Sleepless On Death Row

August 2, 2007 

Last week two career criminals on parole invaded a Cheshire Connecticut home and murdered three of its four occupants...after sexually pleasing themselves with the victims. 

The local news kept repeating that politicians, community leaders and average citizens wanted to know “Why?”.   How could anybody do something so “Unfathomable” to such nice people?  

The answer lies with the supplicants. 

Give me a good reason not to be a murderer...especially if you live in a liberal State? 

Look at a sampling of murder...Connecticut style. 

Wikipedia sums it up the best, “Connecticut has executed one person since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. The execution of Michael Ross in 2005 was the first execution anywhere in New England since the 1960 execution of Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky, also in Connecticut.” 

And, Michael Ross, demented sexual serial killer that he was, had to beg to be executed. 

Or take the case of Daniel Webb.   

Webb was charged with: abducting Diane Gellenbeck, a 37 year old Connecticut National Bank Vice President, from a parking garage on Aug. 24, 1989; driving her to Hartford's Keney Park and attempting to rape her. When Gellenback broke free, he shot her twice in the back. She then began crawling away, calling for help. Webb followed her and fired three more shots at her from close range...executing her. 

Here is a snapshot of Webb: 

Prior to the Gellenbeck murder, Webb’s criminal record was already appalling. Arrested 1983 for robbery. Convicted in 1984 and sentenced to a suspended term and probation. Arrested 1984 and convicted of rape, unlawful restraint and robbery. Given a four-year sentence. Released May 12, 1987. Arrested Feb. 6, 1988 on charges of rape, kidnapping and threatening. Feb. 22, 1988, Webb arrested for beating and assaulting a woman on a highway after faking an accident. May 28, 1988, Webb accused of robbing and beating a woman as she parked her car. With his pants unzipped, he smashed the car window with a wrench, hit the woman on the head and took a handbag with $23 before fleeing. June 14, 1988, Webb arrested for bumping a woman's car on a highway. When she stopped, he smashed her window, pulled her from the car, threw her against a concrete barrier, repeatedly threatened to kill her, drove her to a school, ordered her to undress and raped her. Aug. 24, 1989, Webb kidnaps, attempts to rape and murders Diane Gellenbeck.

Webb was sentenced to death in 1991 and “To this day, the taxpayers of Connecticut are keeping Webb well fed and warm on death row as he appeals his capital sentence and sues the state over his "Constitutional" right to use ethnic hair and skin care products.” 

In the commission of a 1974 robbery, Ronald Piskorski and Gary Schrager executed six people inside of New Britain CT’s Donna Lee Bakery in under 30 minutes .  Some of the executed were beaten to death with a hammer while others were shot and some got a little of both.  The killers made off with $300 that night. 

For executing six innocent people in under 30 minutes and then, after the murder, “the two men walked into a party, laughing”...Piskorski and Schrager were last seen farmed-out to Maine prisons serving life sentences. 

In 1991, Connecticut State Trooper Russell Bagshaw was murdered when he was shot (16 rounds in six seconds) by Terry Johnson during an attempted burglary at the Land and Sea Sports Center in North Windham CT (Johnson “expressed satisfaction with the murder in conversations after the fact”). 

The jury sentenced Johnson to death.  BUT...the Connecticut State Supreme Court overturned that sentence and gave Johnson a life term because the crime really wasn’t “especially cruel and heinous” enough for the Court’s liking. 

The Court reasoned that because Trooper Bagshaw remained conscious for ONLY five to ninety seconds and that he ONLY lived between one and fifteen minutes after being shot (while drowning in his own blood) that “There was no evidence that the defendant (Johnson) had a quicker or less painful method available to him to cause death faster or with less pain.”  Therefore it wasn’t “especially cruel and heinous” and did not warrant the death penalty.  

This is only a very small sampling of murderer coddling from a very small State.  And yet...people keep asking “Why?”. 

Murder can generally be divided into three categories: (1) crimes of passion; (2) crimes for profit and (3) crimes committed by pathological deviants living on the fringe of civilization.  Of course a single murderer may belong in more than one group simultaneously. 

For instance, a psycho may decide to murder somebody for a pack of cigarettes (group 3 and 2).  Or, a contract killer may also be pathological deviant (group 2 and 3).  A jealous wife may also be counting her soon-to-be-departed husband’s life insurance (group 1 and 2). 

“Why” they murder isn’t such a tough question.  They murder because it suits a need and they think they can get away with it.  I wonder what percentage of murderers would still commit the murder if they knew, with the certainty of the sun rising, that they would be dead five seconds after committing the murder? 

The real question isn’t “Why?”.  The real question is “What can be done to reduce the murder rate?”.  What can be done to lend some real consequences to the commission of the crime? 

Maybe...the same thing that is done to reduce the incidence of people putting their hands on hot stoves. 

If there is a single deterrent that would resonate with all murderers, it is the certainly of swift and severe consequences.  Hanging around in an air-conditioned death row and eating three squares a day while watching “American Idol” on your in-cell television just doesn’t make the argument that murder doesn’t pay...a swift execution does. 

For that matter, the path to murder is usually littered by a long history of lesser crimes that go equally light on the offender and serve to reinforce the notion that crime does pay. 

In the recent Cheshire CT murders of the Petit family, the two murderers (Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26 and Steven Hayes, 44) not only were repeat lesser crime offenders with long records...they were both recently released on parole. 

Robert Farr, chairman of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole, said that, “They were obviously individuals that had long and extensive records, but they weren't violent records,” 

Yet, in 2002, when Judge Bentivegna sentenced Komisarjevsky for a string of burglaries the judge commented, “What you do seem like is somebody who is a predator, a calculated, cold-blooded predator that decided nighttime residential burglaries was your way to make money.” 

Komisarjevsky was sentenced on December 20, 2002 to “an effective sentence of nine years, plus six years of special parole.” 

That “effective sentence” turned into about five years of incarceration and Komisarjevsky was arrested for the Petit murders just a few months after his early parole commenced. 

As Connecticut Victim Advocate James Papillo asked, “How many bites of the apple do you get?” 

With the murders just a week old, the Hartford Courant has already run two stories about Komisarjevsky being “depressed over the loss of his teenage girlfriend and struggling financially because of mounting costs related to his 5-year-old child,” and being “mentally abnormal with a predilection for burglarizing occupied homes at night”. 

We all see: where this story is going; where defense attorneys will take it; where bleeding-heart anti capital punishment advocates want it to go and where it will end up. 

It gets no more “especially cruel and heinous” than what Komisarjevsky and Hayes inflicted upon the Petit family.  Petit’s wife was raped and strangled; one of his daughters was raped; and both daughters (11 and 17 years old) were left to die after Komisarjevsky and Hayes soaked them and the rest of the house in gasoline (which they supposedly left the house in mid-crime to buy) and set the house ablaze.  Dr. Petit, the husband and father, barely escaped the burning house after being severely beaten with a baseball bat about the head and tied-up in the basement. 

All in the commission of what was supposed to be a burglary.  Nothing that Komisarjevsky and Hayes hadn’t done before and before and before...and had, for all practical purposes, been enabled to do by a State system soft on crime. 

Although both Komisarjevsky and Hayes have been charged with capital felony, they will, in all probability, never see that sentence carried out...even if they are convicted and those convictions stand.  They will die of disease or old age first. 

And as they add their wit to the Connecticut death row and/or serve out life sentences...the next time an innocent is savaged by a sociopath who will be the first to stand up and ask “Why?” with a straight face?


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