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Ohio executes inmate using single-drug method

Kenneth Biros was convicted of murder. Prosecutors said he cut up the victim's body and spread it around two states.
Kenneth Biros was convicted of murder. Prosecutors said he cut up the victim's body and spread it around two states.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenneth Biros was convicted of killing and dismembering a 22-year-old woman in 1991
  • He was executed Tuesday using a new, untested one-drug method of lethal injection
  • His attorney objected to the method, saying it was unconstitutional
  • The U.S. Supreme Court without comment denied a request to stay the execution
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(CNN) -- An Ohio inmate, convicted of killing and dismembering a 22-year-old woman in 1991, was executed Tuesday using a new, untested one-drug method of lethal injection, state officials said.

Kenneth Biros, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:47 a.m. at a prison in Lucasville, Ohio, the state attorney general's office said in a written statement.

His last words, according to Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman Julie Walburn, were: "Sorry from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank all of my family and friends for my prayers and who supported and believed in me.

"My father, now I'm being paroled to heaven," Biros said, according to Walburn. "I will now spend all of my holidays with my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Peace be with you all. Amen."

Biros' execution is the first in Ohio since September, when the governor and federal courts halted capital punishment in the state after a botched attempt to execute another prisoner, Romell Broom. The prison staff could not find a suitable vein for the injections.

The one-drug method had never been tried on a U.S. death row inmate. It relies on a single dose of sodium thiopental injected into a vein. A separate two-drug muscle injection was available as a backup, officials said. The one-drug method has been used to euthanize animals.

The same drug, sodium thiopental, at a much lower dosage, is the first ingredient in the three-drug method previously used in Ohio, as well as in all but one of the other 34 states that allow the death penalty.

Some capital punishment opponents claim the sodium thiopental, which renders the prisoner unconscious, can wear off too quickly, and that some prisoners would actually be awake and able to feel pain as the procedure continues.

Biros' execution was initially scheduled for 10 a.m., but preparations were delayed as officials waited for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on Biros' request for a stay, Walburn said.

The high court without comment denied the request about 10 a.m., and "we were about an hour behind" in preparations, she said. The execution began around 11 a.m. Biros died about 10 minutes after the drugs began to flow, she said, but he was not officially pronounced dead until later.

Biros, 51, was convicted of killing Tami Engstrom near the town of Warren. He met the woman at a bar and offered to drive her home, and later admitted robbing and attempting to rape her.

Prosecutors said Biros dismembered Engstrom and spread her body parts around northeast Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania. The crime was "particularly heinous, with 91 pre-mortem wounds," according to the clemency report. Biros claimed he acted in a fit of drunken rage.

He was involved in litigation challenging the three-drug method and received a stay of execution in 2007 because of his involvement in the suit, according to minutes of a November parole board meeting posted on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections' Web site.

His attorney, Timothy Sweeney, had also objected to the one-drug method, saying it was unconstitutional. Sweeney wrote in an appeal that use of the one-drug method would amount to "human experimentation, pure and simple."

But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month denied Biros' request for a stay, concluding that since Ohio had announced it would change its protocol and rely on the one-drug method, Biros' argument regarding the three-drug method was moot.

Biros' last meal was served about 7:45 p.m. Monday -- pizza with extra cheese, mushrooms, onions and green peppers, along with onion rings, deep-fried mushrooms, Doritos, french onion dip, blueberry ice cream, Dr Pepper and cherry pie, Walburn said.

During its meeting last month, members of the state parole board heard a prerecorded statement from Engstrom's mother, Mary Jane Heiss, according to the meeting minutes. Heiss said her health was not good but she was saving her strength to attend Biros' execution.

"Since her daughter's death, she has endured nearly 20 years of constant pain and nightmares," the minutes said. "She believes that the nightmares will end with the execution. It makes her sick that Biros tortured and brutally murdered her daughter."

The board voted 7-0 to deny Biros clemency.

In attempting to execute Broom in September, authorities tried unsuccessfully for hours to find a vein to administer his lethal injection. Afterward, Gov. Ted Strickland announced he would delay the executions of two other men until March at the earliest. Broom's execution has not been rescheduled.

Ohio has put 32 people to death in the past decade.

CNN's Bill Mears and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.