Michael Bruce Ross


Michael Bruce Ross

Michael Bruce Ross
Birth name: Michael Bruce Ross
Also known as: The Roadside Strangler
Born: July 26, 1959(1959-07-26)
Putnam, Connecticut
Died: May 13, 2005 (aged 45)
Somers, Connecticut
Cause of death: lethal injection
Killings
Number of victims: 8
Span of killings: May 12, 1981–June 13, 1984
Country: United States
State(s): Connecticut and New York
Date apprehended: June 29, 1984

Michael Bruce Ross (July 26, 1959 – May 13, 2005) was an American serial killer, also known as The Roadside Strangler. In 2005, he was executed by the state of Connecticut, making it the first execution in Connecticut (and the whole of New England) since 1960.

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Early life

Ross was born in Putnam, Connecticut to Patricia Hilda Laine and Dan Graeme Ross.[1] The oldest of four children, having two younger sisters and a younger brother, he grew up on a chicken farm in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Ross’ home life was extremely dysfunctional; his mother, who had abandoned the family at least once and had been institutionalized, beat all four of her children, saving the worst for him.[2] Some family and friends have suggested that he was also molested by his teenaged uncle, who committed suicide when Ross was six.[3]

Ross was a bright boy who performed well in school. He would later attend Cornell University, study agricultural economics, and become an insurance salesman. He began stalking women in his sophomore year of college. In his senior year, he committed his first rape; his first murder followed soon after.

Crime spree

Between 1981 and 1984, Ross murdered eight girls and women (aged 14 to 25) in Connecticut and New York.

His murder victims were:

  • Dzung Ngoc Tu, 25, a Cornell University student, killed May 12, 1981;
  • Tammy Williams, 17, of Brooklyn, Connecticut, killed January 5, 1982;
  • Paula Perrera, 16, of Wallkill, New York, killed March 1982;
  • Debra Smith Taylor, 23, of Griswold, killed June 15, 1982;
  • Robin Stavinsky, 19, of Norwich, killed November, 1983;
  • April Brunais, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984;
  • Leslie Shelley, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984; and
  • Wendy Baribeault, 17, of Griswold, killed June 13, 1984.

Of his eight murder victims above, seven were also raped. Ross also was alleged to have raped (but not killed):

  • Vivian Dobson, 21, 1983.

Plainfield police rejected the possibility that Ross had been Vivian Dobson’s rapist. They did not press charges and Ross made no confession.

Ross confessed to all of the eight murders, and he was convicted for the last four of them. He was sentenced to death on July 6, 1987, and spent the next 18 years on death row. During that time, he met his fiancée, Susan Powers, of Oklahoma. Powers broke up with Ross in 2003 but still visited him until his death. He became a devout Catholic after his arrest in 1984, meeting regularly with two priests through the years and praying the rosary each morning. Ross met Cornell University graduate and pastoral adviser Kathy Yeager, who visited him from 1997 until 2005. According to Yeager, Ross had accomplishments, such as translating Braille, acting as a “big brother” to other inmates, and sponsoring an impoverished child from the Dominican Republic.[4]

Execution

Though he opposed the death penalty, Ross strongly supported his own death sentence in the last year of his life, saying that he wanted to spare his victims’ families any more pain. According to Yeager, Ross believed that he had been “forgiven by God” and that he would be going to “a better place” once executed. She said, “He’s not being punished. He’s moving on to life eternal. That’s what is ironic about the death penalty. He’s looking forward to the peace.”[4] Yeager also said that Ross had come to believe there was no way his death sentences would be commuted without forcing the victims’ families to suffer through more legal hearings; and that he knew his life would be meaningful, even behind bars: “He’s had a horrible life, and he’s wanted to do good.”[4]

In spite of this, an hour before the execution was to take place in the early hours of January 26, 2005, Ross’ lawyer, acting on behalf of Ross’ father, obtained a two-day stay of execution. Ross was then scheduled to die by lethal injection on January 29, 2005, at 2:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. However, earlier in the day, the execution was again postponed because of doubts that Ross was mentally competent; having fought against his death sentence for 17 years, he suddenly waived his right to appeal. His attorney claimed that Ross was incompetent to waive appeals, as he was suffering from death row syndrome.

Vivian Dobson, whom Ross was alleged to have raped, became a vocal opponent of the death penalty in an effort to save Ross’ life.

In his final days, Ross became an oblate, or associate, of the Benedictine Grange, a Roman Catholic monastic community in West Redding, Connecticut.

Ross wa
s executed by lethal injection on May 13, 2005, at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut. He was 45 years old. Ross did not request a special last meal before facing his execution, thereby dining on the regular prison meal of the day: turkey à la king with rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit, and a beverage.[5] When asked if he would like to make a last statement, he said, without opening his eyes, “No, thank you.” Ross was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. His remains were buried at the Benedictine Grange Cemetery in Redding, Connecticut.

After the execution, Dr. Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist who had argued that Ross was not competent to waive appeal, received a letter from Ross dated May 10, 2005, which read “Check, and mate. You never had a chance!”[6]

Ross’ execution was the first in Connecticut (and in all of New England) since 1960. It was also the first execution in Connecticut administered by lethal injection. As of 2009, Ross is the most recent inmate executed in Connecticut, although the state’s death row houses 10 convicted murderers who are in various stages of legal appeals.

Order of execution

Michael Bruce Ross’ was the: first execution in Connecticut in 2005; first execution in Connecticut since 1976; 22nd execution in the United States in 2005; and 966th execution in the United States since 1976.[7]

Preceded by
Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky – 1960
Executions in Connecticut Succeeded by
Last execution to date
Preceded by
George James Miller, Jr. – Oklahoma
Executions in the United States Succeeded by
Vernon Brown – Missouri

References

External links

See also

  • Capital punishment in Connecticut
  • Capital punishment in the United States
  • Death row syndrome
  • List of individuals executed in Connecticut
  • List of murderers by number of victims

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