- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

JARRATT, Va. (AP) — His appeals exhausted, a man who raped and murdered an Augusta County florist was executed last night.

Bobby Wayne Swisher, convicted in 1997 of killing 22-year-old Dawn McNees Snyder, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:05 p.m.

After he was led into the death chamber and strapped to the gurney, Swisher raised his head and appeared to smile as the prison chaplain spoke in his ear. Swisher then lowered his head again and made his final statement before the injection was started.

“I hope you all found the same peace in Jesus Christ as I have,” he said.

Attorneys for Swisher, 27, asked Gov. Mark Warner last week to grant clemency under certain conditions that would lead to a new sentencing hearing.

But a spokesman for Mr. Warner said he would not intervene.

“He has already announced he will not grant clemency,” the spokesman, Kevin Hall, said yesterday morning.

Mr. Warner intervened five hours before Swisher’s scheduled July 1 execution, granting him a three-week reprieve for one final appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. He said in granting the temporary stay that he would not intervene again.

The court refused to hear Swisher’s appeal Thursday.

Swisher’s attorneys claimed he was entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the jury that recommended the death penalty was not told that life in prison without the possibility of parole was an option. The sentencing form used by that jury was later ruled invalid by the Virginia Supreme Court in another case.

In their latest appeal to the governor, defense attorneys Anthony F. King of the District and Steven D. Rosenfield of Charlottesville wrote that “the decision as to whether Mr. Swisher will be illegally executed is yours and yours alone.”

Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking,” also wrote a letter urging Mr. Warner to stop the execution.

An Augusta County jury convicted Swisher of abducting Miss Snyder from her Stuarts Draft flower shop, raping her, slitting her throat and dumping her in a nearby river. It was Feb. 5, and Miss Snyder was working late to get some Valentine’s Day orders completed.

Swisher, a high school dropout and former construction worker, confided to friends that he killed Miss Snyder. He later confessed to police, and DNA testing linked him to the crime. Miss Snyder’s body was found 16 days after the slaying in a field along the river.

Swisher was sentenced to die for his crimes in February 1998.

Swisher’s trial lawyers did not dispute what happened, but argued that Swisher was too high on drugs and alcohol to know what he was doing.


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