Serial killer who preyed on gay men executed

Gary Ray Bowles, who was convicted of the 1994 murder of a Jacksonville man who was hit in the head with a concrete block and strangled, was executed by lethal injection shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday night, according to state corrections officials.

Bowles, 57, was sentenced to death for the murder of Walter Hinton, who was found dead in his Jacksonville mobile home. Bowles also is serving life sentences for the 1994 murders of John Roberts in Volusia County and Albert Morris in Nassau County. In addition, Bowles confessed to murdering men in Georgia and Maryland, with evidence suggesting he targeted gay men, according to information released in June by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office.

DeSantis signed a death warrant in June for Bowles, who was the second inmate executed since the Republican governor took office in January. Tampa-area serial killer Bobby Joe Long was put to death by lethal injection on May 23 at Florida State Prison.

Bowles, who had a final meal of a three hamburgers, French fries and bacon, made a hand-written statement before he died, saying he was “so very sorry to all of the family and friends of Mr. Hinton.”

“I never wanted to kill him, and I’m sorry for all of the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope my death eases your pain,” Bowles wrote.

Bowles also apologized to his mother, adding “having to deal with your son being called a monster is terrible. I’m so very sorry.”

Bowles also thanked several friends and his lawyers as well as the warden and staff at Florida State Prison, where he was held on Death Row.

“I was treated with respect for the last 73 days on death watch, and I felt human again,” he wrote. “I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer. I’m sorry to the other families who did not get closure. I’ve told the FBI everything, no cases left open.”

Bowles’ attorneys argued in a brief last month that the Supreme Court should order a hearing about whether the Death Row inmate was intellectually disabled and, as a result, should have been shielded from execution.

But the Supreme Court said Bowles had failed to make a “timely” intellectual disability claim because he did not raise the issue until 2017.

“Bowles waited until October 19, 2017 to raise an intellectual disability claim for the first time,” the court’s 10-page main opinion said. “Therefore, the record conclusively shows that Bowles’ intellectual disability claim is untimely under our precedent.”

The Aug. 13 Supreme Court opinion gave a brief description of the grisly murder of Hinton.

“Bowles confessed and pleaded guilty to the 1994 murder of Walter Hinton, who had allowed Bowles to move into his home in exchange for Bowles’ help in moving personal items. Specifically, Bowles dropped a concrete block on Hinton’s head while Hinton was sleeping, then manually strangled a conscious Hinton, and subsequently ‘stuffed toilet paper into Hinton’s throat and placed a rag into his mouth,’ ” the opinion said, partially quoting an earlier court ruling.

In addition to raising the intellectual-disability issue, Bowles’ attorneys also contended that Florida’s death penalty violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In a document filed last month, they wrote that “capital punishment as administered in Florida, and as applied in this case, is contrary to the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

But the justices turned down the argument, writing that “because the United States Supreme Court has made clear that capital punishment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the federal constitution, we cannot invalidate Bowles’ death sentence as cruel and unusual.”