Wednesday, May 18, 2005

April 28, 2005

...`I'm nice to them and I tell 'em what they want to hear.'"...

Last Meal: Centobie did not make a request for a last meal, but prison officials say he ate heartily: Chili and rice, okra and corn tomato soup, cornbread, gingerbread cake and fruit punch for lunch. Pizza, poor boy and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and three sodas from prison vending machines for a snack. Barbecue chicken, egg noodles with butter, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes and a strawberry soda for dinner at 3 p.m.

The skinny: Centobie, a sensational escape artists, was executed for the 1998 murder of a police officer.

More skinny: Centobie was convicted of kidnapping his ex-wife and son and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Centobie escaped with fellow prisoner Jeremy Granberry while being transferred between jails. They overpowered their guards and stole their car. They fled into Alabama, where they were stopped by Tuscaloosa police officer Cecil Lancaster. Centobie shot and wounded Lancaster from the car's passenger seat. The next day, they were pulled over again on a traffic stop by the victim. After speaking with the cop, Centobie reached back into the car as if to retrieve his driver’s license. Instead, he pulled the deputy's stolen handgun and shot the victim three times - one bullet hit his bullet resistant vest, another entered his hip, and the last struck the back of his head.

Granberry was soon captured, but Centobie slipped away, only to be captured later, returning to the home of his ex-wife. While incarcerated awaiting trial, Centobie again escaped, this time with the help of a prison guard, Donna Hawkins, whom he had charmed. He was captured in Georgia two weeks later. Hawkins was sentenced to an 18-month prison sentence for permitting or facilitating his escape. Granberry pleaded guilty to the crimes against him and in July 2000 was sentenced to three life terms.

After his second capture, women sent cards, letters and pictures to him in jail. His lawyer once asked him how he charmed women. "He said, `I'm nice to them and I tell 'em what they want to hear.'"

Leading up to: Centobie spent his final day with his own family, meeting with his mother, two brothers and a sister, along with two members of Kairos, a prison ministry group. Centobie had a final meal of barbeque chicken, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes, egg noodles with butter and cornbread. Centobie left his television and radio to other death row inmates. At 4:10 p.m. he was served communion by Rev. Raymond McDonough, a Catholic priest from Birmingham.

Centobie earlier rejected an unsolicited attempt to block his execution, saying in an affidavit he preferred death over a life in prison. Centobie said it was a ''luxury'' knowing when he would die because it gave him time to prepare.

Last words and such: Centobie repeatedly broke into a grin and sometimes nodded his head. He said nothing. He didn't acknowledge his mother or brother sitting in a witness room to his right, or the relatives and co-workers of the victim in a separate witness room straight ahead. Divorced for 10 years, Centobie wore his wedding ring.

Factoids: Centobie was the...

18th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
962nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Alabama in 2005
31st murderer executed in Alabama since 1976

A year before his turn to crime, Centobie won accolades in Mobile County from sheriff's officials as a diver for helping rescue victims of the Amtrak disaster on Bayou Canot in 1993 that killed 47 passengers and crew.