updated 6/16/2006 11:00:27 AM ET 2006-06-16T15:00:27

A man convicted of helping to fatally beat a grandmother as she prayed for her life was formally sentenced to death Friday, Vermont’s first death sentence in almost half a century.

Donald Fell, 26, said what he did “was horrible and wrong” as he apologized before U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III sentenced him.

“I know the wounds will never heal,” Fell said. “If it comes down to it in the end that I do die, I understand that it’s no less than what I deserve. I truly am sorry.”

Fell was sentenced nearly a year ago by the same jury that found him guilty of killing Terry King in Dover, N.Y., after she was abducted as she arrived for work.

The last death sentence in Vermont was issued in 1957. The state abandoned the death penalty in the mid-1960s, although the law remained on the books for another 20 years.

No state death penalty
Vermont does not have a state death penalty, but federal prosecutors brought charges under a U.S. law that allows the death penalty for a carjacking that results in a death. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected a plea bargain that would have given Fell life in prison.

Since his conviction, Fell has been held at the federal prison in Ray Brook, N.Y. Prosecutors have asked Sessions to order that Fell be executed at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ death chamber.

King was 53 when she was abducted outside the supermarket by Fell and his co-defendant, Robert Lee. The two had just killed Fell’s mother and a friend of hers after a night of heavy drinking in a Rutland apartment.

Woman could have ID'd suspects
In a confession played at his trial, Fell said he killed King because she could identify him and Lee. King prayed as she was beaten to death on Nov. 27, 2000, by the side of the road.

Fell and Lee were arrested in Arkansas three days later.

Lee died in prison in September 2001. His death was ruled an accidental hanging. But Fell, a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was charged with two federal crimes, carjacking with death resulting and kidnapping with death resulting.

Fell’s attorneys didn’t contest his guilt. Instead, they asked the jury to spare his life because he grew up in a violent household with two alcoholic parents.

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