Travis Hittson is scheduled for execution in Georgia. The former Navy crewman was convicted and sentenced to death for the April 1992 murder of fellow sailor Conway Utterbeck.
As reported by NBC News, Travis Hittson will receive a lethal dose of barbiturate pentobarbital at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the state prison in Jackson. On Tuesday, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a request by Hittson’s lawyers for clemency.
“The community of men who served alongside both Mr. Hittson and Conway Utterbeck in the Navy believe that Travis Hittson is deserving of mercy, as do others, including jurors who were charged with determining Mr. Hittson’s punishment,” his lawyers wrote.
In the clemency application, several former jurors at Hittson’s trial admitted to lawyers that they wanted to sentence him to life without parole, but the option was never presented to them in court. Additionally, Hittson was a model prisoner and avoided trouble even when provoked.
According to court documents, attorneys argued that Hittson was a victim of neglect and abuse as a child and had an obsessive need for attention. They contend that the combination of alcoholism, low intelligence, and Hittson’s history allowed Navy supervisor Edward Vollmer to easily persuade him to kill Conway Utterbeck.
Attorneys also tried to convince a Butts County judge that Hittson’s constitutional rights were violated, when a state psychologist repeated negative statements made by Hittson about Utterbeck during the sentencing phase. However, the state lawyers successfully answered the claim by saying the constitutional argument was raised in previous legal proceedings and should be rejected.
Earlier this afternoon, Hittson’s attorneys appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, but the challenge was again rejected and a stay of execution denied. The court stated the appeal does not have any merit under Georgia law.
Travis Hittson will be the second Georgia execution this year. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, 72-year-old Brandon Astor Jones was executed earlier this month. Prior to his death, Jones was the oldest inmate on death row.
In April 1992, Hittson, Utterbeck, and Vollmer were stationed together in Pensacola, Florida, and the trio decided to take a weekend trip to Vollmer’s parents’ home in Warner Robins, Georgia. According to trial documents, Hittson claimed he and Vollmer were out drinking, while Utterbeck was left at the house.
On the way back, Vollmer said Utterbeck was planning to kill them both. Vollmer convinced Hittson that Utterbeck needed to be taken out first. Upon arrival to the house, Vollmer put on a bulletproof vest, then pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and handgun from his car. He gave Hittson an aluminum baseball bat.
Utterbeck was sleeping in a chair when Hittson hit him in the head multiple times. Utterbeck was pulled into the kitchen where Vollmer stepped on his hand. Then, as instructed by Vollmer, Hittson finished him off with a shot to the head.
To get rid of the evidence, Vollmer then insisted on cutting up Utterbeck’s body. According to court records, Hittson began dismembering Utterbeck with a hacksaw, but he became ill. It was then that Vollmer stepped in and completed the gruesome job.
Utterbeck’s body parts were separated and hidden in different areas. His torso was buried in Houston County in Georgia, while the remaining body parts were scattered in Pensacola.
Months later, investigators started questioning Utterbeck’s fellow shipmates. Hittson cracked and confessed, then named Vollmer as an accomplice. Hittson showed investigators where to find Utterbeck’s remains as well as other evidence.
Travis Hittson was charged and ultimately convicted of malice murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm while committing a crime, and theft in February 1993. He was ordered to die for the malice murder conviction.
Vollmer is currently serving a life sentence for the crimes against Utterbeck. After being denied parole twice in the last 17 years, he will get another chance to plead his case in front of the parole board sometime in 2020.
Despite pleas for clemency and Hittson’s remorse for killing Utterbeck, it would appear that the execution in Georgia will move forward as scheduled. Last year, the state executed five inmates, more than any other year since 1987.
Travis Hittson was pronounced dead by Warden Bruce Chatman at 8:14 p.m. last night after a lethal injection of barbiturate pentobarbital. Georgia does not disclose the exact time the drug begins to flow, but the warden was observed leaving the execution chamber at approximately 8:04 p.m.
Hittson took several deep breaths after blinking his eyes for several minutes, then became completely still roughly four minutes after the warden exited. According to Chatman, Hittson had no final statement.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images]