Army May Execute A Man For The First Time Since 1961: Ronald Gray Set To Die For 1980s Rapes, Murders

The U.S. Army is set to execute a man for a series of rapes and murders in the late 1980s. If the execution proceeds as planned, it will be the first time the U.S. military has executed a service member since 1961.

As CNN reports, Ronald Gray has sat on Death Row at the United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since his conviction and sentencing in 1988.

He is currently one of six men on death row at Leavenworth, the latest addition being Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is awaiting execution for 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder after his 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas.

Gray’s Crimes

Back in 1986, Gray was a private stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he worked as a cook. On December 15, Gray abducted, raped, sodomized, and murdered Private Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, who was 18-years-old at the time. Two weeks later, on January 3, 1987, Gray raped and attempted to murder another soldier, Private Mary Ann Lang Nameth, age 20. On January 6, Gray raped, sodomized, robbed, and murdered Kimberly Ann Ruggles, age 23. Ruggles was a civilian who worked as a cab driver around the Fort Bragg area.

Gray left significant evidence at the scenes of his crimes, including fingerprints and clothing. Further, Private Nameth, who survived her ordeal, named Gray as her assailant when a photo of him appeared in local news media.

On November 5, 1987, Gray was convicted in a civilian court of 22 felonies: two counts of second degree murder, two counts of first degree burglary, five counts of first degree rape, five counts of first degree sexual offense, attempted first degree rape, three counts of second degree kidnapping, two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and inflicting serious injury. Further, in 1988, Gray was convicted of similar crimes in a military court, for which he was sentenced to death.

Three Decades of Delays

Gray, now 50, has sat on Death Row for almost 30 years as his appeals have made their way through the courts.

Gray’s appeals had been exhausted by 2008, and then-President George W. Bush authorized his execution (a member of the military cannot be executed without the authorization of the president). However, at the last minute, a Kansas judge issued a stay of execution, allowing Gray to exhaust further appeals. On September 29, 2015, a judge ruled against Gray’s final appeal, according to the Fayetteville Observer, and his execution was once again authorized.

For Edward Bowman, the father of one of Gray’s victims, the execution is long overdue. Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel in 2015, Bowman, the father of Kimberly Ann Ruggles, said that he fears that he himself will die before his daughter’s killer gets justice.

“This should be his last go-round. But there’s no telling how long this will go on. I’m afraid I’ll go before he does.”

First Military Execution Since 1961

The last person put to death by the military was John Arthur Bennett. Back in 1954, Bennett, at the time stationed in Austria, raped an 11-year-old girl and attempted to drown her. Even though the girl and her family appealed to then-President John F. Kennedy asking that his life be spared, Bennett was executed by hanging at Leavenworth in 1961.

Ronald Gray, should his execution go through, will be put to death by lethal injection, the military’s preferred, modern method of executing prisoners.

As of this writing, Ronald Gray’s execution date has not been scheduled, but an Army spokesperson says it will likely happen within 30 days.

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