NATIONAL NEWS

Florida executes ‘ninja killer’ for couple’s 1989 death

Apr 11, 2023, 10:04 PM | Updated: Apr 12, 2023, 5:56 pm

This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Louis Bernard Gaskin. Ga...

This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Louis Bernard Gaskin. Gaskin, convicted of a 1989 double slaying in Florida for which he was dubbed the “ninja killer,” is set for execution in April 2023 under a death warrant signed Monday, March 13, 2023, by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Florida Department of Corrections via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Florida Department of Corrections via AP)

STARKE, Fla. (AP) — Florida executed a man known as the “ninja killer” on Wednesday for the 1989 slayings of a couple visiting the state from New Jersey.

Louis Bernard Gaskin, 56, was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection, the governor’s office said. He was convicted of killing Robert Sturmfels, 56, and Georgette Sturmfels, 55, on Dec. 20, 1989, in their Flagler County winter home on Florida’s northeastern coast.

Gaskin woke up at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and had his last meal at 9:45 a.m., Department of Corrections spokesperson Kayla McLaughlin Smith said during a news conference. The meal included BBQ pork ribs, pork and turkey neck, Buffalo wings, shrimp fried rice, french fries and water.

Gaskin was visited by his sister Wednesday, but he did not meet with a spiritual adviser, McLaughlin Smith said. No relatives of the victims had arranged to be in the witness room during the execution, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. and started without delay.

When asked if he had any final statement, Gaskin said: “Justice is not about the crime. It’s not about the criminal. It’s about the law.”

He then referred to the legal proceedings surrounding his case and the appeals and finished his statement saying, “Look at my case.”

Gaskin began receiving the lethal cocktail of drugs at 6:02 p.m., causing him to breathe heavily as his chest rose and fell under a white sheet. The prison’s warden went to check on whether Gaskin was still conscious at 6:05 p.m. He didn’t respond. Gaskin’s breathing appeared to stop at 6:07 p.m. A doctor entered the death chamber at 6:14 p.m. to examine Gaskin and declared him dead a minute later.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been signing death warrants at a rapid pace this year as he prepares his widely expected presidential campaign. He oversaw only two executions in his first four years in office, both in 2019.

Gaskin’s execution came six weeks after Donald Dillbeck, 59, was put to death for the 1990 murder of Faye Vann, 44, in Tallahassee, and three weeks before the scheduled execution of Darryl B. Barwick for slaying Rebecca Wendt, 24, in 1986 in Panama City.

Barring any stays for Barwick, it will be the shortest period that three executions have been carried out in Florida since three were put to death within 36 days in 2014 under former Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican.

Gaskin’s death marked the state’s 101st execution since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. There are an additional 297 people on Florida’s death row, which is located at Florida State Prison, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Jacksonville.

Gaskin, who was dubbed the “ninja killer” because he wore all-black ninja clothing during the crimes, shot his victims with a .22-caliber rifle, investigators said. He was convicted of first-degree murder.

Property that he stole from the Sturmfels’ home — a clock, two lamps and a videocassette recorder — was found at his residence and were intended to be Christmas gifts for his girlfriend, according to investigators. He was also convicted of armed robbery, burglary and the attempted murder that same night of another couple who lived nearby.

Local media reported at the time that Gaskin quickly confessed to the crimes and told a psychologist before his trial that he knew what he was doing.

“The guilt was always there,” Gaskin said. “The devil had more of a hold than God did. I knew that I was wrong. I wasn’t insane.”

Jurors voted 8-4 in 1990 to recommend the death sentence, which the judge accepted. Florida law now requires a unanimous jury vote for capital punishment, although the Legislature could send DeSantis a bill this week that would allow 8-4 jury recommendations for capital punishment.

The state and U.S. supreme courts rejected appeals Gaskin filed since his death warrant was signed. The latest denial came Tuesday.

___

This story has been updated to correct the number of people executed by Florida since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

National News

FILE - Misy Sifre, 17, and others protest for transgender rights at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, ...

Associated Press

Days before a Biden rule against anti-LGBTQ+ bias takes effect, judges are narrowing its reach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New federal court rulings are narrowing the Biden administration’s enforcement of a rule for protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and allowing critics to limit it even further school by school. A federal judge in Missouri blocked enforcement of the rule in six additional states, bringing the total to 21. The decision […]

9 minutes ago

Assembly line worker Sheila Buckley tries to keep cool while on the picket line as members of Unite...

Associated Press

Workers at GM seat supplier in Missouri each tentative agreement, end strike

The union representing workers a Lear Corp. plant in Missouri that makes seats for General Motors vehicles said Thursday it reached a tentative agreement with the company, ending a strike that was in its fourth day. About 480 workers at Lear Corp. in Wentzville who walked out at midnight Sunday are back at work. They […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

Daughter of Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on trial, accused of abandoning newborn in cold

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The trial began Thursday for the daughter of baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who is accused of abandoning her baby after giving birth in the woods in subfreezing temperatures on Christmas night in 2022. Attorneys for Alexandra Eckersley, 27, said she didn’t know she was pregnant, thought the child […]

34 minutes ago

Associated Press

Chicken wings advertised as ‘boneless’ can have bones, Ohio Supreme Court decides

Consumers cannot expect boneless chicken wings to actually be free of bones, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting claims by a restaurant patron who suffered serious medical complications from getting a bone stuck in his throat. Michael Berkheimer was dining with his wife and friends at a wing joint in Hamilton, Ohio, and […]

52 minutes ago

FILE - The sign for Norwood Hospital, a Steward Health Care hospital, is seen, June 29, 2020, in No...

Associated Press

Senate committee votes to investigate Steward Health Care bankruptcy and subpoena its CEO

BOSTON (AP) — A Senate committee voted Thursday to authorize an investigation into the bankruptcy of Steward Health Care and to subpoena the company’s CEO, Dr. Ralph de la Torre. The subpoena would compel de la Torre to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at a hearing on Sept. 12. De […]

1 hour ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters ahead of a Wednesday visit by Israel...

Associated Press

House Republicans vote to rebuke Kamala Harris over administration’s handling of border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are moving quickly to emphasize Vice President Kamala Harris’s role in the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S. border with Mexico, passing a resolution Thursday that condemns her performance in the job. The resolution, which is purely symbolic, echoes an attack line that Republican Donald Trump has taken against Harris […]

1 hour ago

Florida executes ‘ninja killer’ for couple’s 1989 death