LUCASVILLE, Ohio — An Ohio man who said he couldn't remember gunning down his former girlfriend and her boyfriend 27 years ago yelled "I love you" to his daughter and heard her say she loved him before he received a lethal injection.
The execution of Daniel Lee Bedford, 63, at 11:18 a.m. Tuesday, ended a last-minute legal battle and closed what the victims' families described as an anguishing chapter in their lives. Bedford was the third inmate in Ohio — and in the nation — to be put to death using the surgical sedative pentobarbital as a stand-alone execution drug.
Bedford's lawyers fought to block the lethal injection, arguing that Bedford was improperly denied legal proceedings to which he was entitled. They also said he had dementia and a mild mental disability and was not competent enough to understand why he was being executed. A judge granted a stay of execution Monday, but a federal appeals court lifted it. He was executed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, keeping Ohio on its scheduled pace of one execution per month.
Bedford, in glasses and a short gray beard, did not give a formal statement but yelled "I love you" to two witnesses while strapped to a gurney. His daughter, Michelle Connor, shouted back, "I love you, Daddy!" He also called out to friend Kristi Schulenberg, who said she loved him, too.
"God bless you," he said. His mouth moved slightly and his chest appeared to rise and fall several times before he became still.
Bedford confessed to authorities that he shot Gwen Toepfert, 25, and John Smith, 27, at Toepfert's Cincinnati apartment, apparently because he was jealous. He had waited at the apartment where, armed with a revolver and a shotgun, he killed Smith and shot Toepfert multiple times before returning to her body and firing a shotgun blast into her groin to be sure she was dead, prosecutors said.
Relatives of Toepfert and Smith expressed support for the execution, saying they believe Bedford knew what he was doing.
Toepfert's uncle Neil Heileman and her brothers, Robert and Rick Toepfert, watched the execution in silence. Rick Toepfert held a large photo of his sister, a smiling, feather-haired blonde in a striped shirt, and aimed it toward the death chamber. He didn't turn it around until Bedford was pronounced dead.
Prison staff appeared to have some difficulty inserting IVs into Bedford's arms, prompting a lawyer to leave the witness room and call a colleague with concerns about how many times Bedford had been poked in the arm. When she shouted to Bedford through the glass viewing window and asked if there were problems, Bedford said he'd been poked several times.
The lawyer, Carol Wright, did not comment afterward.
Medical staff reported two attempts were made in each arm, prisons spokesman Carlo LoParo said.
Bedford is the fourth Ohio inmate put to death this year. Gov. John Kasich denied clemency, and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to block the execution, rejecting the defense's arguments about Bedford's competency.
Ohio's pace of monthly executions could be interrupted if Kasich follows a parole board's recommendation of clemency for Shawn Hawkins, the next inmate scheduled to die.