STARKE, Fla. (AP) - A man who beat two co-workers with a hammer and then set them on fire in a robbery that netted him about $1,200 is set to be executed Thursday evening at Florida State Prison.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a final appeal by Robert L. Henry, who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the murders of Phyllis Harris, 53, and Janet Thermidor, 35. Henry worked with the women at the Deerfield Beach fabric store he robbed in November 1987.
Henry left them for dead, but Thermidor was still alive when authorities found her beaten and burned. She identified Henry as the attacker in a recorded statement before she died from her injuries. Henry later confessed after first claiming someone else committed the crime.
“You talk about atrocious, heinous, cruel, vile or wicked. He literally burned them up,” Broward County prosecutor Michael Satz told the jury that convicted Henry in 1988. “This is a case that nightmares are made of.”
Henry ate a last meal Thursday that included red beans and rice, pecan pie, ice cream and orange juice, a prison official said. He was visited a day earlier by his mother, sister, an aunt and a niece.
According to trial testimony and his own statements to police, Henry first approached Harris after the store had closed on Nov. 2, 1987, telling her unknown robbers had ordered him to tie her up and blindfold her. Henry took Harris to a restroom, tied her to a urinal, then went to the store’s office where he hit Thermidor repeatedly on the head with hammer, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire.
Henry then went back to the restroom and attacked Harris with the hammer, setting her ablaze as well.
Authorities responding to the fire found Harris dead but Thermidor still alive, after she had tried to douse the flames in a second restroom. She lived about 12 hours, and her statement pointed to Henry. He was arrested the next day.
“I don’t know why he had to do that to me. He didn’t have to do that to me,” Thermidor said on the tape, which was played in court during Henry’s trial.
Court records show that Henry initially claimed the robbery was committed by three masked intruders who also abducted him, but later he confessed to acting alone. That confession was also recorded.
He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery and arson, largely on the strength of Thermidor’s deathbed statement.
AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this story.
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