RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man who confessed to strangling and stabbing his girlfriend to death in 1991 was executed by lethal injection today despite a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II, a state prison spokesman said.

John Hardy Rose, 43, who had exhausted his legal appeals and refused to allow defense attorneys to seek clemency from North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley, became a record fifth death row inmate executed in the state this year.

"I know I've been forgiven by the people that love me. I've already told them, they've told me. I feel like everything has been said," Rose said before he was put to death at Central Prison in Raleigh.

According to court records, Rose confessed to the 1991 murder of girlfriend Patricia Stewart after police found traces of her blood in the trunk of his car. Rose said he killed Stewart in a rage after she threatened him with a pocket knife during an argument in her apartment in Robbinsville.