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Connecticut serial killer put to death

Ross is first to be executed in New England in 45 years

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The brother of Michael Ross' first victim reflects on his loss.
• Execution protesters march
Capital Punishment

SOMERS, Connecticut (CNN) -- In New England's first execution in 45 years, the state of Connecticut put serial killer Michael Ross to death early Friday.

The 45-year-old Ross was executed for the killings of four eastern Connecticut women in the 1980s.

Ross had rejected all efforts to halt his execution, saying he wanted to die. But his father and court-appointed attorneys tried to stop the state from proceeding, claiming Ross was not competent to drop his appeals.

Christine Whidden, the warden for the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, said Ross was put to death by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. ET at nearby Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers.

Media witnesses said Ross made no final statement, never opened his eyes and moved very little ahead of the chemicals being administered. As the drugs flowed into his veins, they said, Ross became completely still.

"Michael Ross did not have any final words," said Shelly Sindland, a reporter for WTIC in Hartford who witnessed the execution. "When asked if he wanted any final words, he said, 'No, thank you.' He did gasp for air, shuddered, and after that there was no movement whatsoever."

The execution was the first in New England since 1960, when Connecticut inmate Joseph Taborsky died in the state's electric chair. Four of the other five states in the region -- Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont -- have no death penalty, while New Hampshire's last execution was in 1939.

Ross admitted killing eight women -- six in Connecticut and two in New York -- as part of a crime spree in at least five states.

He was sentenced to death for killing Robin Stavinsky, April Brunais, Wendy Baribeault and Leslie Shelley in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s.

Stavinsky's sister, Debbie Dupris, said the execution did not give her the closure she was expecting to feel, but it did serve a purpose.

"Finally justice has been served," Dupris said, "and I know that our sister, Robin Dawn Stavinsky, is looking down upon us at this moment, and I know that she will rest easier knowing that the person who ended her life no longer has the privilege of having his own."

All of Ross' victims were 14 to 25 years old when he strangled them to death. He admitting raping all but one of them.

Dzong Tu, a Vietnam-born graduate student in economics at Cornell University in New York, is believed to have been Ross' first murder victim. Her death followed a string of rapes on campus in the spring of 1981. Ross also was a student at the university.

"We will always miss my sister," said Lan Tu, Dzong's brother, "and I feel that this was only (a) small measure of justice for the pain that Michael Ross caused our family and the loss, but it is an ending."

Edwin Shelley, whose daughter Leslie Shelley was killed by Ross along with her best friend in 1984, said the convicted killer got what he deserved.

"We have waited 21 years for justice, and I would like to thank the jury in Bridgeport, the jury in New London, and finally the state of Connecticut for finally giving us the justice that our children are due."

Preceding the execution, a string of last-minute appeals failed.

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday denied a pair of appeals by family members to postpone the execution.

Earlier in the day, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also turned down the family's effort to delay the execution, rejecting a motion filed by Ross' sister, Donna Dunham.

Ahead of the scheduled execution, about 400 people carrying anti-death penalty signs quietly marched toward the prison where Ross was to executed.

T.R. Paulding, Ross' private attorney, said Ross repeatedly invoked his right to die and asked that his wishes be respected. If a full round of appeals were allowed, it most likely would prevent his client's execution, he had said.

Ross' relatives argued he was suffering from "death row syndrome," in which a person's mental state is degraded by being on death row for a long period -- causing a person to think it would be better to die.

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