LDS bishop recounts Ronnie Lee Gardner's final days before execution

Published: Sunday, July 17 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

The warden came by earlier to ask what he wanted for his last meal. Ronnie said steak, lobster tail, apple pie and vanilla ice cream. He told the warden that one of the officers had volunteered to grill for him in the yard, but the warden said he would have no input in the choice of a cook. He also requested the clothing he will wear to his execution — a long-sleeved maroon dress shirt and black slacks — but he was told he will wear a dark blue jumpsuit instead.

"If they aren't going to give me anything, why do they keep asking?" he said.

I told Ronnie he should shave his wispy white goatee; that it didn't improve his looks. He laughed and said he would do it if I would shave off what remains of the hair on my head.

MAY 26

I met with Ronnie tonight. He said he had talked to prison officials about the cremation of his body and what witnesses will attend his execution. He can't decide if he wants family there that night, or even if he wants them to claim the body. He asked if I would be willing to claim the body and take care of the cremation. I told him I would, if it comes to that. He asked me if I would be there for him during the hours leading up to the execution, and if I would be there as a witness. I agreed to this; however, he is not sure if he wants to put this responsibility on my shoulders. "I don't want to put anyone through it," he said.

Ronnie said prison officials had called the families of his victims to see if they wanted a chance to meet with him. Ronnie hopes they will do this. Only one person has responded positively (I will not mention any names here). Ronnie is excited for the opportunity.

We read about King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon regarding "the change" that needs to take place in one's heart.

I wrapped up tonight's meeting by telling Ronnie something I had been withholding from him. "Ronnie, before I leave, I want to tell you something," I began. "I was in the 19th Special Forces with Mel Otterstrom. I have never mentioned it before because I didn't want it to affect your feelings in talking to me about anything you wanted to say. But now that we are getting close to that day, I just wanted you to know." Ronnie was shocked. "How could you ever spend time with me knowing what I did to Mel?" he asked.

I told him, "I remember very well when the event took place. In Special Forces, there is a tight bond. But when I was called to serve as bishop at the prison, I knew my calling was to serve all of the inmates, not just the ones who made me comfortable. It has also been a blessing in my life to help me learn the principle of forgiveness."

Ronnie thanked me and said he hoped that this experience would help someone else. I shook his hand and told him I would return next week.


The Third District Court denied Ronnie's request for a stay of execution. I have a call in to the warden to ask about visiting more often as the day draws near.


The warden called. He said I will be allowed to stay with Ronnie until 9 o'clock the night of the execution. He also told me that Ronnie wants his family to pick up the body, but Ronnie is not going to allow them to view the execution. Ronnie told him he is still vacillating on whether he wants me in the witness room. I will talk to Ronnie about it tonight.

When I arrived to visit Ronnie I learned that he had refused to put on a jumpsuit to come to the visit. The jumpsuit is required, but the rule hadn't been enforced lately. I asked the officers to ask him to please put on the jumpsuit for just a few minutes because I needed to talk to him. He told the sergeant to tell me he wasn't coming.


The Utah Supreme Court denied Ronnie's appeal.


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