His final hours

A moment-by-moment account of Jeffrey D. Lundgren's last day

By: Sandra M. Klepach



With 2 hours and 28 minutes left in his life, Jeffrey Lundgren broke down and cried.

The 6-foot-1, 275-pound man who spent 17 years on death row for the murder of a family of five, including three children, cried while sitting on his bed, talking to his wife, in his holding cell at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

At 8:13:25 a.m., a medical staff member gave Lundgren doses of three medications to control his high blood pressure and blood sugar levels - treatments for the obesity and diabetes that he once hoped might buy him more time.

Ten minutes and 33 seconds later, and still on the phone with his wife, Lundgren began to cry again.

The last conversation they had ended 1 hour and 11 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

An official time log kept by execution team members, who were commissioned to keep Lundgren comfortable, does not detail what the convicted killer said to his wife or why he was crying.

Instead, it documents his last 24 hours, from the moment he walked in the door at 9:42:40 a.m. Monday to the moment he was pronounced dead at 10:26 a.m. Tuesday.

Lundgren, 56, was convicted of shooting Dennis Avery, 49; his wife, Cheryl, 41; and daughters Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and Karen, 7, in 1989 while they stood in a pit dug inside his Kirtland barn.

Lundgren had formed a cult after he was fired as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several people had lived with him in a rented farmhouse, calling him "Dad" and turning over their paychecks to him.

The Averys had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren's teachings.



Arrival to the death house


At 9:44:47 a.m. Monday, Lundgren arrived at the death house and received a review of his personal effects.

When asked by a team member what should be done with his personal Bible, pair of gym shorts, socks, underwear and address book after his death, Lundgren said they were to be destroyed.

At 9:53:40 a.m., Lundgren was strip-searched and given state-issued clothing - dark blue pants and a white V-neck pullover shirt - and told he had unlimited collect phone calls.

At 10:06:16 a.m., he requested his special meal be turkey (white meat), mashed potatoes with gravy, yeast rolls, salad with tomatoes and radishes with Wishbone French Dressing, Pepsi and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert.

At 10:10:22 a.m., the execution team leader asked Lundgren if he needed anything.

At 10:10:42 a.m., Lundgren requested a paper cup for some water.

Five minutes and 16 seconds later, he opened his Bible and began to read.

When asked at 10:18:02 a.m. if he needed anything else to eat or drink, Lundgren said he was "OK."



The first few hours


None of Lundgren's family visited him during his final 24 hours in Lucasville.

Lundgren spent a total of about 41/2 hours watching TV, most of it laying in his bed, sometimes covered by a blanket, and none after learning his stay of execution had been lifted. He also spent time reading his Bible.

Lundgren testified in court that passages in the Bible told him to kill the Avery family. Nearly 17 years later, he told a parole officer he had realized he misinterpreted some things in the Bible.

Lundgren asked for his cell light to be turned off at 10:54:08 a.m. Monday, telling a team member he had not slept the night before.

At 11:09 a.m., medical staff members assessed both his arms for proper vein injection sites and came back with a "good" report.

Lundgren appeared to be sleeping between 11:31:04 and 11:49:13 a.m.

He woke up, used the bathroom and washed his hands at noon.

At 12:13:15 p.m., Warden Edwin Voorhies shook Lundgren's hand from outside the cell and asked him how he was doing.

Lundgren said that he was OK.

The two were together for 10 minutes and 41 seconds until 12:23:56 p.m., when Voorhies left and Lundgren received two cups of Pepsi with ice.

Lundgren then flipped through TV channels for a few minutes before returning to his Bible.



A good-bye to a son


At 12:40:01 p.m., Lundgren got a call from his wife, Kathryn, who already served time for her part in the crime. That call ended at 12:48:30 p.m.

The inmate ate two bologna sandwiches with mayonnaise and pickles for lunch.

At 1:12:06 p.m., he read a paper. From 1:18:15 to 1:35:54 p.m., he read his Bible.

Despite phone problems, Lundgren spoke with his attorney, Henry Hillow, at 1:48:49 p.m.

He covered himself with a blanket and put a wash cloth over his eyes at 1:52:44 p.m.

Then, at 2:00:42 p.m., he placed a call to his son, also convicted in the Avery murder case.

Damon P. Lundgren is first eligible for parole in February 2098.

The two spoke from 2:00:42 to 2:14:41 p.m.

Lundgren went back to sleep from 2:25:59 to 2:43:44 p.m., watched TV and read his Bible until his special meal was served at 4:04:16 p.m.

The Rev. Gary Sims arrived at 4:34:45 p.m., and Lundgren asked to save his pumpkin pie for later.

He spoke to Sims until 4:59:59 p.m., then continued watching TV.

A phone conversation with his wife began at 6:33:48 p.m., lasting 18 minutes and 11 seconds.

Lundgren then laid back down on his bed, drinking pop and receiving his medication, until falling asleep from 9:35:51 to 10:00:38 p.m.



Final reprieve denied


Despite the time he'd spent on death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Lundgren may have believed he had more time left.

He had been allowed to join a lawsuit by five other death row inmates the week previous, prompting U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost to put a temporary stop on the execution.

The lawsuit questioned the Constitutionality of Ohio's use of lethal injection.

Late Monday, a three-judge panel overturned Frost's order.

At 10:49:36 p.m., as Lundgren appeared to be sleeping, he received a call from the warden to let him know the stay had been lifted and the execution would continue.

At 10:50:47 p.m., he placed a call to his wife. She didn't answer.

At 10:52:06 p.m., he placed a call to her cell phone and got through.

At 11:04:26 p.m., his attorney called. They spoke briefly.

At 11:05:30 p.m., he called his wife again. The two then spoke until 2:35:56 a.m., when Lundgren ended the call, saying Kathryn had wanted to call a family member.

When Lundgren received a call from his attorney at 3:02:52 a.m., he asked why the decision had been overturned.

Between 3:23:19 and 4:55:38 a.m., he appeared to be sleeping.

Then he called his wife again.

He took an 11-minute shower at 5:47 a.m.



Lundgren's last meal


Breakfast arrived at 6:06:20 a.m. - a cup of coffee, two cups of juice and two cups of milk, Rice Krispies, three pancakes and three servings of syrup. Lundgren declined the coffee and the syrup.

After eating, Lundgren brushed his teeth at 6:13:26 a.m., then spoke to his wife on the phone from 6:15:30 to 8:35:46 a.m.

It was during this time that he cried twice.

At 8:35:46 a.m., he took a call from his attorney. He resumed conversation with his wife at 8:41:47 a.m.

At 8:51:25 a.m., a call from his attorney let him know the governor had denied him clemency and the Supreme Court had denied his stay of execution.

Lundgren called his wife one last time at 8:52:24 a.m. The two disconnected at 9:15:38 a.m.



The final hour


Ohio's lethal injection procedure was explained to Lundgren by the team leader at 9:19:55 a.m.

Lundgren then sat on his bed.

At 9:24:32 a.m., the Rev. Sims arrived, holding hands and praying with Lundgren from 9:29:41 to 9:34:11 a.m. as officials were preparing the drugs.

At 9:42:22 a.m., the Rev. Sims left. Lundgren began praying by himself at 9:44:47 a.m.

Between 9:47:27 and 9:51:35 a.m., the inmate paced back and forth in his cell.

Then, at 10:00:00 a.m., the warden approached Lundgren's holding cell to read him his death warrant.

He laid on his bed to be prepared with heparin locks at 10:01:39 a.m., viewed on a monitor by the execution witnesses.

At 10:15:02:02 a.m., he rose with the help of team members.

He began the 17 steps from his holding cell to the execution chamber eight seconds later.

A final statement at 10:17:22 a.m. professed his love for God, his family, his children and his wife.

At 10:17:33 a.m., the warden gave a secret signal to begin the injection process.

Syringes of Thiopental Sodium were injected into Lundgren's body at 10:17:42 and 10:18:25 a.m., followed by a full flush at 10:19:08 a.m.

At 10:20:13 and 10:21:14 a.m., syringes of Pancuronium Bromide were injected, followed by another full flush at 10:22:10 a.m.

The final syringe, of Potassium Chloride, was injected at 10:23:24 a.m., concluding the injection process at 10:25:17 a.m.

At 10:27:21 a.m., the warden announced Lundgren's time of death was 10:26 a.m.

And the witness curtain was closed at 10:27:36 a.m.


Source: The News-Herald, Ohio