Famous Last Words
Ray Dempsey Gardner
September 29, 1951
“I’m ready to go. No one will miss me. My life has been worthless.”
Gardner had hired a 17-year-old Shirley Gretzinger under the pretense of babysitting. The next day, on July 21, 1949, her battered and mutilated body was discovered discarded in a forested area. All her clothing aside from her sandals had been ripped off her, she was beaten and raped, and had been strangled with a wad of toilet paper shoved down her throat.
One of Gardner’s executioners was interviewed decades after the execution in 1996. He said he was still haunted by the event which was carried out by firing squad. According to the executioner, Gardner went to his death in a calm manner, such a stark contrast to the “wild, crazed man” from court that he was almost afraid it was the wrong person. He also said of the execution “I saw his body rip apart. It was terrible what we did we cut the guy in half” and stated that, while he was still in favor of capital punishment, he preferred more humane routes such as hanging.