updated 10/18/2006 8:07:49 PM ET 2006-10-19T00:07:49

After strapping him to a gurney for the second time in nine months, Florida prison officials on Wednesday executed a 57-year-old former handyman by lethal injection for the 1985 murder of an elderly woman in Florida’s rural Panhandle.

Prison officials at Florida State Prison near Starke pronounced Arthur Rutherford dead at 6:13 p.m. ET after giving him a deadly cocktail of chemicals that paralyzed his lungs and stopped his heart.

Rutherford became the 62nd prisoner executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. He is the 19th inmate to be executed during the tenure of Gov. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of President Bush.

Next week, serial killer Danny Rolling is scheduled to die for the 1990 mutilation murders of five college students at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The macabre slayings sent panic across U.S. college campuses until Rolling’s capture following a botched robbery attempt 12 days after his last murder.

Rutherford was convicted in August 1986 for the death of Stella Salamon, a 63-year-old woman for whom he did odd jobs. She was found drowned in her bathtub after being badly beaten and strangled. The jury, on a 7-5 vote, recommended he be put to death.

Cheated death in January
Rutherford had been scheduled to die in January and had been strapped to a gurney in the death chamber at Florida State Prison, but he was spared by a last-minute stay from the United States Supreme Court.

The stay was prompted by a legal challenge claiming the anesthesia administered during legal injection might not be adequate to prevent an inmate from experiencing extreme pain.

The high court sent the case back for further review and in September the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the anesthesia challenge without taking additional evidence.

Executions using lethal injection have been postponed in at least five states pending further review of execution procedures, and Rutherford’s execution came despite a flurry of appeals before the Florida and U.S. Supreme courts.

Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said Rutherford spent Wednesday morning with 20 members of his extended family including his father, two daughters and son. Also present were his immediate siblings and grandchildren.

He requested the same meal he had in January: Fried green tomatoes, catfish, fresh water, fried eggplant, sweet tea, and hush puppies. He also met with a spiritual adviser, a Catholic volunteer, Dale Recinella.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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