YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An Ohio killer scheduled to be executed next month for a double murder said Tuesday that he has not deliberately gained weight to create conditions that would rule out his death by lethal injection.
Instead, Richard Cooey said in a death row interview that his veins are hard to reach and should prevent his Oct. 14 execution from being carried out because it cannot be done humanely under current state procedures.
"Vein access was an issue even when I was back in the service," Cooey, 41, said in an hour-long interview with the Associated Press at the Ohio State Penitentiary.
Cooey, 5-foot, 7 inches tall and 267 pounds, said he has gained perhaps 70 pounds while being locked up for raping and killing two University of Akron students 22 years ago while he was on leave from the U.S. Army. He blamed the weight gain on medication and lack of exercise.
"It's hard getting access to my veins," said Cooey, who was handcuffed and locked in a closet-sized visiting room. He was separated from a reporter by a reinforced glass partition and spoke through a slit the size of a large straw.
Cooey, dressed in a V-neck prison jump suit, said he has heard second-hand some of the jokes told by late-night comedians about the Ohio inmate who claims he's too fat to be executed.
That ridicule reflects ignorance of his underlying claim that it's not fat but the inaccessibility of his veins that makes it difficult to get an IV inserted for a lethal injection, Cooey said, frequently raising his cuffed hands to gesture.
The legal challenge over the vein access issue is based on constitutional issues and not fear of execution, Cooey said. "It has nothing to do with weight gain," he said.
Instead of lethal injection, "If it would make people happy, shoot me in the head with a .45," Cooey said. "Do it legally."
Cooey and a co-defendant kidnapped Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20, after disabling their car by dropping a chunk of concrete on it from a highway overpass. They choked and beat the women to death after repeatedly raping them, then carved X's in their abdomens.
Cooey deflected questions about remorse and said his past comments about the victims and their families had been misunderstood. "I can't come out good," he said.
Cooey wouldn't say if he would have something to say in the death chamber. He indicated there might be a new legal challenge to his execution, but he wouldn't detail any strategy because he didn't want to tip off prosecutors.
He reiterated his claim, detailed in a pool interview last week for legislative correspondents, that he participated in crimes leading up to the slayings and he repeated his denial that he was the one who beat the students to death. He said blood on a shoestring that was tied to the murder weapon and blood on his car should be tested for DNA, which would prove he wasn't involved in the students' killings. He's made similar statements for years.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said last week that Cooey's original statements in the case were different and his latest claims didn't merit further investigation.
Cooey, who would not discuss his prison life or his family, has been on death row since 1986. He's filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop his execution on the grounds that he is too overweight to be executed humanely under current state procedures because the weight makes it difficult to access his veins.
He also argues that medication he takes for migraine headaches could interfere with one of the three drugs used in the injection procedure.