updated 1/24/2005 3:17:19 PM ET 2005-01-24T20:17:19

A federal judge said Monday he will order a postponement in the execution of serial killer Michael Ross, who waived his appeals and was set to become the first person put to death in New England in nearly 45 years.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny said he wants to hear more evidence about Ross’ mental capacity.

“I think it is inevitable that I will be issuing a stay postponing an execution until the outcome of this proceeding,” Chatigny said. He did not say how long the stay would last.

Ross, 45, is on death row for the murders of four young women in eastern Connecticut in the early 1980s. His arrest in 1984 ended a three-year spree of attacks that stretched from Connecticut to New York, North Carolina, Illinois, and Ohio. He raped most of his victims, and killed eight of them, six in Connecticut.

He had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection before dawn Wednesday.

Monday’s hearing was at the request of the state’s Division of Public Defenders Services, which represented Ross until last year. Ross fired them last spring and hired an attorney to help expedite his execution.

Attorney Hubert Santos, arguing for the group, asked Chatigny for a 30-day stay to allow psychiatrists to interview Ross, tour death row and review Ross’ medical records.

Last week, the state Supreme Court had ruled that the public defenders have no “meaningful evidence” of Ross’ incompetence.

But a psychiatrist testified Monday that Ross, an Ivy League graduate who blamed his killing spree on sexual sadism, wants to be executed not to give closure to victims’ families, as he says, but because he finds life unbearable on death row.

Dr. Stuart Grassian, a former professor at Harvard University, testified in U.S. District Court that letters Ross wrote in prison suggest that he’s not capable of making rational decisions about his execution.

“If you place someone in a desperate enough situation, they will make any decision to get away from the pain,” Grassian said.

Other pending challenges to the execution were brought by Ross’ father, Dan Ross, and the Missionary Society of Connecticut.

Ross is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection just after 2 a.m. Wednesday at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers.

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