Florida man executed for 1993 rape, murder of college student

By Ray Downs  |  Feb. 22, 2018 at 9:52 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A man convicted for the rape and murder of a college student in 1993 was executed in Florida on Thursday.

Eric Branch, 47, was killed via lethal injection at Florida State Prison at approximately 6 p.m. Before the injection was administered, he begged officials not to carry out his death sentence and shouted, "Murderers!" at his executioners, the Pensacola News Journal reported.

Florida Department of Corrections Communications Director Michelle Glady said Branch's last meal consisted of "pork chops, a t-bone steak, french fries, two pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and a bottle of ginger ale."

He ate with his daughter at approximately 10 a.m., WEAR-TV reported.

Branch spent the last 25 years on death row for the 1993 murder of 21-year-old Susan Morris, a television production student at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

"When Susan Morris, a young college student, approached her car after attending an evening class, January 11, 1993, Branch accosted her and stole her red Toyota," according to court documents. "Morris's nude body was found later in nearby woods; she had been beaten, stomped, sexually assaulted and strangled. She bore numerous bruises and lacerations, both eyes were swollen shut, and a wooden stick was broken off in her vagina."

Branch fled the area after the murder but was arrested a few days later in Indiana and charged with first-degree murder, sexual battery and grand theft. Witnesses saw Branch driving Morris car in Bowling Green, Ky. and her DNA, including blood, was later found on his boots, belt buckle and shorts.

A jury found him guilty on all charges and voted 10-2 for the death penalty.

Branch later appealed his death sentence on grounds that the jury vote had to be unanimous but that appeal was denied.

He is the fourth person to be executed in the United States in 2018. The three previous executions took place in Texas.

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