Five-time killer set to be executed

Wednesday, July 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- Gregg Francis Braun faced a walk to Oklahoma's death chamber Wednesday, 11 years to the day after he shot his first victim and felt he had to kill again. Braun, 39, whose 1989 murder spree cross four states and left five people dead, was scheduled to die by drug injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary early Thursday.

An appeal seeking to return him to New Mexico to serve a life sentence was pending Tuesday afternoon before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A hearing was scheduled Wednesday morning in a separate filing in New Mexico that sought to compel the governor there to have Braun returned. "We're still trying to get the stay of execution," Braun's attorney, Benjamin McCullar said Tuesday. "Gregg Francis Braun should be sent back to New Mexico to finish out his life sentence."

Braun received the death penalty for shooting and killing Gwendolyn Sue Miller, 31, in her parents' Ardmore, Okla., floral shop. Miller's husband, Dusty, and their three children planned to watch him die on the eve of the anniversary of her July 21, 1989,death. "After all the pain and being helpless to protect my kids and family, this is the only thing I can do," Miller said.

Three days before he killed Mrs. Miller, the 28-year-old college graduate with a degree in criminal justice went to a Garden City convenience store to rob it. He decided to kill the clerk out of fear she could identify him. He later told police that after shooting the clerk in the back of the head, he felt he had to kill again. He chose a second Garden City store clerk.

The bodies of Barbara Kochendorfer and Mary Rains were found on the same rural road. Their murders left a total of eight young children without their mothers. On July 20, 1989, Braun shot E.P. "Pete" Spurrier while robbing a Pampa, Texas, photo development store. He killed Geraldine Valdez on July 23, 1989, at a Springer, N.M., convenience store, later telling a deputy "it wasn't as good as shooting craps in Vegas, but it was all right."

Braun received life sentences for the murders in Kansas, New Mexico and Texas. Braun's father, Lelyn Braun, a prominent Garden City, Kan., lawyer at the time of the murders, aided his son's defense in the waning hours of appeal, although he said he didn't defend Braun's actions. He blamed cocaine mixed with drugs for making Braun go "completely bonkers." "He's very beautiful, God-fearing, prepared to meet his Creator," Lelyn Braun said, describing his son now. "He's found peace with God."

Braun asked to be served a last meal of a chef salad with Italian dressing, barbecue beef or pork and a hot fudge brownie sundae. He didn't want his family to witness the execution. They planned to be in McAlester, however, for a memorial service at a local Catholic church, Lelyn Braun said.

Suzanne Baze, the daughter of Geraldine Valdez, planned to join the dozens of expected family witnesses. The murder, she said, came when her younger brother was just 16. "His actions have caused so much havoc for my family," she said.

Greg Valdez told Oklahoma's clemency board that while Braun's execution won't bring back his mother, it will give him a feeling of relief. “Every time that I hear about him or see his name in a paper, I get an awful feeling," he wrote, "and with him no longer around it will be a great burden off of my mind."