With just over a half hour remaining before his 9 p.m. execution Thursday, Robert McConnell did what practically everyone predicted and called it off.
In a meeting with Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta, McConnell signed papers saying he wants to pursue post-conviction relief in state court. Washoe District Judge Steve Kosach formally stayed the execution at 8:26 p.m., directing McConnell's lawyers to begin preparing his case.
But Pam McCoy, mother of victim Brian Pierce, said, for her, it is over even if McConnell didn't die Tuesday.
"Today, I washed my hands of Robert McConnell," she said outside the Nevada State Prison. "I cannot allow his lies to control my life any longer. He is dead to me forever."
Jackie Crawford, Nevada's Director of Corrections, said McConnell will be shipped back to Ely State Prison.
Gerald Gardner, chief of the attorney general's criminal division, said the move was anything but a surprise, and that McConnell has appeal opportunities remaining to him in state and federal court.
Asked if the whole process over the past few days was orchestrated, he said: "I have to say, based on some things he has been saying in the past week, it seems like it was."
McCoy said McConnell "was not man enough to take his punishment."
"Now he has to go back to his grave in Ely prison," she said. "It's over."
Over the past week, McConnell had given numerous indications he had no intention of going through with his execution.
He said during a press conference Monday he didn't feel the prison had treated him fairly, and that if he couldn't get a hug from his mother, he would call it off. He was allowed a face-to-face meeting with her Thursday morning - but in cuffs and shackles. He met twice with a priest and twice with Pescetta during the day.
During that second meeting after Pescetta urged him not to wait until he was led into the death chamber, McConnell agreed and signed the request for a stay of execution.
Fritz Schlottman, deputy director of corrections, said McConnell's demeanor wasn't like that of others who have been executed in recent years. He described McConnell as "lively" and "animated."
McConnell had also declined the Valium offered inmates several hours before execution.
Gardner said now the case moves to the courts again, and prosecutors will work to eliminate his ability to call off his execution in the future.
McConnell pleaded guilty to killing Brian Pierce in February 2002. He said he had planned the crime for a full year after he and Pierce's live-in girlfriend had broken up.
The victim was shot nine times, the last to the head. He then waited for Pierce's girlfriend to arrive at the Sun Valley home, attacked her then forced her to drive with him to California. She escaped when he stopped at a service station.
He said Monday he regretted killing Pierce, but that he should have killed the woman.
He blamed his background - which included being raised in group homes and three years in the California Youth Authority - for his inability to control a violent temper.
A total of 11 inmates have been put to death in Nevada since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Only one had exhausted all his appeals. The rest were "volunteers," including Terry Dennis, who was executed in August.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.