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State Penitentiary Closes A Day After Executing Inmate

December 14, 1990 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The decrepit Virginia State Penitentiary was shut down Friday, a day after one of its last five inmates was put to death for raping and murdering a woman 12 years ago.

For the first time since the Civil War, the cells in the 190-year-old prison were empty. The last four inmates were loaded in handcuffs into a van and taken to a prison in Greensville 55 miles away.

In a ceremony a few minutes later, Warden Raymond Muncy asked for the official prison population count. A few people smiled as Maj. E.T. Turner stepped forward and declared, ″The count at the Virginia State Penitentiary is zero.″

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″Accordingly, in my capacity as the current warden, I now declare the Virginia State Penitentiary closed,″ the warden said. ″Major, strike the colors.″

Five guards walked in formation, lowered the Virginia and American flags, folded them into triangles and saluted.

About 12 hours earlier, Buddy Early Justus was executed in the state’s electric chair for the Oct. 3, 1978, rape-slaying of Ida Moses. He also had received death sentences for murdering Rosemary Jackson, 32, in Gwinnett County, Ga., and Stephanie Hawkins, 21, in Tampa, Fla., later that month.

No other prison in the state has the electrical hookup for the chair, and the execution chamber will remain at the prison until April, when a new death chamber at the Greensville prison is expected to be completed.

The antiquated prison will be torn down after the death chamber is relocated.

State law requires a working execution chamber.

Justus was the 11th person to die in the electric chair since Virginia resumed executions in 1982. He was the 143rd person to be executed nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to revive the death penalty in 1976.

The electric chair is bolted to the floor in a basement cell block.

″It’s the first time since 1865 there’s been no prisoners,″ said Bill Linkous, chief of operations for adult institutions.

″In 1865, the whole population escaped,″ said former warden James P. Mitchell, who is helping close the prison. When Union soldiers entered Richmond, the prison guards fled. With no one to watch them, the inmates left, too, he said.

Eighty-seven of the 187 prisoners were recaptured, Mitchell said.

The original penitentiary, built 190 years ago, was torn down in 1928. The oldest of the existing prison buildings is the factory shops building, built in 1888.

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