BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts drifter who killed three men in a series of attacks in two states in 2001, refining his murder methods as he went, should be sentenced to death for the crimes he has admitted to, a federal prosecutor told a jury on Wednesday.
The admitted triple murderer, Gary Lee Sampson, 57, could be the second person sentenced to death by a federal jury in Massachusetts in two years, a rarity in a state whose laws do not allow the death penalty.
Sampson pleaded guilty to killing two men, aged 69 and 19, in Massachusetts after hailing them as a hitchhiker and taking them to secluded wooded areas where he tied them up before stabbing them to death, and later strangling a third man, 58, in New Hampshire.
In a police tape played to the jury, Sampson told his interrogator that he changed his murder method for his last victim, the caretaker of a home on Lake Winnipesaukee, because “I didn’t want no more blood on me.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer showed the jury the pocketknife Sampson used in the killings, as well as photos of his victims before and after their slayings.
“Three kind, caring souls, seemingly unconnected to each other in any way but brought together in the most unimaginably tragic way, brought together by the pure heinousness and cruelty of that man,” Hafer said, pointing to Sampson.
At least one of the jurors could be seen sobbing and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue during the prosecution’s closing statement.
This is the second trial to determine if Sampson will be executed. He was sentenced to death in 2004, but a judge in 2011 overturned that sentence after learning that one of the jurors had lied about her history as a victim of domestic violence.
Lawyers for Sampson, who will make their closing statement later on Wednesday, argued that the jury should spare his life due to his history as a victim of abuse as a child, mental illness and traumatic brain injuries.
If the jury decides not to sentence Sampson to death, he will spend the rest of his life in federal prison.
Sampson’s victims were Philip McCloskey, 69, Jonathan Rizzo, 19, slain in Massachusetts, and Robert Whitney, 58, killed in New Hampshire.
After that last slaying, Sampson recounted on the police interrogation tape, “I cooked some breakfast while he was dead in the bathroom.”
Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Tom Brown