MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The man convicted of killing two female co-workers by beating them with a hammer and setting them ablaze during a robbery at the store where they worked has been executed.
Authorities say 55-year-old Robert L. Henry was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. following a lethal injection Thursday at the Florida State Prison.
He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 2, 1987, slayings of 53-year-old Phyllis Harris and 35-year-old Janet Thermidor at the Cloth World store in Deerfield Beach. Authorities said he stole $1,269 from the fabric store.
Thermidor lived for hours after being attacked and identified Henry to investigators. Michael Satz, prosecutor at Henry’s 1988 trial, told jurors the killings were evil, adding “He literally burned them up.”
Although Henry at first told police the crime was committed by an unknown assailant, Thermidor lived long enough to positively identify him as the perpetrator in a recorded statement to investigators. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, who prosecuted the 1988 trial, told the jury that Henry had committed one of the most cold-blooded acts in recent memory.
Barring a last-minute reprieve from the United States Supreme Court, Henry will be put to death Thursday. The Florida Supreme Court rejected his most recent appeals last week, including yet another challenge to the state’s method of lethal injection. Henry would be the fourth person executed in Florida this year.
In his latest appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Henry’s lawyers cite medical experts who claim that one of the drugs used in Florida’s lethal injection procedure, midazolam, could cause a heart attack and extreme pain, because Henry suffers from coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
His lawyers seek a stay of execution so those issues can be sorted out, citing the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In response, the Florida attorney general’s office said there is no requirement for a hearing for each inmate who claims he might suffer some level of pain in the execution process. They also noted that five death row inmates have been executed “without any mishap” using the newer drug combination.
According to trial testimony and his own statements to police, Henry first approached Harris after the store had closed on Nov. 2, 1987, telling her unknown robbers had ordered him to tie her up and blindfold her.
Henry took Harris to a restroom, tied her to a urinal, then went to the store’s office where he hit Thermidor repeatedly on the head with hammer, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire. Henry then went back to the restroom and attacked Harris with the hammer, setting her ablaze as well.
Authorities responding to the fire found Harris dead, but Thermidor still alive, after she had tried to douse the flames in a second restroom. She lived about 12 hours, and her statement pointed to Henry. He was arrested the next day.
Henry was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery and arson, largely on the strength of Thermidor’s deathbed statement.
Henry’s lawyer tried unsuccessfully to persuade jurors that Thermidor never said on the tape that she actually saw Henry and that police had improperly coerced his confession.