SMYRNA, Del., Jan. 25 -- A few minutes before midnight Wednesday, a cold wind whistled through the wooden gallows at the Delaware Correctional Center in Smyna Delaware. Billy Bailey, 49, escorted by two guards, climbed slowly up 23 steps and stood on a platform containing a trap door. Prison Warden Robert Snyder asked Bailey if he had any last words. Snyder did not hear Bailey's reply. 'Pardon?' Snyder said, pronouncing the last word Bailey was to hear. 'No sir.' Bailey repeated. Prison officials then placed a black hood over Bailey's head and fitted a hangman's noose around his neck. Bailey squeezed his right fist into a tight ball. A moment later, at 12:04 a.m., Snyder gripped a gray wooden lever with two hands and pulled. The trap door opened with a thud and Bailey dropped 10 feet, stopping several feet above the ground. His body spun at the end of the rope rapidly five or six times before halting. Guards lowered a white cloth around the hanging man, obscuring the view of about 30 official witnesses. Only Bailey's dangling white sneakers were visible as he died for the 1979 shootings of Gilbert Lambertson and Lambertson's 73-year-old Wife, Clara. Outside, about 150 demonstrators -- for and against the death penalty -- congregated. Officials set up fencing between the two groups. Still, pro-death penalty demonstrators shouted taunts at those opposing the execution. The victims' great-grandson, Chris Lambertson, 20, of Dover, Del., stood in the sub-freezing temperatures outside of the prison waiting for word of Billy Bailey's execution.
'I'm out here to see that justice is served,' said Lambertson. 'Just because Billy Bailey wanted their truck, he killed my great- grandparents. Without a doubt, he should die.' Kathleen Day, 17, of Baltimore, Md., and five classmates from Notre Dame Prep School in Towson, Md., came with their teacher to protest the execution. 'I'm against the death penalty because killing Billy Bailey doesn't solve anything,' said Day. 'My parents are all for the hanging, but I told them it's wrong to kill and two wrongs don't make a right.' Bailey's execution was Delaware's first by hanging in 50 years, and only the third in the country since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. Bailey, who had refused the offer to be executed by lethal injection, was pronounced dead 15 minutes after midnight. Delaware changed its form of execution to lethal injection in 1986. But Bailey and two other condemned men were sentenced to die before the change. All three were offered the chance to die by lethal injection. William Flamer, who is scheduled to die Jan. 30, opted for lethal injection. James Riley has yet to choose his form of execution. When he was first sentenced to death, Bailey said he wanted to die and even offered to buy the rope himself. But Lyons said Bailey changed his mind in 1987, and decided he's rather spend the rest of his life in prison. In a recent newspaper interview Bailey said he did not choose death by hanging. 'The state chose it for me,' he told the Wilmington News Journal. 'Asking a man to choose how to die is more barbaric than hanging.' Bailey was convicted of shooting the Lambertsons, of rural Cheswold, Del., shortly after walking away from a prison work release program. The couple died of multiple gunshot wounds from a .25-caliber handgun and a shotgun. Bailey said he did not remember the killings because he was drunk and high on Valium. One of 23 children, Bailey grew up in foster homes following the death of his parents. Lyons said Bailey was diagnosed as being mentally ill at the age of 12 and was abused as a child. The hanging sent Delaware officials hunting for advice on how to carry one out, since no one could remember how to prepare the rope. One of their textbooks was a U.S. Army manual on executions. For his last meal, the condemned man ate steak, well-done with steak sauce, a baked potato with sour cream and butter, buttered rolls, peas and vanilla ice cream.