To contextualize and depict the mentality of death-row inmates, photographer Henry Hargreaves presented an art exhibition entitled A Year of Killings. Hargreaves feels pre-execution meals give heavy insight into anyone’s true nature. Death-row selections project intensity and clarity…
It was Hargreaves’s intent to inspire people to think deeply on the death penalty. “As state-sponsored executions become increasingly problematic due to lack of access to effective drugs, clear racial and social basis and the human error of assigning blame. The killings still go on at a rapid rate,” Hargreaves wrote. “I hope this helps better inform people about this practice.”
Upon getting intoxicated and doing a good amount of cocaine at a party in Donna (TX), Pablo Vasquez (aka “The Vampire Killer”) encountered and viciously killed 12-year-old David Cardenas at the party. After being captured and imprisoned, Vasquez was almost immediately put on death row—for 17 years. He was executed at age 38 via lethal injection. (Meal: Salisbury steak, steamed rice, brown gravy, a vegetable blend, sweet peas, ranch style beans, sliced bread, butterscotch brownies and tea.)
In January 1996, after forced entry into neighbor Cathy Bonds’s home, Kenneth Fults used a pillow to smother Bonds prior to shooting her then using her car to get away. He was captured the following day. Authorities assessed Fults suffered from mental illness but had no criminal record. He joined death row in 1997. This loomed over him until the age of 47—he was taken out via lethal injection. (Meal: T-bone steak, baked potato, rice and apple juice.)
While originally convicted for three counts of capital murder in 1992, Christopher Brooks was put on death row in 1993 for killing and simultaneously raping a 23-year-old woman. Prior to lethal injection, Brooks was on death row for 22 years. He was 43 when executed. (Meal: two Reese’s cups and a Dr. Pepper.)
In 1990, William Sallie took vengeance upon his ex-wife and her family after she divorced him. Sallie shot and killed his ex’s father, John Lee Moore. Additionally, he severely beat Moore’s wife, abducted his ex and her sister and sexually assaulted them multiple times. He joined death row in 1991 and stayed there for 26 years (50 years old) until his execution via lethal injection. (Meal: sausage & pepperoni pizza, chicken wings & buffalo sauce and a soda.)
Oscar Bolin Jr.
In the midst of early and late 1986, Oscar Bolin Jr. stabbed, beat and murdered three, different women—no older than 26 (same method). He was imprisoned for life and put on death row in 1996. He stayed there for 23 years. At 53 years of age, Bolin Jr. was given a lethal injection. (Meal: medium-rare rib-eye steak, baked potato w/sour cream, salad, garlic bread, lemon-meringue pie and a Coca-Cola.)
In 1997, upon catching them in a sexual act at a party, Coy Wesbrook shot and killed his ex-wife and two men—in addition to her female roommate. Wesbrook also critically injured his ex’s boyfriend. He was caught the same day then put on death row in 1998. After 17 years at the age of 58, he was executed via legal injection. (Meal: baked chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, black-eyed peas, sliced bread, mandarin-orange cake and water.)
In a jealous rage and fearing she was dating someone else, Steven Spears suffocated his ex-girlfriend via taped mouth and a bag over her head in August 2001. Spears was imprisoned the same years and was on death row for 15 years until lethal injection at 54 years of age. (Meal: large, meat pizza.)
In 2001, Richard Masterson went into a gay bar, strangulated a male, drag queen then stole the victim’s car. Masterson originally claimed it happened during a consensual act of sexual asphyxia. He was put on death row in 2002 and remained there for 13 years until lethal injection at 43 years of age. (Meal: baked chicken, mashed potatoes & brown gravy, carrots, black-eyed peas, sliced bread and tea.)
In late 2002, in the midst of a drunken stupor, Earl Forrest went to an associate’s home and shot her six times—as well as shooting her guest in the face (all over a botched, drug deal). Upon returning home, he had a shootout with the cops—he injured a deputy. In the midst of all that, he also shot his girlfriend, who also survived. Forrest was convicted for three counts of first-degree murder. In 2004, he was put on death row until 2016—lethal injection. He was 66 years old upon execution. (Meal: steak, pasta, fruit medley, tomatoes, cucumbers, chocolate cake and milk.)
At the young age of 22, Joshua Bishop robbed and used a blunt object to beat and kill an older man in 1994. Bishop tried to take the man’s keys while he slept, but the man woke up—a deadly skirmish ensued. He joined death row in 1996 until the age of 41—killed via lethal injection. (Meal: barbeque sandwich, Brunswick stew, crisps, coleslaw, lemonade and a lollipop.)
Back in June of 1979, Brandon Jones and an accomplice robbed, paralyzed and killed a gas-station manager. While his partner met death in 1985, Jones wasn’t put on death row permanently until he lost a retrial in 1997. After 36 years of the courts bouncing him back and forth, he met his fate via lethal injection—he was 72 years old. (The eldest among other death-row inmates.) Jones chose to not decide his last meal. They served him the Georgia prison’s usual: chicken and rice, rutabagas, turnip greens, white beans, cornbread, bread pudding and fruit punch.
In 1992, during shore leave, Navy Seaman Travis Hittson used a bat to brutally beat another crewman—he also shot him. Upon killing the man, he and his accomplice took a hacksaw and proceeded to butcher the body into smaller pieces to “get rid of the evidence.” He was tried and convicted the following year—22 years he awaited death (lethal injection). Hittson, too, had no specific choice on food. They served him meatloaf, mash potatoes & gravy, peas & carrots, red beans, cornbread, bread pudding and some sort of orange drink.
Daniel Lucas was imprisoned for killing a father and his two kids (a son and daughter) while committing burglary. Lucas awaited death for 16 years until a Georgia prison gave him the deadly dose—he was 37 years of age. (Meal: meat pizza, cheese steak, stuffed Portobello mushrooms, chef salad with Ranch and honey mustard, and orange juice.)
Ronald Bert Smith Jr.
In 1994, Ronald Bert Smith Jr. went into a mini-mart and killed the clerk. He was convicted of capital murder and put on death row for 22 years. He was given lethal injection at 45 years of age. (Meal: fried chicken and French fries.)
John Wayne Conner
Upon drinking and smoking marijuana with a friend back in January 1982, John Wayne Conner overreacted to a comment his buddy made about Conner’s girlfriend. He killed his friend with his bare hands, an empty, booze bottle and a stick. Conner jointed the death-row gang later that same year. For 34 years, he awaited execution via lethal injection. (Meal: 10 pieces of catfish, 10 hush puppies, two triple-decker bacon burgers, two pints vanilla ice cream and a sliced, white onion.)
Unemployed in 2007, James Freeman was hunting in Texas. Upon a the game warden telling Freeman he was on a wildlife preservation, Freeman fled in his vehicle, but the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department chased him to a local cemetery. Freeman opened fire via an AK-47 and Glock, which killed the game warden. Freeman was imprisoned in 2007 and later put on death row. After seven years of waiting, he was executed by lethal injection. (Meal: pepper steak, brown gravy, rice, mixed greens, vegetable medley, black-eyed peas, sliced bread, chocolate cake & frosting and supposedly fruit punch.)
While washing his car in 2005, Adam Ward encountered a code-enforcement officer taking pictures of Ward’s trash, which had piled up in front of his house. When the man radioed the police upon Ward’s father telling him to leave, Ward grabbed a gun and shot the man nine times. He was convicted, sentenced to death and imprisoned—until execution by lethal injection. (His lawyer plead Ward had mental illnesses.) Ward was 33 when he left this world. (Meal: beef soft tacos & salsa, Spanish rice, mixed greens, corn on the cob, refried beans, flour tortillas and fruit punch.)
Upon the police escorting his intoxicated girlfriend home, Gregory Lawler apparently opened fire on and killed an Atlanta (GA) cop in 1997. After 16 years of being on death row, 63-year-old Lawler was given a lethal injection. (Meal: ribeye steak, baked potato & sour cream, asparagus, rolls, French onion soup, strawberries, pistachio ice cream, milk and apple juice.)
Barney Ronald Fuller Jr.
After a series of neighborhood complaints and a court letter in 2003, Barney Fuller Jr. got drunk, grabbed a gun and ran through his housing district while firing off an AR-15 and a pistol. In the midst of unloading 60 rounds, he killed a couple and wounded their son with two shots—the daughter was uninjured due to Fuller being too drunk to find the light switch while in their house. After 12 years of being on death row, he was given a lethal injection—dead at 53 years of age. (Meal: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, beans of green and pinto, sliced bread, pear crisp and water.)
While the majority of these men were targets of circumstance, intoxicated or had fallen on hard luck, the unfortunate thing is they handled the situation poorly. Life isn’t always fair, so try to stop and breathe before reacting.