Florida inmate gets death wish

Thursday, May 27, 2004

STARKE, Fla. -- A man who said he killed a fellow prison inmate so the state of Florida would give him the death penalty was executed Wednesday.

John Blackwelder, 49, received an injection of chemicals at Florida State Prison, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush said.

Blackwelder was convicted in the May 2000 strangling of Raymond Wigley, 39, who was serving a life term for murder.

At the time, Blackwelder faced life without parole for a series of sex convictions. He said he killed Wigley and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder because he wanted to die but couldn't bring himself to commit suicide.

"I'm glad I get to go home," Blackwelder said after being strapped to his gurney. "I'm proud to be a Christian, and I thank Jesus for saving me and allowing me to go home. Amen."

Blackwelder's execution was delayed 24 hours after a prison inmate said he'd heard a second-hand claim that another inmate had confessed to Wigley's killing.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement used DNA evidence to disprove the claim, Bush said.

"I felt in an abundance of caution that there should be extra work done, which was done overnight," he said.

Blackwelder said he lured Wigley into his cell at Columbia Correctional Institution with the promise of a sex act, then tied him to the bed and killed him as Wigley begged for mercy.

He claimed he was innocent of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy.

Blackwelder was the second inmate to be executed in Florida this year and the 59th since the state resumed executions in 1979.

Six of the last 10 executions in Florida were of inmates who, like Blackwelder, dropped appeals to speed their deaths.

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