Gary Sampson, who went on a killing spree in 2001, dies in Missouri federal prison at 62

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Gary Sampson, of Abington, who murdered three people during a 2001 killing spree across the South Shore and into New Hampshire, died at a federal medical prison in Springfield, Missouri, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at age 62.

Over the course of four days in July 2001, Sampson killed Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston; former Quincy resident Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton; and Robert Whitney, 58, of New Hampshire.

After pleading guilty, Sampson was sentenced to death in 2003 for the deaths of Rizzo, a college student, and McCloskey. That initial death sentence was overturned after a federal judge determined that one of Sampson's jurors had lied about her background.

He was sentenced to death a second time following an eight-week death penalty trial in federal court in February 2017.

Feb. 8, 2017: Jury imposes death sentence on Gary Sampson

Sampson was tried separately for Whitney's murder and received a life sentence. Massachusetts does not have a state death penalty, but defendants charged with federal crimes in the state can be put to death.

Gary Lee Sampson
Gary Lee Sampson

After the second trial, survivors of Sampson's victims faced him.

"You showed no remorse, and your apology was robotic," Philip McCloskey's son, Scott McCloskey, told Sampson. "Rot in hell."

Family members spoke of their hatred for Sampson, of the devastation he'd caused in their lives, and of their commitment to bringing him to justice. Some of them said they could not bear the thought of him enjoying himself in prison with access to books and television.

"I don't know if you will ever receive the death penalty, and I don't really care," said Mary Rizzo, Jonathan Rizzo's mother. "I do care that you will have more restriction on death row."

Rizzo said she was able to push Sampson out of her head during the day, but her nights were still haunted by images of her son's death. For years, she said she was unable to be the wife and mother her family deserved because of the "dark hole" she found herself in.

Gary Sampson appears at his arraignment in Brockton District Court on Aug. 2, 2001.
Gary Sampson appears at his arraignment in Brockton District Court on Aug. 2, 2001.

"I waited up for them on the couch, thinking that if they didn't come home it would be my fault and no one else's, just as I thought Jonathan's death was my fault," she said of her two sons.

On Jan. 11, Sampson's appellate attorneys, Judith Mizner, Madeline Cohen and Sara Cohbra, filed a new brief arguing his death sentence should be overturned.

Although no cause of death has been released, medical records included in the latest appeal of his death sentence showed he had a life expectancy, when he was 55, of nearly three years. He was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, likely caused by an untreated hepatitis C infection.

In 2016, Sampson's attorney argued that he was terminally ill and that should be a good enough reason to not give him the death penalty.

A killing spree from from the South Shore to New Hampshire

Shortly before the murders, Sampson, a drifter who grew up in Abington, called the FBI to turn himself in for a series of bank robberies in North Carolina. After the FBI didn't send anyone to arrest him, he started his killing spree on July 24, 2001, according to court documents.

McCloskey, a retired plumber, offered Sampson a ride in Weymouth. Sampson walked McCloskey up a hill in Marshfield, where he killed him and tried unsuccessfully to steal his car, according to court documents.

While Sampson was hitchhiking in Plymouth three days later, Rizzo offered him a ride. Sampson held him at knifepoint and ordered him to drive him to Abington, where he killed him and took his car, according to court records.

Sampson fled to New Hampshire and broke into an empty vacation home. He was discovered by a family friend of the owner, Whitney, on July 30. After a fight, he tied Whitney to a chair and strangled him with a rope, according to court records. He stole Whitney's car and fled to Vermont, where he abandoned it a day later. Hitchhiking again, he was picked up by William Gregory, who escaped from his moving car after Sampson threatened him with a knife.

Sampson broke into another vacation house, called 911 and surrendered to Vermont state troopers, according to court records.

See our past coverage of Gary Sampson's case

Feb. 8, 2017: Jury imposes death sentence on Gary Sampson

Dec. 23, 2016: Spree killer Gary Lee Sampson addresses jury for first time

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The Patriot Ledger's reporter partner, WCVB, contributed to this story, as did former Patriot Ledger reporter Neal Simpson. Reach reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Gary Sampson dies in Missouri prison hospital following death sentence

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