The U.S. Supreme Court denied former Greenport resident and convicted murderer Robert Waterhouse’s stay of execution today, according to the Associated Press. He’s to be put to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. tonight.
Few, if any, of those who grew up with him say they’ll mourn his passing.
“The general opinion of people who knew him was it’s time,” said Bob Heaney, a Little League and high school baseball teammate of Mr. Waterhouse, who was convicted in New York and Florida on separate murder charges 14 years apart.
He has been on Florida’s death row since his 1980 conviction for the murder of a 29-year-old woman, whose nude body was discovered in the Tampa Bay mud flats.
Locally Mr. Waterhouse is better remembered for his 1966 conviction for the murder of 77-year-old widow Ella May Carter, who was brutally beaten, strangled and apparently raped. He was 19 at the time. Although sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, he was released on parole two months shy of 10 years.
Referring to the time elapsed since the first conviction, Mr. Heaney said, “If after 46 years they haven’t proven his innocence, it’s time for retribution.”
He described Mr. Waterhouse as a bully who always had a chip on his shoulder.
“He was a big kid, six-foot when he was 12, and always picked on the little guy,” said Mr. Heaney. “He was raised by his aunt and uncle and was always teased that he was traded for living room furniture. I know that bothered him a lot.”
Craig Richter, another of Mr. Waterhouse’s contemporaries, said, “I’m not shedding any tears. He deserves what he gets. You can’t commit murder and get away with it.”
Although close to a half-century has passed since Ms. Carter’s death, for many, the memory hasn’t faded.
“I can’t remember what I did last week, but I remember that,” said Mr. Richter, a former Town Board member.
He has another unpleasant memory of Mr. Waterhouse, who lived a block away.
“He beat the crap out of me when I was about 10,” Mr. Richter said.
In a recent Suffolk Times opinion piece, British-born journalist Robert Waterhouse — no relation — said he accepts his namesake’s claim of innocence.
“Prosecution evidence was flawed,” wrote Mr. Waterhouse, who resides in France. “It was a circumstantial case. No hard proof linked him to the killing.”
He argues that “executions are ritual murder in cold blood.”
Ms. Carter’s body was discovered by her nephew, the late George Hubbard Sr., who served for many years as Greenport mayor and a village trustee. The family grew concerned when milk delivered to Ms. Carter’s home one morning was still outside that evening.
The Hubbard family does not share any of Mr. Waterhouse the writer’s sentiments.
“You would feel differently if it happened to a member of your family, believe me,” said Mr. Hubbard’s daughter, June Hubbard Harris. “He will have a peaceful end to his life as he goes to sleep. He took away Ella Carter’s right to a peaceful death.”
Earlier this month a group of Roman Catholic bishops in Florida asked Governor Rick Scott to stop the execution. The governor signed the death warrant Jan. 4. The human rights group Amnesty International is also calling for the death sentence to be commuted, saying DNA evidence that could support or disprove Mr. Waterhouse’s claim of innocence has been destroyed.
But in turning down Mr. Waterhouse’s last-minute appeal to halt the execution, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that there’s no case law establishing the right for review based on the destruction of evidence after conviction.
The justices also found that testimony by a new witness, who said Mr. Waterhouse left a Florida bar with two men, not with the victim as prosecutors claim, was not reliable. Blood was found in Mr. Waterhouse’s car. He allegedly beat the woman with a tire iron.
Ms. Harris’ brother, Village Trustee George Hubbard Jr., is saving his pity for the murdered Florida woman’s family.
“I’m sure they went through a lot of what we went through,” he said. “He never should have gotten out and, unfortunately, he did it again to somebody else. I think he’s getting what he deserves.”