Who among us hasn’t seen something sweet and gooey on a restaurant menu and thought about skipping the meal and going straight to dessert? The problem is, that type of unhealthy dining would make us feel guilty. But what if we were already guilty? Guilty enough to be sitting on death row, moments away from execution? These five inmates had no qualms at all about having chocolate or powdered sugar on their fingers when they shook hands with the Grim Reaper.
#5. William Downs Jr.
The only sweet thing about convicted child killer William Downs Jr. was his sweet tooth. For his last meal, Downs ordered chocolate chip cookie dough, Moose Tracks ice cream, 3 Mr. Goodbar candy bars, salted cashew nuts, and French roast coffee. Despite admitting to killing two young boys, Downs showed surprisingly good manners in the courtroom during his trial. He told the judge, “I think it would be disrespectful to the family and disrespectful to the whole world if you did not give me the death penalty.” Who knew that multiple murderers were so concerned with propriety? I’ll bet he even ate his ice cream with the proper spoon and lifted his pinkie while sipping his coffee!
#4. Kenneth Morris
What’s the only thing worse than getting nothing for your birthday? Getting executed for your birthday. That’s what happened to Kenneth Morris, though, whose scheduled execution just happened to land on his 38th birthday. Morris was convicted of breaking into a home and shooting the homeowner during a robbery, although he claimed that his accomplice bumped into him and that his gun went off by accident—four times. To “celebrate” his final birthday, Morris requested white cake with lemon icing as his last meal. Candles weren’t allowed, but the state of Texas made up for it by blowing out Morris’s candle a few hours later.
#3. Dobie Gillis Williams
Here’s an odd situation; an inmate can’t finish his last meal, so he requests—and gets—a to-go box for the leftovers. It may sound absurd, but that’s exactly what happened to Dobie Gillis Williams. The convicted killer received a last-minute stay of execution as he was chowing down on catfish and fried shrimp, so Williams was allowed to take the extra food back to Death Row, where he shared it with his fellow inmates. The second time around, though, Williams wasn’t so lucky. For his true last meal, he requested 12 candy bars—including Hershey, Baby Ruth, and Snickers—plus coconut pie, lemon pie, and chocolate ice cream. Williams supposedly ate most of the candy bars and some of the ice cream, but felt too full to dive into the pies.
#2. Harold McQueen
While in prison, Harold McQueen earned nothing but praise. Death Row administrators noted that he committed no violent acts during his 16 years on the row—although opportunities are rare since Death Row inmates serve the majority of their time in solitary confinement. McQueen was also commended for holding a steady job as a prison janitor for ten years, and even earned awards for his work—achievements that always look good on a Death Row résumé. Maybe that’s why prison officials took such pains over McQueen’s last meal. He ordered two whole cheesecakes, one New York-style and one pudding-style, and both were decorated with magnolia leaves and blossoms before they were served. McQueen even shared the cheesecakes with his spiritual advisor, reinforcing what McQueen’s aunt once said about him; “Harold was a caring, sweet child. Even as an adult, there wasn’t a violent or mean bone in his body.” Unfortunately, shooting a young cashier to death during a convenience store robbery suggests otherwise.
#1. Timothy McVeigh
You won’t find a killer more cold-blooded than Timothy McVeigh. To express his dissatisfaction with the federal government, the Oklahoma City Bomber planted explosives that killed 167 people and injured 684 more. In the days leading up to his execution, McVeigh’s choice of a last meal inspired serious speculation. Some thought he didn’t deserve a last meal at all. The animal rights group PETA asked McVeigh to choose a vegetarian last meal since he had already taken so many lives. In the end, McVeigh ate only two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream prior to his lethal injection. Maybe his cold nature prompted him to order nothing but ice cream—or it might have been the knowledge that he was headed to an extremely hot location where brimstone-on-a-stick is the only available treat.
Image of headstone cookies via Woman’s Day.
Ty Treadwell is co-author of Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals from Death Row. For death penalty trivia and news about the book, read Ty’s blog at http://lastsuppersbook.blogspot.com