Gerald Eugene Stano
On the morning of March 23, 1998, Gerald Eugene Stano sat quietly in his cell at Florida State Prison waiting to be taken to the electric chair. It was not the first time he had sat waiting for this date with destiny. His execution had been pushed back several times over the past few years and on one occasion he was granted a stay within three hours of his scheduled appointment with death.
As Stano pondered his fate, a large crowd gathered outside the prison. His was to be the first execution since the electric chair, nicknamed "Old Sparky," had malfunctioned during the execution of Pedro Media, when a 12-inch flame leaped from the killer's head. During a later interview with the Socialist Worker, Medina's lawyer described the brutal death. "It was a burning alive, literally," he said. It was the second similar malfunction by the chair within seven years. Medina's execution set off a series of appeals, extensive mechanical testing, and a slim 4-3 vote by the Florida Supreme Court upholding the electric chair as the state's method of execution.
Stano's scheduled execution was a result of his murder conviction in the December 1973 death of Cathy Lee Scharf, a 17-year-old hitchhiker from Port Orange, Florida. She was found stabbed to death in a remote area of Broward County, Florida. Stano eventually confessed to killing some 41 women in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Of those beginning to arrive at the prison was Raymond Neal, the 41-year-old brother of one of Stano's victims. During a brief interview with freelance journalist Terry Ecker, Neal said he had waited many years to see Stano pay for his crimes. Stano killed Neal's sister Ramona in 1976. Her decomposed body was discovered nearly four months later. "I hope he says he's sorry," said Neal, "but I don't really care. It's time. I want to look at Stano, look at his face when they strap him in. I want the bad dreams to stop. As soon as he's put to death, the better we'll all rest."
Stano ordered his last meal: a Delmonico steak, bacon bits, baked potato with sour cream, some French bread with butter and a tossed salad topped with blue cheese dressing. For dessert, he requested a half-gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream and two liters of Dr. Pepper. As he ate his final feast, it is hard to imagine what was going through his mind. Was he concerned that the governor would not call this time? Did the thought of his head going up in flames make him nervous? Or, was he oblivious to it all and confident in the luck he had on previous near encounters with death? Unfortunately, we will never know what was on Gerald's mind. By trying to unravel the mystery of the man, perhaps we can get a better idea of how his mind worked.