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Davis pays final price

Colorado excutes man convicted of murdering woman in 1986

Published October 14, 1997 at 7:43 p.m.

Eleven years after he raped and murdered Ginny May, Gary Lee Davis was executed Monday night, the first criminal put to death in Colorado in 30 years.

An alcoholic with an appetite for sexually abusing women, Davis , 53, was pronounced dead at 8:33 p.m. after prison officials injected lethal drugs into his arm in the State Penitentiary's death chamber.

Davis had no last words for his family or his victim and her family.

His final appeals exhausted after a decade on death row, Davis appeared ready for death.

He thanked the priest who had become his spiritual adviser.

Witnesses said Davis' eyes were half-closed, and as the fatal drugs hit, he let out a gasp.

"From that point on, everything was fairly peaceful,'' said Ernest Gurule, a newsman for KWGN-CH. 2 who witnessed the execution. "There was no visible struggle. He seemed to have accepted his fate.''

After the $448 in lethal chemicals killed Davis , the man who prosecuted him turned to May's father and stuck out his hand.

"Put 'er there, pal,'' Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant told Rod MacLennan.

After witnessing the execution of his daughter's killer, MacLennan said:

"Colorado courageously carried out the sentence of death. . . . Witnessing the death of anyone is not a pretty sight, regardless of who it is or where it is.

"In this case, it was quiet, it was subdued. There was little or no emotion.

"And compared to the sentence of death imposed by Gary Lee Davis on Ginny and the way it was carried out, . . . he was indeed fortunate that the people of Colorado, in exacting the penalty he so justly deserved, showed compassion.''

He said he and his family regret not being with Ginny May in her time of need. But he said he was glad to witness the execution "to finalize the last chapter of her life by watching Gary Lee Davis die.''

"Our family will not waste any more time thinking about Gary Lee Davis any more. It does give us peace of mind that he can never, ever prey upon another innocent victim.''

Davis was convicted of the July 21, 1986, torture-murder of the Byers woman, a housewife and mother of two young children.

Davis and his former wife, Rebecca Fincham, abducted May, 33, in front of May's two young children and took her to a remote hay field in eastern Adams County to use her as their sex slave.

May begged for her life, even offering Davis and Fincham $1,000 if they would spare her.

They raped her, then struck her with the stock of a .22-caliber rifle. Finally, they shot her 14 times. Fincham is serving life in prison.

The finality of Davis' death brought weary relief to his victim's family.

"There now will come some sense of peace, some closure,'' Grant said. "There are many victims of Gary Davis . . . . Not just Ginny May or Ginny May's family, husband or children, mom or dad and her siblings. Gary Davis ' family, too, are victims of Gary Davis , and I have a lot of empathy for them.''

One of Davis' three former wives and four of his children visited him during the day.

At 4:30 p.m., Davis shared a last meal of chocolate and vanilla ice cream cups with penitentiary Superintendent Donice Neal and an unidentified prison manager.

Some of those who talked with him said he seemed largely upbeat, but as the 8 p.m. hour of death approached, Davis became somewhat agitated.

The Rev. Ben Bacino, a Roman Catholic priest who had become his spiritual adviser, said Davis cried when he met with his two daughters.

"He broke down at that particular point and shed tears,'' Bacino said.

The last hour of Davis ' life began at 7:29 p.m. when he was brought back from his shower in a clean set of prison greens.

At 7:56, five prison employees led Davis in handcuffs and chains into the death chamber.

Neal read the execution warrant to Davis . The 11 witnesses were led into the room to observe his death.

At 8:21 the execution preparations complete, Gov. Roy Romer gave the go-ahead. The phone line to the Governor's Mansion was disconnected. The curtain to the witness room was opened.

At 8:24 Neal instructed the injection team to begin administering the fatal drugs.

Syringes - some with the lethal drugs sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - were injected to both intravenous lines. Syringes of saline solution also were injected. The syringes were deliberately unmarked so injection team members would not know who actually delivered the death drugs.

At the prison gates, more than 200 death penalty opponents held a candlelight vigil. Alongside, about half as many death penalty supporters countered with their view.

In their own protest, prisoners moved blankets up and down in front of their windows, making it look as if lights were flickering.

No one from Davis' family attended the execution.

Under a nearly full moon, a coroner's van carrying Davis ' body rolled slowly down the road out of the prison., Funeral arrangements, which were not disclosed, have been made by Davis ' family.

The body will be cremated and the ashes shared among his children.

Davis became the 78th person executed in Colorado since 1890 but the first since Denver insurance salesman Luis Monge died in the gas chamber in 1967 for murdering his wife and three of his children.

Colorado's return to executing criminals comes amid a surge in capital punishment across the nation.

Davis was the 59th U.S. prisoner executed this year - the highest total since 1957, when 65 people were put to death.

Romer cleared the way for the execution after rejecting a clemency petition that included a videotape of Davis and letters and videos from friends and family members.

As more than 500 death penalty opponents protested outside the Governor's Mansion, Romer waited inside for the call that would tell him the sentence had been carried out.

"I don't want to seem callous about this, but I came to terms with this some time ago,'' Romer said. ``There has to be a consequence for a crime this heinous.''

In Byers, the small Plains ranching community where May lived and died, tears flowed freely. May's family and friends and dozens who never knew her held a candlelight vigil.

Davis' attorneys had asked the governor to commute the death sentence to life without possibility of parole. Romer rejected Davis ' appeal.

In his clemency video, Davis talked with his attorneys about his struggle with alcoholism over the years. He also described his remorse over May's murder and how the death of his own 23-year-old stepdaughter from brain cancer brought him a greater understanding of the pain he had caused May's family.

Davis publicly apologized to May's family during a television interview broadcast about two months before his execution.

After Colorado's last execution, the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Colorado's Supreme Court commuted the sentences of six death row inmates in 1978 because the state's death penalty failed to comply with the new rules. It wasn't until 1984 that the Legislature rewrote the law to bring it in line with the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Davis murdered May nearly two years later.

From 1934 - when the gas chamber replaced hanging - to Monge's execution in 1967, the state averaged one execution a year. Davis was one of five inmates on Colorado's death row. The other four are Frank Rodriguez, convicted two years earlier than Davis but with more appeals remaining; Ronald Lee White, Robert Harlan and Nathan Dunlap.

Rodriguez was "having trouble'' with Davis ' imminent execution, said penitentiary Superintendent Neal, who gave the order for the lethal chemicals to be injected into Davis .

"They ( Davis and Rodriguez) have developed a close relationship,'' Neal said. "They have tried to help each other in dealing with their emotions regarding the death penalty.''

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