A double murderer who said he didn't want to be known as a number became the 1,000th person executed in the United States since capital punishment resumed 28 years ago.

Kenneth Lee Boyd, who brazenly gunned down his estranged wife and father-in-law 17 years earlier, died at 2:15 a.m. Friday after receiving a lethal injection.

After watching Boyd die, Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page said the victims should be remembered. "Tonight, justice has been served for Mr. Kenneth Boyd," Page said.

Boyd's death rallied death penalty opponents, and about 150 protesters gathered outside the prison.

"Maybe Kenneth Boyd won't have died in vain, in a way, because I believe the more people think about the death penalty and are exposed to it, the more they don't like it," said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

"Any attention to the death penalty is good because it's a filthy, rotten system," he said.

Boyd, 57, did not deny killing Julie Curry Boyd, 36, and her father, 57-year-old Thomas Dillard Curry. But he said he thought he should be sentenced to life in prison, and he didn't like the milestone his death would mark.

"I'd hate to be remembered as that," Boyd told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I don't like the idea of being picked as a number."

The Supreme Court in 1976 ruled that capital punishment could resume after a 10-year moratorium. The first execution took place the following year, when Gary Gilmore went before a firing squad in Utah.

During the 1988 slayings, Boyd's son Christopher was pinned under his mother's body as Boyd unloaded a .357-caliber Magnum into her. The boy pushed his way under a bed to escape the barrage. Another son grabbed the pistol while Boyd tried to reload.

The evidence, said prosecutor Belinda Foster, clearly supported a death sentence.

"He went out and reloaded and came back and called 911 and said 'I've shot my wife and her father, come on and get me.' And then we heard more gunshots. It was on the 911 tape," Foster said.

In the execution chamber, Boyd smiled at daughter-in-law Kathy Smith — wife of a son from Boyd's first marriage — and a minister from his home county. He asked Smith to take care of his son and two grandchildren and she mouthed through the thick glass panes separating execution and witness rooms that her husband was waiting outside.

In his final words, Boyd said: "God bless everybody in here."

Boyd's attorney Thomas Maher, said the "execution of Kenneth Boyd has not made this a better or safer world. If this 1,000th execution is a milestone, it's a milestone we should all be ashamed of.

In Boyd's pleas for clemency, his attorneys said he served in Vietnam where he operated a bulldozer and was shot at by snipers daily, which contributed to his crimes.

Both Gov. Mike Easley and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Execution No. 1,001 was scheduled for Friday night at 6 p.m., when South Carolina planned to put Shawn Humphries to death for the 1994 murder of a store clerk.