Before death-row prisoners are executed, they’re afforded some final words. And while most condemned men and women offer some kind of apology or say goodbye to their families, these 20 murderers had altogether more chilling things to communicate. Be forewarned: their words can never be unheard.
20. Peter Kürten
“Tell me – after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.” Peter Kürten’s last words before he was guillotined in July 1931 provide disturbing insight into the warped mind of the German killer. He murdered at minimum nine people.
19. Aileen Wuornos
“Yes, I would 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, I’ll be back.” Aileen Wuornos, who shot dead seven men between 1989 and 1990, seemed pretty intent on coming back before being executed via lethal injection in October 2002.
18. Tom Ketchum
“I’ll be in hell before you start breakfast, boys! Let her rip!” Tom Ketchum, a convicted train robber and murderer, didn’t seem particularly daunted by his impending hanging in 1901. Indeed, his was a quick death, as the rope used to hang him was longer than was needed, and he was neatly decapitated when he and the rope reached the end.
17. Carl Panzram
“Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier b***ard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!” Carl Panzram – who claimed to have murdered 21 people and sodomized more than 1,000 men and boys – showed absolutely no remorse before his hanging in September 1930. Still, that’s not all that surprising for a man who once threatened to pour arsenic into a city’s water supply.
16. Marcel Petiot
“Gentlemen, I have one last piece of advice: look away. This will not be pretty to see.” When French serial killer Marcel Petiot spoke his last words in May 1946, right before being guillotined, he knew his death would be a bloody spectacle. It’s believed Petiot, a doctor, killed as many as 60 people; 23 were found dead in his Paris home.
15. Israel Keyes
“Okay, talk is over, words are placid and weak. Back it with action or it all comes off cheap. Watch close while I work now, feel the electric shock of my touch, open your trembling flower, or your petals I’ll crush.” So read part of Israel Keyes’ prison suicide note, which was written before the serial killer cut one of his wrists and used a bed sheet to strangle himself in December 2012.
14. Christina Marie Riggs
“I love you, my babies. There is no way words can express how sorry I am for taking the lives of my babies. Now I can be with my babies, as I always intended.” The last words uttered by Christina Marie Riggs were directed to her two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, both of whom she murdered. In May 2000 the former nurse was executed in Arkansas via lethal injection.
13. James French
“How’s this for your headline [tomorrow]? ‘French Fries.’” James French – who killed his cellmate in an effort to try and speed up his own execution – welcomed journalists with a joke when he finally sat down in the electric chair in 1966. French had previously served eight years in jail for murdering a driver who made the mistake of giving the evil hitchhiker a ride in 1958.
12. Robert Otis Pierce
“I’m innocent! I’m innocent! I’m innocent!” There’s something especially chilling about Robert Otis Pierce’s desperate protestations, which were screamed right before he was executed in a gas chamber in April 1956. Along with an accomplice, he had been convicted of murdering a taxi driver from Oakland, California, for just $7.
11. James Jackson
“I’m ready to roll. Time to get this party started.” These were the last words spoken by James Jackson, who murdered his spouse and two stepdaughters, before he was executed by means of lethal injection in Texas in February 2007. The words were preceded with a simple plea to the presiding warden, “Murder me.”
10. Thomas J. Grasso
“I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” The only thing going through Thomas J. Grasso’s mind before his execution in 1995 was his final meal – which, owing to it being ridiculously complicated, wasn’t prepared according to his exact instructions. That the double murderer was about to be killed via lethal injection didn’t seem nearly as relevant to him.
9. Reginald Blanton
“They are fixing to pump my veins with a lethal drug the American Veterinary Association won’t even allow to be used on dogs. I say I am worse off than a dog. They want to kill me for this; I am not the man that did this.” The last words spoken by convicted murderer Reginald Blanton before his execution by lethal injection in 2009 are, chillingly, full of anger and fear.
8. Jamie McCoskey
“The best time in my life is during this period. If I had to do again, I would not change a thing.” Jamie McCoskey – who stabbed to death Michael Keith Dwyer in Harris County, Texas, in 1991 – sounded strangely upbeat and remarkably remorseless before he was executed via lethal injection in November 2013.
7. Douglas Feldman
“I hereby declare, Robert Steven Everett and Nicholas Velasquez, guilty of crimes against me, Douglas Alan Feldman. Either by fact or by proxy, I find them both guilty. I hereby sentence both of them to death, which I carried out in August 1998.” Douglas Feldman, who killed two truckers in 1998, played judge and jury before he was executed via lethal injection in Texas in 2013.
6. Jonathan Green
“I’m an innocent man. I did not kill anyone. Y’all are killing an innocent man. My left arm is killing me. It hurts bad.” Jonathan Green’s protestations are certainly chilling. However, the fact that he revealed that his arm was in pain moments before his death – via lethal injection in Texas in 2012 – is worthy of more reflection, perhaps. Green was convicted of strangling to death 12-year-old Christina Neal in 2000.
5. George Harris
“Somebody needs to kill my trial attorney.” Sorry, but not even the world’s best lawyer could have prevented George Harris’ first-degree murder conviction. He did, after all, shoot his friend Stanly “Hank” Willoughby in the face in March 1989. Why? Because Willoughby had lost his friend’s two machine guns. Harris was executed in Missouri in September 2000.
4. Westley Allan Dodd
“I was once asked by somebody, I don’t remember who, if there was any way sex offenders could be stopped. I said no. I was wrong.” Westley Allan Dodd’s last statement gives a chilling insight into how the child murderer thought his actions could only be stopped by his own death. In January 1993 he was hanged – an option he chose over lethal injection – in Washington.
3. Robyn Parks
“I’m still awake.” Robyn Parks’ last words from March 1992 are especially chilling because they were spoken after he had already received his lethal injection. He died 11 minutes later, gasping and with his muscles twitching in violent spasms. Parks had been on death row since being convicted in 1978 of murdering filling station attendant Abdullah Ibrahim in Oklahoma City.
2. Robert Atworth
“Kiss my proud white Irish ass. I’m ready, warden, send me home.” Robert Atworth was defiant to the last. The murderer, whose last statement was pretty rambling, was executed by means of lethal injection in December 1999. In 1995 he had robbed and then shot dead Thomas Carlson by the side of a Texas road.
1. Delbert Teague, Jr.
“I have come here today to die, not make speeches. Today is a good day for dying.” Delbert Teague, Jr. was described by prosecutors as a “one-man slaughterhouse,” so it’s probably just as well that he kept his last statement short and to the point. In 1985 he shot dead Kevin Allen, an offense that landed him the lethal injection in Texas in September 1998.