Man Executed for Killing a Store Clerk 25 Years Ago But Always Maintained He didn't Pull The Trigger

Published November 14th, 2019 - 01:09 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Death-row inmate Ray Cromartie executed by lethal injection on Wednesday.

A death-row inmate has been executed for the 1994 murder of a store clerk. 

Ray Cromartie, 52, was on Wednesday executed for the shooting of a convenience store clerk during a bungled robbery in which he and two accomplices got away with a case of beer.  

Cromartie, who has long denied that he pulled the trigger in the killing, was executed by lethal injection at 10:59 pm EST at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, the state's department of corrections said.

Cromartie maintained his innocence until the end and even the victim's daughter, Elizabeth Legette, issued a statement supporting a last minute request for DNA testing, which was refused by the Courts.

The last word Cromartie spoke aloud was 'No,' after he was asked if he would like to make a final statement.  

However he accepted a final prayer, officials said.

He was sentenced to death in 1997 for the slaying of Richard Slysz, a cashier at the Junior Food Store held up at gunpoint and shot twice in the head in the town of Thomasville by Cromartie and another man, Corey Clark, on April 10, 1994.

The two robbers failed to get the store's cash register open but Cromartie grabbed two 12-packs of Budweiser beer and they fled the scene, according to court records.

Cromartie was arrested three days later. He was convicted largely on testimony from Clark and a second co-defendant, getaway driver Thaddeus Lucas, as well as two other associates, who claimed Cromartie admitted to shooting the clerk, according to court documents in the case.

Clark and Lucas pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

In addition to the murder of Slysz, the state also says Cromartie also shot and gravely injured another convenience store clerk a few days earlier. Cromartie insists he didn't shoot either clerk, according to his attorneys.

They unsuccessfully asked state and federal courts to allow DNA testing of evidence collected from the shootings that they say could prove he wasn't the shooter.

The request for DNA testing was unexpectedly supported by the victim's daughter, Elizabeth Legette.

In a statement, Ms Legette said it would be 'very, very wrong to execute Mr. Cromartie without conducting this testing.' 

She added: 'I believe that there are serious questions about whether Ray Cromartie actually killed my dad.' 

However the state argued that the DNA evidence they are seeking is irrelevant and couldn't prove his innocence. Courts rejected the requests for DNA testing. 

Ahead of his execution, Cromartie was meeting with clergy for religious counseling, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lori Benoit told 

Ahead of Wednesday's execution, Cromartie requested a last meal of steak, lobster macaroni and cheese, chicken sandwich, chicken caesar salad with ranch dressing, double cheeseburger, fries, red beans, strawberry milkshake, and apple juice. 

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Last week, lawyers filed new evidence in federal court in Valdosta, including a statement from co-defendant Lucas, who is Cromartie's half-brother, saying that Cromartie was 'probably' not the shooter who killed Slysz.

In the statement, Lucas claims that he wasn't present at the store for the robbery, and alleges that he overheard the other co-defendant Clark confess to shooting the clerk. 

The appeal cited a sworn affidavit that defense lawyers obtained from Lucas earlier this month saying he had overheard Clark confess years ago to committing the shooting, not Cromartie. 

U.S. District Judge Mark Treadwell, in an order late Tuesday, rejected that latest push, saying the statement from Lucas wasn´t strong enough to sidetrack the execution, and that defense lawyers should have submitted it earlier. 

'Lucas' statement is not new reliable evidence of Cromartie´s actual innocence,' Treadwell wrote. 'While Lucas claims to have overheard Clark tell Young that he shot Slysz, Lucas also states repeatedly that he does not know who actually shot Slysz.' 

The state's attorney general office said it would not comment on the case.

Cromartie's execution was carried out shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court denied an 11th-hour application for a stay based on new evidence that his lawyers said had come to light about the identity of the killer.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Cromartie's lawyers' contention that Lucas' recent statement shows their client is innocent and his case should be reopened. The Court of Appeals noted that Cromartie was convicted of shooting a different store clerk three days before Slysz was murdered. 

Cromartie's attorney, Shawn Nolan, decried the execution in a late-night statement.

'It is so sad and frankly outrageous that the state of Georgia executed Ray Cromartie tonight after repeatedly denying his requests for DNA testing that would have proven he did not kill Richard Slysz,' Nolan said.

Cromartie is the third person executed by Georgia this year. The state says it uses the sedative pentobarbital for lethal injections, but state law bars the release of any information about where the drug comes from.  

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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