updated 5/9/2005 5:52:24 AM ET 2005-05-09T09:52:24

Marjorie Henry lived directly across the street from the Wethersfield prison when the state conducted its last execution in 1960. The memory of that night still causes her to cringe.

Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky was put to death in the electric chair for a series of killings and robberies. “I just remember a chill. Being chilled to the core of the soul,” said Henry, 71.

On Sunday, she joined about two dozen death penalty opponents who began a five-day walk to protest the state’s plans to execute a serial killer who admitted murdering and raping eight women in Connecticut and New York in the early 1980s.

Protesters plan to walk for periods each day through Thursday night, stopping at the state Capitol, churches and for vigils along the way.

The 30-mile journey will eventually lead to the prison where Michael Ross is scheduled for lethal injection Friday in what would be the first execution in New England in 45 years.

Activists say Ross not their motivation
Ross fought off attempts by public defenders, death penalty opponents and his own family to stop his execution last year and came within hours of death in January.

“So many people have asked me, ’Why are you doing this for Michael Ross?”’ said Robert Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. “We’re not doing this for Michael Ross. We’re doing this because it is state-sponsored homicide.”

Earlier this year, a poll by Quinnipiac University showed 59 percent of Connecticut voters supported the death penalty, while 70 percent supported Ross’ execution. Though protesters acknowledged there was little hope it would be halted, they hoped to send a message about capital punishment.

Sunday’s march began before dawn in Hartford at Gallows Hill at Trinity College, the site where the state executed five criminals in colonial days. Later, a moment of silence was held for Ross’ victims and their families.

Eighth-grader Nick Allred asked his mother to bring him to the first day of the walk, and he hopes to join it later this week. “I don’t think it’s right to kill people under any circumstances, except for self defense,” said Allred, 14.

Walter Everett, whose 24-year-old son Scott was killed in Bridgeport in 1987, said he never wanted his son’s killer to die, just to serve a long prison sentence.

Everett, a Methodist pastor in Hartford, once testified before a parole board for the man to have an early release after serving time with good behavior. “I’m convinced the death penalty is society’s way of admitting defeat,” he said.

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