Florida executes man convicted of killing gay men during crime spree in 1994

Handout photo of death-row inmate Gary Bowles in Raiford, Florida

(Reuters) - A man convicted of targeting three gay men who had befriended him before he bludgeoned and suffocated them during an eight-month crime spree in 1994 was executed in Florida on Thursday night, officials said.

Gary Bowles, 57, was executed by lethal injection at 10:58 p.m. EDT (0258 GMT Friday) at the state's death chamber in Raiford, Florida, authorities said.

The execution had been delayed for several hours as Bowles' attorneys sought unsuccessfully for a last-minute appeal for his life from the U.S. Supreme Court. The court denied their request.

Bowles pleaded guilty and a jury sentenced him in 1996 to die for the first-degree murder of Walter Hinton in Duval County two years earlier. His death sentence was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court but a new jury sentenced Bowles to death in 1999.

Hinton gave Bowles a place to stay in his Jacksonville, Florida, mobile home in 1994. On the night of Nov. 16 after drinking and smoking marijuana with Hinton, Bowles dropped a 40-pound concrete block on his victim's head while he slept, fracturing his face and jaw. He then put a rag in Hinton's mouth and smothered him to death, court papers said.

Bowles was arrested days later and told investigators he had used his body since he was a teenager to get food, shelter and money and began "hustling gays," although he hated having sex with them.

Prosecutors accused Bowles during his trial of targeting his victims because they were homosexual, court papers showed.

According to prosecutors, Bowles also killed John Roberts, 59, who also let him live in his home, in March 1994, they said.

Bowles approached Roberts from behind and struck him with a lamp in his Daytona Beach, Florida, home and then stuffed a rag in his mouth, suffocating him. He then took his credit cards, money and wallet, according to court records.

Two months later Bowles killed Albert Morris, 38, who also befriended him and let him stay in his Nassau County house. Bowles got into a fight with Morris outside a bar, hit him over the head with a candy dish and then suffocated him with a towel, court documents said.

Bowles received life sentences in Florida for the Morris and Roberts murders.

Authorities believe Bowles also killed Milton Bradley, 72, in Savannah, Georgia, Alverson Carter Jr., 47, in Atlanta and David Jarman, 38 in Maryland in 1994 in much the same manner as the Florida murders.

Bowles launched several unsuccessful appeals in state and federal courts. By Thursday, he had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution so he could challenge the legality of Florida's clemency proceedings.

Bowles was the 13th inmate executed in the United States and the second in Florida in 2019, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas executed Larry Swearingen, 48, convicted of the 1998 rape and murder of a college student, on Wednesday.


(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)