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Military Sets Date for First Execution Since 1961

A former Army cook convicted of multiple rapes and murders is set to die next month in what would be the U.S. military's first execution in nearly 50 years.

The military said Thursday that former North Carolina soldier Ronald A. Gray is to be executed Dec. 10 at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind.

Gray was arrested in connection with four slayings and eight rapes in the Fayetteville, N.C., area between April 1986 and January 1987, while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. He was convicted of murdering two women.

President Bush approved Gray's execution in July, and a month later Army Secretary Pete Geren set the execution date and ordered that Gray be put to death by injection. The date was publicly released Thursday.

"The Army is moving forward with plans to fulfill the court-martial sentence," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright.

Gray has appealed his case through military courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case in 2001. Wright said Gray had two legal options remaining: filing a petition with a federal appellate court to stay the execution, or request that the president reconsider approval of the execution.

Army personnel will be responsible for conducting the execution in Indiana based on an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Only 10 members of the military have been executed since 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system, was enacted.

President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military execution. That was for John Bennett, who was hanged in 1961 for raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

On Feb. 12, 1962, President Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmy Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life.

Gray, 43, is being confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. He was convicted by a six-member court-martial panel for:

— Raping and killing Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay of Fayetteville on Dec. 15, 1986. She was shot four times with a .22-caliber pistol that Gray confessed to stealing. She also suffered blunt force trauma over much of her body.

— Raping and killing Kimberly Ann Ruggles, a civilian cab driver in Fayetteville. She was bound, gagged, stabbed repeatedly and had bruises and lacerations on her face. Her body was found on the base.

— Raping, robbing and attempting to kill an Army private in her barracks at Fort Bragg on Jan. 3, 1987. The victim testified against Gray and identified him as her assailant. Gray raped her and stabbed her several times in the neck and side.

Wright said there are four other members of the military — two soldiers, a Marine and one Air Force airman — under sentence of death.