Oklahoma executes five-time killer

Thursday, July 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- Gregg Francis Braun named his five victims one by one in the order he killed them in 1989 and said, "I'm sorry," just before being put to death early Thursday. Braun, 39, strained against the straps that held him to a gurney in Oklahoma's death chamber as his apologies rolled forth like a chant. "I'm sorry I murdered you. I'm sorry I took your lives. I pray for our Lord Jesus Christ to bless your lives and to save you. I'm so sorry I killed you," the Kansas man said.

He was pronounced dead at 12:17 a.m., six minutes after receiving a lethal mix of drugs. Braun received the death sentence for killing an Ardmore, Okla., florist. His execution came on the eve of the 11th anniversary of her murder. His last statement rambled over 3 minutes and was sometimes slurred. He apologized to his victims' families, also naming them one by one. He also apologized to the people he injured in his four-state murder spree. "What I did was unforgivable, but I ask you to forgive me," he said, as three dozen family members of his victims watched inside a witness room or via closed circuit television.

Braun shot and killed Gwendolyn Sue Miller, 31, while robbing her parents' Ardmore flower shop. Two other women shot at the same time survived. Miller's husband, Dusty, and their three children traveled to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to witness the execution. "It's never going to go away," Miller said, "but at least we're not going to have to deal with him on an ongoing basis."

When New Mexico law officers caught up with Braun on July 23,1989, he told them, "You guys must be proud. You don't know wha tkind of famous criminal you caught." His killing spree had begun five days earlier after he robbed a convenience store in his hometown of Garden City, Kan. Braun took the clerk to a rural road and shot her. He would later tell police he felt he had to kill again and chose another store clerk. Their bodies were found on the same road.

Mary Rains left behind three young children. Barbara Kochendorfer left behind five. "The youngest was 2," said Angie Bentley, Kochendorfer's sister, who also came to witness the execution. "He's affected a lot of families, not just hers. Babies. They're not going to grow up with their mothers."

On July 20, Braun killed E.P. "Pete" Spurrier while robbing his one-hour photo store in Pampa, Texas. Two days after the Oklahoma slaying, he killed Geraldine Valdez at the Springer, N.M., convenience store where she worked. Braun was captured a short time later. He received life sentences for the murders in Kansas, New Mexico and Texas.

Braun graduated college with a degree in criminal justice. His father, Lelyn, a lawyer in Garden City at the time of the murders, blamed drugs for turning his youngest son into a murderer. "He's found peace with God," Lelyn Braun said in the days before the execution.

Braun apologized to his own family in his last statement. Then, he let out a long deep sigh before saying, "Save me Mother Mary from the eternal damnation I deserve." "I'm not an animal. I'm so sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry,"

Braun's defense had sought to have him returned to New Mexico to serve the life sentence there. But New Mexico courts rejected extradition efforts Wednesday, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his final appeal just hours before the execution.

Spurrier's son, Bill, lamented that his father would never meet his great-grandson. He said he felt sorry for Braun's family, too. "But they do get the opportunity to say goodbye," he said. "I had to go to my father's grave and say goodbye to the headstone."