Virginia Serial Killer Convicted by DNA Evidence Is Executed

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Serial killer Timothy W. Spencer, the first person convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence, was executed late Wednesday after a last flurry of appeals failed.

Spencer, known as the “Southside Strangler,” consistently maintained his innocence. He had no last words before being put to death in the electric chair for the first of four rape-murders he was convicted of committing.

He was pronounced dead at 11:13 p.m.

Spencer arranged for his immediate family to visit him before the execution, said Wayne Brown, a spokesman for the prison in Jarratt.


In the afternoon, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his lawyers’ request for a stay so new DNA tests could be run on Spencer.

At 10:45 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his lawyers’ request to halt the execution. A court spokesman said Justice Harry A. Blackmun cast the lone dissenting vote.

His lawyers did not seek clemency from Gov. George F. Allen.

It was the first scheduled execution for which a doctor declined to be present since the American Medical Assn. decided March 23 that doctors’ participation in executions violates medical ethics.


Dr. Balvir L. Kapil, a prison doctor who regularly pronounces inmates dead, said he was taking a vacation day. State officials arranged for a private physician, Dr. Alvin Harris, to be present.

Spencer was condemned for the murder of Debbie Dudley Davis, the first of three people from the south section of Richmond, Va., murdered in a series of break-ins during three months in 1987. The female victims were bound with clothing and household items, then raped and strangled or hanged.

After his arrest, three criminal laboratories concluded that semen found at all the crime scenes came from Spencer. Scientists said the chance the semen could match someone else was one in 705 million.

At the time, genetic testing had been tried in a few criminal and paternity cases, but never in a murder trial.