid for a stay on 5-4 Supreme Court vote shortly before midnight EDT and was wheeled into the Central Prison execution chamber about 2 a.m. wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, blue jeans and his Dingo boots.


'Freedom, freedom -- at last, man! It's been a good one,' said Rook, a feisty inmate who stood 5-foot-4 with braided, waist-length blond hair and a beard that hung midway down his chest.

Rook, whose execution had been postponed five times, received a lethal injection of the muscle relaxant procuronium bromide and was pronounced dead at 2:11 a.m., corrections spokeswoman Renee McCoy said.

'He seemed to be very peaceful,' said witness Lisa Shell. 'He took several deep breaths (and) sighs and then there was a sunken impression on his chest.'

Rook was convicted of killing Ann Marie Roche, 25, a Raleigh nurse he abducted and raped during a 1980 drinking spree. The woman was beaten with a tire iron, slashed with a knife, run over with a car and left to die in an isolated field, police said. Her body was still warm when found the next day -- evidence her death had been long and painful, experts said.


Rook ordered a final meal of 12 hot dogs 'all the way' Thursday but only ate three, McCoy said. He made a point of telling officials that he planned to wear his Harley-Davidson T-Shirt and Dingo boots to the execution chamber.

Rook was the 66th person nationwide and the third in North Carolina to be executed since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. Velma Barfield, a 54-year-old grandmother put to death in 1984, was the state's last execution.

Texas leads the nation in the number of post-1976 executions with 18.

Attorneys for Rook had asked the Supreme Court to grant the stay on grounds the death penalty discriminates against males, poor people and those whose victims are white. Rook and Roche were white.

Rook's attorneys said in asking Gov. Jim Martin to grant clemency that the state is partly to blame for failing to intervene in Rook's family situation. Rook's brother said their father once stripped young Rook naked and beat him with a belt until he bled, and often gave Rook liquor and beer as early as age 4 to watch him get 'stone drunk.'

Martin's decision not to grant clemency came about 12 hours before the scheduled execution.


Rook's execution was originally set for Jan. 9, 1981, but had been postponed five times. His case also had been before the Supreme Court five times.

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