"We put it behind us 25 years ago when it happened," she said. "We didn't like that they kept saying he's being killed because he killed Mike. … This is the last thing (Burdell) would have wanted. I just hate that his family has to go through this now."
She said many members of her family have felt angry "like they were shut out" when they constantly tried to point out that Burdell wouldn't have wanted to see Gardner die on his behalf. But she is certain that the two men will meet, and there will be no qualms between them.
"I think Mike will be right there to welcome him home," she said. "You just forgive, you just do, and if you don't forgive, it just hurts you. Michael is at peace. He's fine."
Gardner's family said they would not witness the execution.
"He don't want that to be our last image," Randy Gardner said. "He don't want us to have nightmares and bad dreams."
Gardner fasted from food in the 36 hours leading up to his death, drinking only vitamin water, Sprite, Coke, 7UP and Mountain Dew, prison officials said. Gardner ate his last meal Tuesday evening — a feast of steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7UP.
Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke said Gardner was moved to a smaller observation cell after meeting with family Wednesday night.
In the hours leading up to his execution, prison officials described Gardner's mood as "reflective" and "calm." Gardner slept, read mail and David Baldacci's "Divine Justice," a novel about a former CIA assassin. Gardner intermittently slept and watched "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
By 8:45 p.m., Gehrke said Gardner had met with an LDS bishop, a person he had known for several years and whom he trusted. Gardner sat on a bunk in the observation cell and spoke to the bishop through a small port used for handcuffing inmates. Gardner finished meeting with his clergy and attorneys by 9:30 p.m., Gehrke said. As the execution neared, family and friends of the condemned killer held a candlelight vigil outside the prison.
They sang along to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," held each other and wept.
Gardner, meanwhile, slept and waited alone until he was escorted 90 feet down a hallway and around a corner to the prison's execution chamber just before midnight.
At 12 a.m., Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff spoke with prison officials by telephone and told them there was no legal reason not to go through with the execution.
Families of Gardner's victims and others waited at the Utah State Capitol. The nervous sounds of tapping feet or whispered conversations were all that remained as a small crowd waited for the attorney general to re-emerge. "Ronnie Lee Gardner will never kill again. He will never assault anyone again," Shurtleff said to a silenced audience.
Gardner was pronounced dead at 12:20 and 25 seconds.
"Now Ronnie Lee Gardner will be held accountable to a higher power, and I pray he will find more mercy than he showed his victims," Shurtleff said.
Contributing: Pat Reavy, Josh Smith, Lana Groves
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