Dead Man Talking: Killers’ last words can be humorous … and monstrous

As it does fairly regularly, Texas executed a killer on Tuesday.

Christopher Young, 34, shot a San Antonio convenience store clerk to death in 2004. The victim’s family had begged Texas—in vain—not to execute Young, so before he lay on the gurney that would be his death bed, Young said he loved his victim’s family “like they love me.”

“Make sure the kids in the world know I’m being executed and those kids I’ve been mentoring keep this fight going,” he said eloquently.

But those weren’t the last words on his lips. As the dose of pentobarbital penetrated his system, Young cursed twice and uttered his dying words before he drifted away.

I taste it in my throat,” he said.

For reasons both poetic and voyeuristic, we are fascinated by the last things people say. In sudden, catastrophic deaths, last words are happenstance. But when they know death is at hand, a little planning is possible. And nowhere is the art of last words more fascinating than Death Row.

It’s hard to beat Utah killer Gary Gilmore’s dying words before he faced a 1977 firing squad—“Let’s do it”—for brevity and impact. Some condemned inmates have been verbose, others silent. Some have shown humor, some threats. Some have been resigned, others angry.

Here are a select few final words:

“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.” —Killer George Appel, just before his execution in the electric chair in 1928

“Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” —Killer James Rodgers, when asked if he had any last requests before being shot by a Utah firing squad in 1960

“Somebody needs to kill my trial attorney.”  George Harris, before his 2000 execution in Missouri for shooting a man in the face over some lost guns

“I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I’ll be back.” —Serial killer Aileen Wuornos before her 1992 execution for seven murder

“Kiss my ass.” —Serial killer John Wayne Gacy before his 1994 execution (pictured)

“I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” —Killer Thomas J. Grasso’s last words were a review of his last meal

“Hurry it up you Hoosier bastard! I could kill 10 men while you’re screwing around!” —Serial killer Carl Panzram before his 1930 hanging (after saying this: “In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.”)

“I’ll be in Hell before you start breakfast, boys. Let ‘er rip.” —Outlaw Black Jack Ketchum before his New Mexico hanging, which decapitated him.

“I’ve never forgiven that smart-alecky reporter who named me Butterfingers. To me, it’s not funny.” —Pickpocket Thomas “Butterfingers” Moran, who reportedly stole up to 50,000 wallets in his career. He died in Miami in 1971 (not by execution)

“I was once asked by somebody, I don’t remember who, if there was any way sex offenders could be stopped. I said no. I was wrong.” —Child-killer Westley Allan Dodd, hanged in Washington in 1993 (pictured).

“You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.” —California killer Robert Alton Harris, who died in the gas chamber in 1992

“Beam me up.” —Indianapolis killer Gary Burris, before his 1997 execution by lethal injection

“I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. I love you all very much. I will see you when you get there … I will wait for you.” Double murderer Karla Faye Tucker, executed by Texas in 1998 despite claims she’d found God and should be spared  (pictured)

“Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.” —John Arthur Spenkelink, a killer executed in Florida in 1979

“How’s this for your headline? ‘French fries.’” —Killer James French, who was serving life in prison when he killed his cellmate. So Florida executed him by electrocution in 1966

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