This week in 1999
“I forgive all of you.”
— Manuel Pina Babbitt, convicted of rape and murder, lethal injection, California.
Executed May 4, 1999
Leah Schendel, age seventy-eight, did not die of the beating Babbitt gave her. What killed her was the heart attack she suffered from the ordeal. Babbitt, a paranoid schizophrenic and Vietnam War veteran, denied any recollection of what he had done. During his appeal, his lawyers said the post-traumatic stress syndrome he suffered in the wake of his two tours of duty in Vietnam caused him to black out during the murder.
Babbitt was awarded the Purple Heart while on death row.
This week in 1989
“I hope and pray that all the new and reopened wounds will be healed quickly after my passing. My death is the Lord’s will and I am now with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven.”
— Aubrey Adams JR., convicted of murder, electric chair, Florida.
Executed May 4, 1989
Adams, a prison guard at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to death for smothering eight-year-old Trisa Gail Thornley. He had made an obscene phone call to the child’s home and then took her from the residence. Naked and mutilated, her body was found two months later in a plastic bag.
Outside the prison, Thornley’s mother told reporters: “It’s a decade too late, but we finally got justice today. I wish my husband were here today. This killed him.”
This week in 1868
“Gentlemen, do you see this hand? Does it tremble? I never hurt a hair of that girl’s head.”
— Tom Dula, aka Thomas C. Dula, convicted of murder, hanging, North Carolina.
Executed May 1, 1868
The name Tom Dula was provincially pronounced “Tom Dooley,” and his case was the basis for the murder ballad of the same name, made famous by folksingers—particularly the Kingston Trio in 1958. Few facts from the case, however, are reflected in the song lyrics and its famous bridge, “Hang down your head Tom Dooley . . .”
In May 1866, Dula and accused accomplice Ann Melton were arrested for the murder of Laura Foster in a sordid love-triangle scenario.
Melton was exonerated a few months after Dula’s execution.