What would we say if we knew that our next words would be our last? For some sentenced to death, this scenario is a reality as they face their final moments on Earth. Chilling, bizarre, remorseful, and even unrepentant, some of these quotes prove even after the most notorious serial killers have passed away, their last words continue to haunt the people whose lives they shattered.
1. Thomas Grasso
Every famous prisoner on death row seems to generate a ghoulishly great deal of fascination surrounding their last meal. For Thomas Grasso, who murdered two elderly women in Oklahoma and New York and executed on March 20, 1995, one simple request was enough.
His simple request made way for one of the most memorable last words of any person on death row. Grasso had, apparently, asked for SpaghettiOs for his last meal. But something went wrong. “I did not get my SpaghettiOs,” he said as his last words on Earth. “I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” Well, mission accomplished. That’s one way to get the word out.
2. Ángel Maturino Reséndiz
For more than a decade, from 1986 to 1999, Ángel Maturino Reséndiz wreaked havoc throughout the United States. He was dubbed “The Railroad Killer,” “The Railway Killer,” and “The Railcar Killer,” since his crimes took place near railroads. Responsible for as many as 23 murders, he would travel the country by train, hopping off to commit these heinous acts.
One of the scariest parts of Reséndiz’s spree was his unpredictability. He committed murder over an extremely wide swath of territory: in Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Illinois, and in parts of Mexico. His evil reign led to his execution at age 46 in Texas. And it seemed that he did not disagree with his sentence. “I deserve what I am getting,” were his last words.
3. James French
It was not always supposed to be this way for James French. In 1958, French was convicted of killing a hitchhiker in West Virginia. He was sentenced to life in prison, despite his own request to receive the death penalty. It turns out that French was not very happy with this sentencing decision.
Over the years, French grew bored with prison life. He decided that in order to finally get the death penalty, he would kill his enemy and prison house roommate, Eddie Lee Shelton. His plan worked, and French was sentenced to death by electric chair. As a writer of his own demise story, it seems he also wanted to write the headline. His last words were: “How’s this for a headline? French fries.”
4. William Bonin
Thankfully, after a year of horror, the man dubbed “The Freeway Killer” was no longer free. From 1982 to 1983, William Bonin was convicted of killing at least 21 boys and young men, and was suspected to have killed at least 15 more. Bonin gained his “Freeway Killer” title because he was known for leaving victims on the side of California highways.
Whether or not you would take advice from a monster, Bonin decided he would impart his “wisdom” as his last parting words. He said, “I would suggest that when a person has thought of doing anything serious against the law, that before they did that they should go to a quiet place and think about it seriously.” Great idea, Bonin. We wish you would have done so yourself.
5. Aileen Wuornos
Easily one of the most infamous female serial killers in history, Aileen Wuornos murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990, claiming all of the killings had been done in self defense. Nonetheless, she was convicted and sentenced to death.
After her trial, Wuornos continued to make headlines and gain attention for her unhinged interviews and, much later, for being the subject of the Academy Award-winning film Monster. Even her last words on October 9, 2002, were salacious. “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back,” she rambled.
6. Gary Gilmore
Most people who live out their lives on death row get to have the chance to issue their last words. But not many of these people get to inspire a famous brand slogan based on their last words. Believe it or not, that ‘honor’ goes to Gary Gilmore, who was convicted of one murder and suspected of another in Utah.
Gilmore became well-known when in 1977 he became the first person in the U.S. to be executed in almost a decade. As he prepared for his death sentence by firing squad, he was asked for his final words. “Let’s do it!” he said, and later followed with “Dominus vobiscum,” or, “The Lord be with you,” in Latin. Later, his “let’s do it” line would actually inspire Nike’s “Just do it” slogan.
7. Clarence Ray Allen
If Clarence Ray Allen was not already going to be given the death penalty for the murder of Mary Sue Kitts in 1974, he definitely solidified his fate when he organized the murders of three other people in an attempt to kill witnesses who testified at his trial.
At age 77, Allen became the second-oldest person to be executed in the U.S. at the time of his death in 2005. But what should have been a bad day for just about anyone did not seem to be so sad for Allen. He wrote his last words, which were read out loud after his death, and read “My last words will be, Hoka Hey, it’s a good day to die. Thank you very much, I love you all. Goodbye.”
8. Patrick Bryan Knight
Patrick Bryan Knight was found guilty of killing two of his neighbors, Walter and Mary Ann Werner in 1991. By 1993, Knight was convicted and sentenced. And by June 26, 2007, after a final meal of fried pork chops and chicken, garlic toast, and ice cream, he was executed. Or so we think.
It seems that Knight was a bit of a joker. His final words were, “I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke. I deserve this.” Okay, simple enough. But then he continued, “The other joke is that I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y’all can’t stop this execution now. Go ahead, I’m finished.”
9. Steven Timothy Judy
Steven Timothy Judy was executed at the young age of just 24 years old. But even with such an early execution, police might say that it was still a long time coming. Judy committed his first attempted murder when he was just 13.
But when Judy was 23 years old, in 1979, he killed Terry Lee Chasteen and her three children as part of a gruesome act. Instead of living out his sentence in jail, Judy decided to ensure his execution by threatening his judge and jury, promising that he would kill again. When he was executed shortly thereafter, his last words were simple. “I don’t hold any grudges. This is my doing. Sorry it happened,” he said.
10. Jimmy Glass
Jimmy Glass was already in jail for another crime when he escaped and committed capital murder. Along with fellow escapee Jimmy Wingo, he was responsible for the 1982 killing of Newt Brown and Erlene Nealy Brown in Louisiana. Beyond committing his crime, Glass was most well-known for challenging executions by electrocution, and his case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Glass ultimately lost his case and was executed using the very method that he fought against in court. But the outcome did not seem to get Glass too down. His reported last words were glibly said as he smiled and awaited his fate. “I’d rather be fishing,” he said.
11. Kimberly McCarthy
Kimberly McCarthy was a nightmare of a neighbor. She was convicted in 1997 for the death of her neighbor, a 71-year-old retired college professor. The crime was committed as McCarthy robbed her. This was the only crime she was charged with, but McCarthy had also been a suspect in two other killings.
While the prosecution presented plenty of evidence, including the fact that McCarthy had used her neighbor’s stolen credit cards and driver’s license after her death, McCarthy maintained her innocence until the day she died. Her last words were, “this is not a loss, this is a win. You know where I am going. I am going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love y’all.”
12. Carl Panzram
Carl Panzram’s rap sheet is jaw-dropping. In his lifetime, Panzram admitted to the arson of his childhood boarding school, vandalism, theft, assault, attempted murder, and accessory to murder. What’s more, he managed to break free from jail a few times. Finally, he was put into jail for the last time in 1928 after confessing to three murders.
But it was not until Panzram killed a prison foreman while incarcerated that he was given a death sentence. The lifelong criminal had always seemed to be proud of his crimes, even writing an autobiography. So it came as no surprise when his last words were “hurry it up” and “I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around.”
13. Kenneth McDuff
If anyone was a proponent of second chances, they may no longer be after hearing the story of Kenneth McDuff. McDuff, often referred to as “The Broomstick Murderer,” was convicted of killing three teenagers in 1966 and was given a life sentence. But then, after challenging his fate, McDuff was able to convince a panel that he ought to be paroled.
It was all downhill from there. While free from prison, an unrepentant McDuff continued his killing spree and was responsible for the murders of six other people. In 1992, McDuff was arrested again and given a death sentence. His last words were, unsurprisingly, “I am ready to be released. Release me.”
14. John Wayne Gacy
What is more terrifying than a serial killer who murdered at least 33 boys? Well, a serial killer who murdered at least 33 boys and dressed like a clown. John Wayne Gacy is considered to be one of the most horrifying and infamous men in American history, even more than 25 years after his execution.
Years after the bodies of 26 victims were found stored in Gacy’s own home and 14 years after getting his sentence, the real-life monster died by lethal injection in Illinois. But what were the final words of one of the most infamous men in history? “Kiss my [expletive].”
15. Karla Faye Tucker
Death row executions often garner the attention of the press, but rarely do they get attention from an Italian Prime Minister, a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Pope himself. In Karla Faye Tucker’s case, all three of these figureheads spoke out against her death sentence, after a botched robbery left two innocent people murdered.
After being handed her death sentence in 1983, Tucker became a devout Christian and went on to marry her prison minister, claiming she had reformed her ways. Those claims were not enough to vacate her sentence, and she was executed in June of 1983. Her last words, as she looked at her loved ones, were: “I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you.”
16. Jeffrey Dahmer
Of all the notorious serial killers in American history, Jeffrey Dahmer is easily one of the first names to come to mind. Part of his infamy was due to the number of men he killed, 17 in total, but also the way in which he went about his monstrous spree, and the aftermath of what he would do to his victims after they were killed.
In the end, Dahmer was himself killed by a fellow inmate in prison. Unlike others on this list who were given the chance to declare last words, Dahmer was not. Instead, according to his assailant, Dahmer’s last words were: “I don’t care if I live or die. Go ahead and kill me.”
17. Robert Charles Towery
On September 4, 1991, Robert Charles Towery was involved in a botched robbery. By its end, Mark Jones, a man from Scottsdale, Arizona, was killed inside of his own home. Towery was found guilty for the murder, and was handed the death sentence.
Just over 20 years later, in 2012, Towery was put to death by lethal injection. During the execution, Towery apologized to the family of the victim. He began to cry and looked back on his life with regret. “I love my family, potato, potato, potato.” Rumor has it that Towery was making the sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, an inside joke to put his nephew at ease.
18. Ted Bundy
Some secrets die with the criminals who hold onto them. In the case of Ted Bundy, the world may never know exactly how many women he was responsible for murdering. But just before his execution he confessed to 30 homicides. Still, some say that at times he hinted to having killed nearly 100 people.
Bundy was one of the most ruthless serial killers to have ever lived, terrorizing an entire nation throughout the 1970s. When his time came to face his punishment of execution, Bundy gave several interviews detailing his crimes so that the FBI could research his despicable acts for years to come. After all of those interviews, his last words were, “Jim and Fred [Bundy’s lawyers], I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”
19. Carroll Cole
For someone who was found responsible for the murders of at least 16 people, Carroll Cole has gone relatively unknown when it comes to some of the most infamous serial killers in American history. Cole carried out his spree between the years of 1948 and 1980, killing mostly women, including his own wife. His first crime was committed when he was just a child.
Cole was handed life sentences for three of his murders in Texas, but was given a death sentence for two killings in Nevada. When he was executed in 1985, five years after he was apprehended for his crimes, he seemed prepared. “It’s all right,” was all that he said as his last words.
20. Amelia Dyer
She was one of the most prolific serial killers of all time, rumored to have been responsible for the deaths of over 400 children. But by the time Amelia Dyer was executed, she had only been officially charged with a handful of murders.
Dyer was known for her “baby farming” methods in Victorian England, where mothers would pay Dyer to adopt their newborn babies. But while Dyer brought these children back to what the mothers had thought was a loving home, police would later find out that it was really a house of horrors. She continued this terrifying business for 30 years until she was caught. When she was executed, her final words were, “I have nothing to say.”
21. Timothy McVeigh
In 1995, the massive bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City shook an entire nation, and became the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in United States history. And the man behind that deadly bombing, Timothy McVeigh, was sentenced to death for his attack, which killed 168 people and injured 680 others.
While many death row inmates wait an average of 15 years in prison before they were executed, McVeigh’s execution moved at a more rapid pace. He received the death penalty in 1997 and was executed in 2001. When asked to give any final words, he declined and stared blankly ahead. His final statement was a poem called “Invictus,” which ends with the lines “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
22. Donald Henry Gaskins
Donald Henry Gaskins was responsible for the murders of hitchhikers as well as people he felt had “wronged” him for nearly 10 years before he was caught by police, earning him the title of “The Hitchhiker’s Killer.” His more vacant demeanor also earned him the nicknames “Pee Wee” and “The Redneck Charles Manson.”
Gaskins was officially convicted for killing 9 people. But weeks before his death, he sat down for an interview and claimed that he had actually killed up to 110 people during his terror spree — or so he said. By the time he gave his last words, he was out of things to express. “I’ll let my lawyers talk for me,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
23. Jack Jones Jr.
Mary Phillips, 34, and her daughter Lacy, 11, were at an office filing taxes when Jack Jones Jr. approached them and informed them that he was “going to have to rob them.” From there, his actions escalated to murder. It was not until young Lacy awoke during police photographing that anyone realized that she had survived the attack that had killed her mother.
When Jones was executed in 2017, his last words were almost entirely directed at Lacy, who was 22 by that time. “I hope over time you can learn who I really am, and I am not a monster,” he said to her. “There was a reason why those things happened that day. I am so sorry, Lacy, try to understand I love you like a child.”
24. Peter Manuel
Between 1956 and 1958, Peter Manuel went on a depraved criminal spree across southern Scotland that would lead to the deaths of at least eight people. As police were searching for the person responsible for these heinous crimes, police dubbed Manuel “the Beast of Birkenshaw.”
After his arrest, media speculation fueled rumors that Manuel could have been responsible for a slew of unsolved murders in the area, but none of those rumors have been proven or substantiated. In 1958, Manuel became the third to last person to ever be executed in Scotland. Unlike his life of mayhem, his last words were pretty simple, stating “turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly.”
25. George Bernard Harris
The story of George Bernard Harris goes something like this: Man (Harris) wins a card game and uses the earnings to buy weapons. Man gives those weapons to a friend to store for safekeeping. Friend loses the firearms after hiding them too well. Man kills friend for his grave error.
The case seemed pretty straightforward, and in June of 1990, Harris was handed a death sentence, which was seen as a pretty harsh punishment by some. After the sentencing, Harris went on to file several petitions and appeals, all of which were denied. It appears that Harris was not happy with the legal proceedings, because his last words were: “Somebody needs to kill my trial attorney.”
26. Albert Fish
With monikers like “Gray Man,” “Werewolf of Wysteria,” “The Brooklyn Vampire,” “The Moon Maniac,” and “The Boogey Man,” it is hard to live up to a name. But for Albert Fish, he lived up to all of these names and more as one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.
Fish was ultimately given the death penalty for his role in 3 confirmed murders, but he once stated that he had over 100 victims. That has not ever been verified. but what has been verified is that Fish was pretty much as bad as they come. The message never seemed to reach him, whose last words were “I don’t even know why I’m here.”
27. Gary Burris
When Kenneth Chambers, a cab driver in Indianapolis, picked up Gary Burris on a cold, dark night, he had no idea it would be his last ride. In just a few minutes, Burris would leave Chambers dead on the street near the Fall Creek Parkway.
But Burris would not evade the law for long. He was soon picked up after cab logs showed that Burris was Chambers’ last costumer, and was found guilty for the cab driver’s murder and robbery. Besides being a murderer, Burris seemed to be a believer in aliens as well. His last words were simply, “beam me up!”
28. George Engel
Back in 1886, a peaceful rally for workers’ rights turned into something horrific and deadly. As protesters gathered to support an 8 hour workday, police began trying to break up the crowd. Then, someone threw a bomb that killed seven police officers and four protesters.
That night, George Engel was actually at home playing cards, but he would still be sentenced to death for his role in the bombing. He was charged with conspiracy, as he was said to be the mastermind behind the deadly plot. Apparently this sentence did not get his spirits down, as his last words were “Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life.”
29. H.H. Holmes
As the murderer who went on to inspire the book The Devil In The White Chit: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, H.H. Holmes has become notoriously known as one of the first serial killers in the United States.
Holmes was said to have built a house of horrors that was disguised as a hotel for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, where he would utilize the “hotel’s” torture rooms, secret passageways, and chutes that would lead to a murderous basement. So for his own murder, he seemed to want everything to be perfect. “Take your time,” he said as he was being executed, “don’t bungle it.”
30. Jeffrey Matthews
For a death row inmate, finding out the exact date for their execution must be an scary feeling. For Jeffrey Matthews, that date came four different times, after his execution date was postponed on three separate occasions. But on January 11, 2011, Matthews’ time had come.
Matthews, who was sentenced to death after killing his great uncle during a robbery, was apparently popular in the prison. During his execution, fellow inmates on death row banged loudly against their doors in solidarity. As Matthews prepared for his death, he still held out hope for another postponement. “I think the governor’s phone broke, he hasn’t called yet,” he joked.
31. John Avalos Alba
Let’s just say that John Avalos Alba was not a good guy. After being arrested on assault charges for acts performed on his niece’s best friend, Alba asked his wife to bail him out of jail. His wife, Wendy, refused, and instead hid at a friends house, where Alba later found her and ultimately murdered her in 1991.
By 2010, Alba was preparing for his lethal injection. His last meal included fried chicken, fried pork chops, enchiladas, onion rings, salad, white bread, and six cold Cokes. But that was not the last thing he tasted. “I can taste it already,” he said as the process began. “I’m starting to go.”
32. Ned Kelly
When Ned Kelly was executed in 1880, it was said that the last official bushranger left planet Earth. Bushrangers, who were basically just Australian cowboys, were notorious for their crimes. But no one was as notorious as Kelly, who eluded police for two years.
During his battle with police, he and his fellow bushrangers tried to ambush a police train and failed. A shootout immediately ensued, killing every one of his peers. Kelly survived due in large part to the fact that he was wearing a suit of bulletproof armor at the time. All of this time running away from police seemed to leave Kelly aware of his eventual fate. His last words were “such is life.”
33. Robert Alton Harris
On July 4, 1978, Robert Alton Harris and his brother, Daniel Marcus Harris, were at a fast food restaurant when they encountered two 16 year-old boys. The brothers then proceeded to have the boys drive to a remote location, where they were both murdered. But the story did not stop there.
The Harris brothers took the boys’ car and used it as a getaway vehicle for a bank robbery. The car did not seem to work too well, since both brothers were caught an hour later. But for anyone who thought they were nothing like Harris, he decided his execution would be the time to set the record straight. “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper,” he said.
34. Robert Charles Comer
By the time that Robert Charles Comer was executed in 2007, he had been trying to die for years. He even fought his own appeals, saying he wanted to die and owed it to his victims, including Larry Pritchard, who Comer killed after inviting Pritchard to eat dinner at his campsite.
“I killed Larry Pritchard” and assaulted one other woman that night, Comer admitted as part of his final words. He went on to explain that he deserved death, “I owe that to them. I owe it to myself, man. I was totally wrong,” he said. But his last words were definitely those of a man who had come to terms with his own demise. “Go Raiders,” he said, referencing his favorite football team.
35. Vince Gutierrez
In 1997, Vince Gutierrez and a few of his friends came up with a plan. One of the friends had just bought a car, and needed specific parts to fix it up. Those parts could usually be found in a Mazda RX-7, so Guitierrez suggested that they steal a Mazda for parts.
Ultimately, they found one and forced their way into the car, where they held the car’s owner, Air Force Captain Jose Cobo, at gunpoint. When Cobo tried to escape, Gutierrez shot and killed him. His last words in 2007 were to his brother, Phillip. “My brother,” he joked, “where’s my stunt double when you need one?”
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