Florida on Wednesday sentenced a man known as the “Ninja Killer” to death for the 1989 murder of a couple who moved to the state from New Jersey.
Louis Bernard Gaskin, 56, was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection, the governor’s office said. He was convicted of killing Robert Sturmfels, 56, and Georgette Sturmfels, 55, on Dec. 20, 1989, at their Flagler County winter home on Florida’s northeast coast.
Gaskin woke up at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and ate his last meal at 9:45 a.m., Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kayla McLaughlin Smith said during a news conference. Meals included BBQ pork ribs, pork and turkey neck, buffalo wings, shrimp fried rice, french fries and water.
Handout / Florida Department of Corrections / AFP via Getty Images
McLaughlin Smith said Gaskin visited his sister on Wednesday but did not meet with a spiritual adviser. No relatives of the victims were accommodated in the witness room during the execution, which was scheduled for 6 pm and began without delay.
Asked if he had any final words, Gaskin said: “Justice is not about the crime. It’s not about the criminal. It’s about the law.”
He then referred to the legal process surrounding his case and appeal, and concluded by saying, “Look at my case.”
Gaskin began taking the lethal cocktail of drugs at 6:02 a.m., causing him to breathe heavily as his chest rose and collapsed under a white sheet. The prison warden went to check if Gaskin was still conscious at 6:05 p.m. He was unresponsive. Gaskin appeared to have stopped breathing at 6:07 a.m. A doctor entered the death chamber at 6:14 a.m. to examine Gaskin and pronounced him dead a minute later.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is signing death warrants at a rapid pace this year as he prepares for his widely anticipated presidential campaign. He oversaw just two executions in 2019 in his first four years.
Gaskin’s execution came six weeks after Donald Dilbeck, 59, was executed in Tallahassee in 1990 for the slaying of 44-year-old Donald Dilbeck and three weeks before Daryl B. Berwick was scheduled to be executed for the 1986 slaying of Rebecca Wendt, 24. Panama City.
Without a stay for Berwick, the three executions would be the shortest in Florida since three executions in 36 days in 2014 under former Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican.
Gaskin’s death is the state’s 101st since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. An additional 297 people are on Florida’s death row, which is housed at Florida State Prison, about 40 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
Gaskin, dubbed the “Ninja Killer” because he wore a black ninja outfit during the crime, shot his victim with a .22-caliber rifle, investigators said. He was convicted of first degree murder.
Items he stole from Sturmfels’ home – a watch, two lamps and a videocassette recorder – were found at his residence and, according to investigators, were intended to be Christmas presents for his girlfriend. He was also convicted of armed robbery, burglary and the attempted murder of another couple who lived nearby on the same night.
Local media reported at the time that Gaskin quickly confessed to the crime and told a psychologist before his trial that he knew what he was doing.
“Crime has always been there,” Gaskin said. “Satan had more possession than God. I knew I was wrong. I wasn’t crazy.”
The state and U.S. Supreme Courts have rejected appeals filed by Gaskin since his death warrant was signed. The latest denial came Tuesday.