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Gary Lee SAMPSON

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Carjacking
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: July 24-30, 2001
Date of arrest: July 31, 2001 (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1959
Victims profile: Philip McCloskey, 69 / Jonathan Rizzo, 19 / Robert Whitney, 58 (helpless people)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Strangulation
Location: Massachusetts/New Hampshire, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in Massachusetts on December 23, 2003
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Gary Lee Sampson (born 1959) is a convicted murderer in Massachusetts, United States. He was raised in Abington, Massachusetts.

Before Sampson's conviction for murder he had served eight years imprisonment for robbing banks and had a criminal record some 25 years long.

Offences

In July 2001 Sampson "carjacked" and murdered three helpless people: Philip McCloskey (aged 69 of Taunton, Massachusetts), Jonathan Rizzo (aged 19 of Kingston, Massachusetts), and Robert Whitney (of Concord, New Hampshire). The murders took place over the course of a week.

Sampson told police that, after McCloskey picked him up hitchhiking, he forced him at knifepoint to drive to a secluded area, where he tied him up with his belt and stabbed him 24 times. He also forced Rizzo to a secluded area, tied him to a tree, gagged him, and killed him.

Arguments raised in mitigation

Whilst Sampson's offences were particularly brutal, matters were raised in mitigation.

The day before the first murder he attempted to surrender to police. Telephone records confirmed that Sampson had called the FBI. As a fugitive who was facing charges in North Carolina, Sampson could have been taken into custody. The call was accidentally disconnected by an FBI clerk, and no action was taken.

After the murders, Sampson surrendered in Vermont and confessed. He subsequently pleaded guilty.

Federal Case

Sampson was charged in a federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, found guilty and on 23 December 2003 he was sentenced to death.

The jury deliberated for ten hours after hearing six weeks of evidence. Sampson had pleaded guilty, so the jury did not need to decide whether he killed McCloskey and Rizzo. But the jury heard the murders described in graphic detail during the sentencing phase of the trial. Prosecutors portrayed Sampson as a ruthless, calculating killer who preyed on Good Samaritans.

Massachusetts does not have the death penalty. Massachusetts abolished capital punishment in 1984. The last time the State used the penalty was in 1973. It is the first time anyone in Massachusetts has been sentenced to die under the federal death penalty law.

Federal law was changed in 1994 to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a murder is committed during a carjacking.

Place of Planned Execution

Massachusetts had no-where to execute Sampson so U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf ordered Sampson to be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary in Indiana. He ordered that he be executed in New Hampshire, which has the death penalty. New Hampshire has no one on death row and has not executed anyone since 1939.

New Hampshire officials were caught off guard as to the execution order because a lethal injection bed had not even been installed. The gallows which New Hampshire only uses if lethal injection cannot be administered, had been turned into an office.

States' Rights Protests

Death penalty opponents criticised the sentence, saying federal officials had ignored the will of Massachusetts' voters. State lawmakers have defeated attempts to reinstate the state death penalty.

Protesters outside the courtroom were holding "No Death Penalty in Massachusetts" signs and one girl said that the Federal government had "stepped all over a State which has consistently refused the death penalty."

Appeal

Sampson’s lawyer, David Ruhnke, said he would appeal.

"I respect the verdict, but I disagree with it. These are terrible crimes; the victims have suffered terribly," he said. "Those are very difficult circumstances for any jury to look beyond."

It is expected that it could be six or seven years before Sampson exhausts all his appeals. As of July 2006 Sampson remains on death row.

Autobiography

Sampson has worked on an autobiography with writer and evangelical minister, Deborah Murphy. The working title is The DNA of a Killer: Society's Child, Gary Lee Sampson.

Murphy says the book is a warning to those with early mental illness of the warning signs.

Murphy hopes that the book may sway the families of the victims to forgive Sampson and perhaps even speak out against his execution. Relatives have not so far indictated that this is likely. Scott McCloskey said:

"I will never forgive him, ... As far as I'm concerned, Gary Sampson is an evil man. And as far as the death penalty goes, he deserves it and I will be there when it happens."

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Gary Sampson’s life of crime and punishment

Taunton Daily Gazette

August 30, 2010

Chronology of Gary Sampson’s criminal record, his three-day rampage in 2001, his 2003 trial in U.S. District Court in Boston and subsequent developments.

1974: Arrested on a breaking and entering charge in Abington.

1976: Charged with trying to steal gasoline and with motor vehicle offenses.

1978: Acquitted of a charge that he raped a 15-year-old girl in Weymouth.

1979: Charged with trespassing, drug possession in Abington. 1980: Charged with armed robbery, stealing a car in Abington. Served time in the Plymouth County jail.

1981: Briefly escaped from the jail by sawing through a gate.

1982: Three-year suspended sentence for breaking into a gas station in Tamworth, N.H.

1982: Convicted of violating probation.

1984: Pleaded guilty to burglarizing a home in Tamworth, N.H. Sentenced to up to seven years.

1984: Escaped from prison, sentenced to one to three years.

1987: Convicted of parole violation. Sentenced to nearly four years.

1996: Fined $60 for speeding in New Hampshire.

1997: Fined $500 for possession of marijuana.

1997: Pleaded guilty to assault and making threats in New Hampshire.

1997: Pleaded guilty to making threats, served about five months.

1997: Fined $100 for transporting alcohol.

1998: Convicted of threatening a woman in New Hampshire. Sentenced to a year in jail with six months deferred and two years probation.

1999: Accused of violating probation by not showing up for an arraignment on burglary charges in New Hampshire.

1999: Newark, N.J., police charged him with probation violation. Police said he was using several aliases, including women’s names.

2001: Accused of five bank robberies in North Carolina.

July 23, 2001: Sampson calls the FBI office in Boston from a pay phone in Abington to surrender for tjhe bank robberies in North Carolina. An FBI clerk inadvertently disconnects the call, and no one shows up to arrest Sampson.

July 24: Former Quincy resident Philip McCloskey, 69, is stabbed to death in a secluded area of Marshfield after buying flowers for a friend. Sampson later tells police he was hitchhiking in Weymouth when McCloskey picked him up.

July 26: McCloskey’s body is found in woods between Main Street and Old Main Street Extension in Marshfield.

July 27: Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston encounters Sampson on the Plymouth waterfront after leaving work at 9 p.m. and gives him a ride.

July 28: Sampson heads for New Hampshire, where his family had once lived. Rizzo’s family files a missing-person report with police.

July 30: Robert Whitney, 58, a former city councilor in Concord, N.H., is found strangled in a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith, N.H. Rizzo’s car is parked outside. Friends and family organize a massive search for Rizzo.

July 31: Rizzo’s body is found tied to a tree behind the Abington Ale House. In Vermont, William Gregory, 41, picks up Sampson on the side of a road. Sampson puts a knife to his throat, but Gregory escapes by skidding the car onto the shoulder and jumping from the car while it is still in drive. Sampson ditches the car, breaks into a ski chalet and calls 911. He surrenders to police without a fight.

Sampson’s trial in U.S. District Court in Boston

Sept. 9, 2003 – Sampson pleads guilty to the carjacking murders of McCloskey and Rizzo, capital offenses under federal law.

Nov. 5-6 – After six weeks of jury selection, testimony begins in the punishment phase of the trial. The only choices are death by lethal injection and life in prison without parole.

Nov. 10-13 – Witnesses tell of casual encounters with Sampson in Marshfield, Bourne and Plymouth in the days between the McCloskey and Rizzo murders.

Nov. 17-20 – In a taped interview with a Vermont state trooper, Sampson says his three victims would still be alive if FBI agents had not bungled his attempt to turn himself in. Plymouth County jail officers testify that Sampson threatened to harm anyone who caused him problems in prison.

 
 

Death for Sampson

Verdict makes him state's first since 1947 to face execution

By Shelley Murphy - The Boston Globe

December 24, 2003

A federal jury yesterday recommended the execution of Gary Lee Sampson, a drifter who confessed to carjacking and killing two men during a weeklong murder spree, marking the first time a verdict for the death penalty has been issued in a federal case in Massachusetts.

The verdict means that Sampson, a 44-year-old from Abington, would become the first person to be executed for a crime in Massachusetts since 1947, unless his sentence is overturned on appeal.

The jury of nine women and three men unanimously rejected Sampson's claim that he was mentally ill when he killed Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston, and Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton. Sampson had confessed that after being picked up by the men on separate days while he was hitchhiking in July 2001, he forced them at knifepoint to drive to secluded areas, where he tied them up and repeatedly stabbed them.

"There was no question, no doubt about it," said jury forewoman Mary E. Dever, who lives south of Boston. "We all, individually, concluded the same thing."

"I can sleep at night with the decision we've made. The only thing that will cause any problems with sleep will be trying to get out of my head the pain the [victims] must have felt when their lives were being taken." A lawyer for Sampson immediately said he would appeal.

The reading of the verdict, which jurors reached after 11 hours of deliberations, set off emotion in the mostly hushed courtroom. Mary Rizzo, mother of one of Sampson's victims, cried as she caressed a picture of her son. Sampson, who showed no emotion throughout the two-month trial, wiped tears from his cheeks.

In a press conference in the lobby of the federal courthouse in Boston, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said, "A sentence of death is the only appropriate punishment for the crimes that Mr. Sampson has committed."

When asked what broader message the death sentence sends, Sullivan said: "There is no political message here. This message really is about the lives of Philip McCloskey and Jonathan Rizzo."

Sampson's series of murders, which spanned three New England states, jangled nerves of vacationers and residents with its randomness and extreme violence.

Almost all murder cases are tried in state courts. But Sullivan charged Sampson under the federal Death Penalty Act, which was enacted in 1988 and expanded in 1994 to allow federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for some 60 offenses, including carjacking resulting in murder.

It was only the second time prosecutors in Massachusetts have sought the federal death penalty. In the earlier case, a nurse convicted in 2001 of killing four patients in a Northampton veterans' hospital was sentenced to life in prison after jurors couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.

Critics of the federal death penalty accuse Attorney General John D. Ashcroft of using the law to target defendants in states like Massachusetts that lack a capital punishment statute, as part of a bid to nationalize the death penalty. In September, federal prosecutors in Boston announced they would seek the death penalty for two Dorchester gang members charged with murdering a rival at the city's Caribbean carnival two years ago. Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984.

Sampson was the first defendant nationwide in a federal death penalty case to plead guilty and leave his fate to a jury. He pleaded guilty in September to carjacking and killing McCloskey and Rizzo. He faces state charges in New Hampshire for breaking into a home during the same crime spree and killing Robert "Eli" Whitney, 59, of Penacook, N.H.

US District Judge Mark L. Wolf, who scheduled sentencing for Jan. 29, told jurors that since they voted for death, "I will impose that sentence not only because the law requires it but because of my respect for each of you."

Wolf said defense lawyers will be filing motions seeking to reverse the verdict, and he tentatively set a hearing for Jan. 26 to consider their arguments. However, that hearing is expected to be a formality. If Wolf sentences Sampson to death as expected, Sampson would be sent to the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind.

If he loses his appeal, Sampson will die by lethal injection at the Indiana prison. The appeal process is expected to take years.

Legal analysts have said that Sampson's lawyers faced a difficult challenge in preparing a defense, given the evidence, which included Sampson's matter-of-fact confessions and descriptions of the gruesome slayings.

"These are terrible crimes and the victims have suffered terribly," Sampson attorney David Ruhnke said. "They are very difficult circumstances to look beyond."

Family members of the victims expressed satisfaction with the verdict, though they said it does not erase the pain of their loss.

"We're very happy about this verdict -- there's no question about that -- but we're not going out and celebrating anything here. . . . Our son is still dead, and we will live with that for the rest of our lives," said Jonathan Rizzo's father, Michael.

McCloskey's son, Scott, said that he was relieved by the verdict, but that the chair his father always sat in when the family gathered at Scott's house on Christmas Eve will remain empty tonight. Unmoved by Sampson's tears yesterday, Scott McCloskey said: "It's all about him. He didn't show any remorse for my father or Jonathan or Mr. Whitney. But when it came down to him thinking that he was going to be sentenced to death, now he's sad."

Jurors reported on the verdict forms that none of them believed Sampson was significantly impaired at the time of the slayings or suffered from mental illness.

Only five jurors concluded that Sampson had accepted responsibility for his crimes, and none of them believed he was remorseful.

Jurors, who saw graphic crime scene photos and videos, were unanimous in their agreement that the murders were especially cruel and heinous because of the physical abuse Sampson had inflicted on his victims. Both were stabbed repeatedly and their throats slashed.

Sampson was picked up hitchhiking in Weymouth on July 24, 2001, by McCloskey and forced the elderly man at knifepoint to drive him to Marshfield, where he marched him into the woods, tied him up, and stabbed him 24 times. But Sampson said he was unable to steal McCloskey's van because it had a kill switch. Three days later, Sampson was hitchhiking in Plymouth when Rizzo gave him a ride. Sampson admitted he forced the college freshman to drive him to Abington, where he walked him into the woods, tied him to a tree, and stabbed him 15 times. Sampson stole Rizzo's Jetta and drove it to New Hampshire, where he strangled Whitney on July 30, 2001.

Sampson called police and surrendered the next day after breaking into a ski chalet in Plymouth, VT., and setting off a burglar alarm.

Assistant US Attorney Frank Gaziano, who prosecuted the case along with George Vien and John Wortmann, said, "We're just very happy that justice was served for the victims' families."

Her voice barely audible because she woke up yesterday with laryngitis, Mary Rizzo later told reporters, "I just want to publicly thank the jurors. Every single night I've prayed for them and I will continue to pray that the horrible pictures of Jonathan, Philip, and Mr. Whitney will go out of their heads and they'll remember the beautiful pictures."

 
 

Federal jury: Death for Mass. men’s killer

By Martin Finucane

Associated Press

BOSTON - Gary Lee Sampson, a drifter who confessed to carjacking and killing two Massachusetts men during a weeklong crime spree, was sentenced to death Tuesday by a federal jury in a state that has no death penalty and hasn’t executed anyone in more than half a century.

It is believed to be the first time anyone in Massachusetts has been sentenced to die under the federal death penalty law. Massachusetts abolished its state capital punishment statute in 1984; the last time a state court sentenced someone to die was in 1973.

Sampson, 44, sat motionless in U.S. District Court as the sentences were read for the carjacking murders of Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, and Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston. The jury deliberated for 10 hours after hearing six weeks of testimony.

Sampson, a drifter who grew up in Abington, pleaded guilty in September to killing McCloskey and Rizzo several days apart in July 2001, after each man picked him up hitchhiking. He also confessed to killing a third man - Robert "Eli" Whitney, 58, in Meredith, N.H. - in the same week, and faces separate state charges in New Hampshire for that crime.

The families of Rizzo and McCloskey whispered in approval as the sentence was announced; family members wept and hugged each other as they left the courtroom.

"It’s been a very long, hard couple of years," said McCloskey’s son, Scott. "It’s not over, still. I feel like the boulder on my shoulder has been chipped down to a rock."

Sampson’s lawyer, David Ruhnke, said he would appeal.

"I respect the verdict, but I disagree with it. These are terrible crimes; the victims have suffered terribly," he said. "Those are very difficult circumstances for any jury to look beyond."

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan praised the jurors for reaching a "fair" verdict under "intense emotional pressure."

"Gary Lee Sampson has robbed families and our communities of special and precious people," he said.

It was the second case in which federal prosecutors have sought the death penalty in Massachusetts. Kristen Gilbert, a nurse who was convicted in 2001 for killing four patients at a Northampton veterans hospital, was sentenced to life in prison.

Federal law was changed in 1994 to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a murder is committed during a carjacking.

Death penalty opponents decried the sentence, saying federal officials had ignored the will of Massachusetts voters. State lawmakers have repeatedly defeated attempts to reinstate the state death penalty.

The decision to try Sampson in federal court "was made by a handful of federal officials who have sought to impose the death penalty in states like Massachusetts that historically have declined to impose this punishment," said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 124 defendants have been tried on capital charges, but only three have been executed, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. There are 24 currently on federal death row.

Dick Burr, a Houston attorney who has worked with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Council, which advises defendants in such cases, said it could be six or seven years before Sampson exhausts all his appeals.

Because Sampson pleaded guilty, the jury was never asked to decide whether he killed McCloskey and Rizzo. But the jury heard the murders described in graphic detail during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Prosecutors portrayed Sampson as a ruthless, calculating killer who preyed on Good Samaritans.

In his confession, Sampson told police that, after McCloskey picked him up hitchhiking, he forced him at knifepoint to drive to a secluded area, where he tied him up with his belt and stabbed him 24 times.

 
 

Is killer's life story best left untold?

Victims' families resent concept of Sampson book

By Douglas Belkin - The Boston Globe

October 27, 2005

While he sat in his 12-by-7-foot cell on death row, Gary Lee Sampson has had time to gain 50 pounds and take 30 off. Time to watch his red hair go gray. And time to reflect on a bloody week in which he killed three men in cold blood.

And now, fours years after the murders, Sampson wants people to know what he's been thinking.

For the past 11 months, he has been working with a writer and evangelical minister on his biography. The working title: ''The DNA of a Killer: Society's Child, Gary Lee Sampson." The book, said biographer Deborah Murphy, is a cautionary tale that both she and Sampson hope will save others from following the same path by describing the warning signs of mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse.

''Gary wants a book written before he gets executed because he wants to tell his story, his side, the true version of everything that happened," said Murphy, who first met Sampson 26 years ago when the two were growing up on the South Shore. ''He noticed certain signs of depression that led to alcohol and drugs and that's how you get into big trouble. He hopes telling his story can help young people. . . . He's trying to spare lives."

Relatives of Sampson's victims don't buy that story line.

''The idea that Gary Sampson wants to help other children makes me nauseous," said Mary Rizzo, mother of Jonathan Rizzo, one of Sampson's victims. ''If someone wants to write a book to help children they should write about Jonathan and Philip and Robert, they all led good lives."

In July 2001, Sampson carjacked Philip McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, and stabbed him to death. A few days later, he did the same to Rizzo, a 19-year-old college sophomore from Kingston. Four days after that, he strangled Robert Whitney, 58, of Penacook, N.H.

Sampson, who is from Abington, was tried in federal court and found guilty of the murders; he became the first person in Massachusetts sentenced to die under the federal death penalty. He is on death row at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Ind., where he is confined to his cell 23 hours day, said Trey Adams, a spokesman for the prison complex.

Sampson's case is notable for its brutality, but also for his short-circuited attempt to turn himself in the day before his killing rampage began. Telephone records confirmed that Sampson called the FBI from a pay phone that day; a fugitive facing charges in North Carolina, Sampson said he was trying to surrender. But the call was accidentally disconnected by an FBI clerk, and no action was taken. After the murders, Sampson surrendered in Vermont and confessed.

Those two facts -- the call to the FBI and his surrender -- were raised at the trial, but did not convince jurors that he should be spared from capital punishment.

Nor do they generate sympathy in the McCloskey family.

Scott McCloskey, son of Philip McCloskey, shares Mary Rizzo's distaste for Sampson's book venture. ''A biography about a murderer, that's usually the case, right?" he said. The killer ''goes out and kills and they find him and they do movies about him, they put these guys on a pedestal."

In a rambling, three-page typed letter laden with spelling errors, Sampson said he is deeply remorseful for the murders. ''At times the anguish is overwhelming," he wrote in the letter, mailed in response to a query from The Boston Globe.

Still, Sampson has told Murphy that he hopes the death penalty will be overturned. In the letter, he questions the social prudence of state-sanctioned execution, and cites Henry Ford's arguments against it. He also writes that although surrounded by ''abject drudgery," he is finding ''comfort and faith" in ''God and the religious instruction I am receiving.

''In my actions and in my deeds I strive to show remorse."

Murphy, who grew up in Rockland not far from Sampson, is also outspoken against the death penalty. ''Jesus said turn the other cheek," she said. ''And my own personal, emotional feeling is two wrongs don't make a right."

Murphy and Sampson first met briefly at house party in 1979. They did not keep in touch. Two years later she was paralyzed in a car accident, and several years after that she became a born-again Christian and later an evangelical minister. In 1989 she published a memoir, ''Tho I Walkest Through the Fire."

Murphy, 48, lives in Tampa and serves as a minister through a church called New Beginnings. She began corresponding with Sampson in August 2004, and signed an agreement to write his biography last November.

To facilitate the process, Murphy's husband, a general contractor, bought and refurbished a house near the Terre Haute prison. Murphy has been staying there, interviewing Sampson four times a month for several hours at a time, she said.

Because of the Son of Sam law that prohibits convicted murderers from profiting from their crimes, Sampson will not be entitled to any proceeds from the book. Murphy said she has not started shopping for a publisher.

She describes Sampson, who recently turned 46, as charismatic, creative, and remorseful. ''He has had nightmares about the crimes," she said. ''He has a conscience."

But Murphy also said she understands the pain a biography could cause the family members of Sampson's victims. Tragedy in her own life helps qualify her to write the book, she said.

In the same car accident that left her paralyzed, Murphy's brother was killed. Thirteen years earlier, in a hit-and-run in Boston that was never solved, Murphy's sister was killed. And in 2000 Murphy's niece was shot to death in Arizona and left on the street. That case has never been solved.

''I can understand how they feel," Murphy said, referring to the grieving relatives. ''But I am giving them a chance to know why, and that's something my family would certainly like to have."

In his letter to the Globe, Sampson is opaque about what motivated his murder spree. He writes ''many of the 'why questions' weigh excruciatingly heavy and our [sic] indelible upon my soul and have to [sic] earthly obtainable answers." A followup request for further details went unanswered.

Despite Sampson's professed discomfort, Murphy said, he has adjusted well to prison life. His arrest record dates back more than 25 years; before his conviction on the murder charges, he had served eight years for robbing banks. Still, Sampson has complained about the quality of the health care and the food, Murphy said.

The guards consider Sampson a ''neat freak" who immediately paints his cell every time he is transferred into a new one. Recently he was moved into a brand new facility ''which he is thrilled about," Murphy said. He spends most of his time in his cell watching nature shows on a 12-inch black and white television.

His cell is painted gray, lighted by a single fluorescent bulb, and equipped with a toilet, shower, writing table, sink, and bed. A single 6-inch-wide window looks out onto the prison grounds, said prison spokesman Adams.

Sampson has received dozens of letters of support from around the country, as well as a handful of romantic inquiries and a few cash gifts, Murphy said.

David Ruhnke, Sampson's lawyer, said ''there will be numerous grounds presented on appeal," but declined to elaborate what they will be.

Murphy, meanwhile, expresses hope that the book may sway the families of the victims to forgive Sampson and perhaps even speak out against his execution.

Scott McCloskey said that day will never come.

''I will never forgive him," McCloskey said.

''As far as I'm concerned, Gary Sampson is an evil man. And as far as the death penalty goes, he deserves it and I will be there when it happens."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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