Convicted Murderer Dies In Louisiana Electric ChairKENT PRINCE , Associated Press
Apr. 13, 1988 3:24 PM ET
ANGOLA, LA. ANGOLA, La. (AP) _ Convicted murderer Leslie Lowenfield went to his death Wednesday in the Louisiana electric chair, professing his innocence to the end, as two relatives of his victims looked on.
Lowenfield's attorney had argued unsuccessfully in the last appeals that he was a paranoid schizophrenic who could not comprehend the possibility of execution. Four members of the U.S. Supreme Court indicated support for a stay of execution, but a majority of five turned the appeal down.
Lowenfield, 34, was convicted of gunning down his estranged girlfriend, Sheila Thomas, and four members of her family, including a 4-year-old daughter, in 1982.
Miss Thomas' sister and her husband, Connie and Bryan Encalade, were in the front row of witnesses who watched Lowenfield die in the electric chair shortly after midnight.
''Connie and Bryan, I hope you all feel satisfied,'' Lowenfield said in his brief final statement. He stood directly in front of the couple, looking into their faces from three feet away behind a window.
''Don't give up on me, although my life will be over tonight, because the one responsible is still out there,'' he said. ''No reason to hold anything against me and the rest who would lie.''
Under prison rules, the witnesses were not allowed to talk to reporters after the execution.
In the eight hours before he died, the appeal was rejected in quick succession by the Louisiana Supreme Court and three federal courts.
Lowenfield was the only man in recent Louisiana history to receive three death sentences.
He was found guilty of shooting Miss Thomas, 27, who was a Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputy; her daughter, Shantel Osborne, 4; her stepfather, Owen Griffin, 45; her mother, Myrtle Griffin, 44; and the little girl's father, Carl Osborne, 33. Prosecutors said notes written by Lowenfield showed he was jealous of Osborne.
Though his final appeal hinged on the argument that Lowenfield was mentally ill, Lowenfield insisted he was in Florida at the time of the murders and refused to allow an insanity defense at the time of his original trial.
Five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices opposed delaying the execution. Justice William Brennan wrote a dissent, joined by Thurgood Marshall. Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens issued a separate statement indicating they would have granted the requested stay, a court spokeswoman said.
During Lowenfield's final hours, he was paid a surprise visit by Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown.
''Regardless if he's guilty or not guilty, I imagined the fear he must be experiencing,'' Brown said afterward. He said Lowenfield had been writing him letters since they met in 1984 when Brown and some of his players visited the prison.
''I saw no fear,'' Brown said. ''I saw no bitterness. I never saw it in any letters, either.'' He said he heard Tuesday that Lowenfield's execution was imminent, and he reread all the letters before deciding to call and ask to see him.
Lowenfield was the 97th person put to death in the United States since the Supreme Court allowed states to restore the death penalty in 1976, and the fourth this year. Seventeen of the executions have been in Louisiana.