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Pipe-Bomb Killer Dies Without Seeing Execution Chamber

August 19, 1989 GMT

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) _ Herbert Lee Richardson, put to death Friday for the 1977 pipe-bomb slaying of an 11-year-old girl, never saw Alabama’s electric chair in an execution that avoided the foulup of the state’s last one.

State Prison Commissioner Morris Thigpen said that Richardson had requested he be blindfolded from the time he left the holding cell adjacent to the execution room at 11:57 p.m. Thursday.

″He never saw the execution chamber,″ Thigpen said in a news conference after the post-midnight execution.

Thigpen also witnessed Alabama’s last execution July 14, when it took two surges of electricity to execute Horace Franklin Dunkins Jr. because the electric chair was wired wrong and the first surge failed to kill him.

Thigpen kept an open telephone line from the prison to Gov. Guy Hunt’s office in case of a last minute stay.

Richardson, 43, was pronounced dead at 12:14 a.m., six minutes after the switch was thrown, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Debbie Herbert.

He was convicted in the death of 11-year-old Rena Mae Callins of Dothan, whose body was blown apart on the porch of her home when she picked up a pipe bomb and it detonated. Richardson, whose relationship with the girl’s aunt recently had broken up, said he only meant to scare the family.

The execution was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court followed the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and U.S. District Judge Robert Varner in Montgomery in refusing Richardson’s request for a stay Thursday. Gov. Guy Hunt earlier refused to grant clemency.

Richardson, blindfolded and dressed in his prison whites, was strapped in the yellow chair while he listened to Holman Prison Warden Charlie Jones read the death warrant.

″I have no ill feeling and hold nothing against anyone,″ Richardson said in a final statement after the death warrant was read.

Richardson was executed with 1,800-volt charge of electricity and doctors pronounced him dead.

Richardson was the 159th person to be electrocuted in Alabama’s chair. He was the sixth inmate put to death in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976.

In disposing of his personal effects, Richardson wrote a detailed list Thursday of items to be left to ″my beloved wife,″ whom he married in a prison ceremony last week, and to fellow death row inmate Earl Jerome McGahee, who had an adjacent cell.

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Among the items Richardson gave to his wife were a 19-inch color television, 13 packs of cigarettes, 55 matchbooks, a Bible, legal transcripts from his trial, a broken hairbrush, $4.42 from his prison account and a Bible.

Thigpen said that Richardson’s body would be taken to the state forensics laboratory in Mobile for an autopsy. He said Richardson would be buried on the Holman Prison grounds.

″When the body is not claimed by family, that’s the procedure,″ Thigpen said. ″She (Mrs. Richardson) had indicated that she did not have the means to take care of a private funeral.″