Famous Criminals' Last Words

Parting Shots From Convicted Felons

The electric chair
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Some people say crazy things moments before they are executed. Here are some of the most famous and bizarre last words spoken by criminals facing their own appointment with the Grim Reaper.

Ted Bundy

Close Up Portrait of Ted Bundy Waving
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On the night before Ted Bundy was executed, he spent most of his time crying and praying. At 7 a.m. on January 24, 1989, Bundy was strapped into the electric chair at Starke State prison in Florida. Superintendent Tom Barton asked Bundy if he had any last words, to which he replied:

"Jim and Fred, I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends."

He was speaking to his lawyer Jim Coleman and to Fred Lawrence, a Methodist minister who spent the evening in prayer with Bundy. Both nodded their heads.

Serial killer Theodore Robert Bundy (November 24, 1946–January 24, 1989) killed a confessed 30 women during 1974 through 1979 in Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Florida. The total number of Bundy's victims is unknown but is estimated to run above 100.

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy Covering His Face
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Convicted serial rapist and killer John Wayne Gacy was executed at the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois by lethal injection just after midnight on May 10, 1994. When asked if he had any last words, Gacy snarled:

"Kiss my ass."

John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942–May 10, 1994) was convicted of the rape and murder of 33 men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978. He became known as the "Killer Clown" thanks to the numerous parties he attended where he worked as a children's entertainer wearing a clown suit and full-face makeup.

Timothy McVeigh

Timothy McVeigh At Courthouse
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Convicted terrorist Timothy McVeigh had no final words prior to being executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, in Indiana. McVeigh did leave a handwritten statement that quoted a poem by British poet William Ernest Henley. The poem ends with the lines:

"I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Timothy McVeigh is best known as the Oklahoma City Bomber. He was convicted of setting off a device that killed 149 adults and 19 children at the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 19, 1995.

McVeigh admitted to investigators after his capture that he was angry at the federal government for their treatment of white separatist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Gary Gilmore

Gary Gilmore Leaving Medical Center
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Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore's final words before being put to death in Utah on January 17, 1977, by a volunteer firing squad:

"Let's do it!"

Then, after a black hood was placed over his head, he said,

"Dominus vobiscum." ("The Lord be with you.")

To which the Roman Catholic prison Chaplain, Reverend Thomas Meersman replied,

"Et cum spiritu tuo." ("And with your spirit.")

Gary Mark Gilmore (December 4, 1940–January 17, 1977) was convicted of killing a motel manager in Provo, Utah. He was also charged with the murder of a gas station employee the day before the motel murder but was never convicted.

Gilmore was the first person legally executed in the United States since 1967, ending a 10-year lapse in U.S. executions. Gilmore donated his organs and shortly after he was executed, two people received his corneas.

John Spenkelink

Portrait of John Spenkelink
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Convicted murderer John Spenkelink's final words before being executed in the electric chair in Florida on May 25, 1979, were:

"Capital punishment—them without the capital get the punishment."

John Spenkelink was a drifter who was convicted of killing a traveling companion. He claimed it was self-defense. The jury saw it otherwise. He was the first man put to be put to death in Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Aileen Wuornos

Female Serial Killer Executed In Florida
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Convicted serial murderer Aileen Wuornos' final words before being executed by lethal injection in October 2002 in Florida:

"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 mother ship and all, I'll be back."

Aileen Wuornos (February 29, 1956–October 9, 2002) was born in Michigan and abandoned by her parents at an early age. By the time she was in her teens, she was working as a prostitute and robbing people to support herself.

In 1989 and 1990, Wuornos shot, killed, and robbed at least six men. In January of 1991, after her fingerprints were found on evidence located by police, she was arrested and tried for her crimes. She received a total of six death sentences. Although the title wasn't accurate, Wuornos was dubbed by the press as the first female American serial killer.

In the end, she fired her attorney, dropped all appeals, and asked that her execution take place as soon as possible.

George Appel

Convicted murderer George Appel's final words before being executed in the electric chair in New York in 1928 for the murder of a New York City police officer were:

"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."

However, depending on which account you read, it was also said that his final statement was:

"All the ladies love baked apples," followed by, "Damn, no power outage."

Jimmy Glass

Convicted murderer Jimmy Glass' final words before being electrocuted on June 12, 1987, in Louisiana, for the robbery and murder of a couple on Christmas Eve, were:

"I'd rather be fishing."

Jimmy Glass is best known not for being a killer, but for being a petitioner in a Supreme Court case in 1985 in which he argued that executions by electrocution violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as "cruel and unusual punishment." The Supreme Court did not agree.

Barbara Graham

Convicted murderer Barbara "Bloody Babs" Graham's final words before being executed in the gas chamber in San Quentin were:

"Good people are always so sure they're right."

Barbara Graham was a prostitute, drug addict, and a murderess who was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin in 1955 along with two accomplices. Graham beat an elderly woman to death when a robbery went bad.

When she was strapped into the gas chamber by Joe Ferretti, the man in charge of her execution, told her, "Now take a deep breath and it won't bother you," to which she responded, "How would you know?"

After Graham's death, her life story was made into a movie called, "I Want to Live!" Susan Hayward, who starred in the film, later won an Academy Award for portrayal of Graham.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Famous Criminals' Last Words." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/last-words-famous-criminals-before-execution-970951. Montaldo, Charles. (2021, September 8). Famous Criminals' Last Words. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/last-words-famous-criminals-before-execution-970951 Montaldo, Charles. "Famous Criminals' Last Words." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/last-words-famous-criminals-before-execution-970951 (accessed March 30, 2023).