“The sentence of the State of Florida vs. Robert Waterhouse has been carried out at 8:22 p.m.”
—Florida Department of Corrections spokesman
Maintaining his innocence until the bitter end, two-time murderer Robert Brian Waterhouse — who was born, raised and first convicted of murder in Greenport 46 years ago — was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday night at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Fla.
The execution was delayed by more than two hours as a federal judge considered and then denied a last-minute appeal by Mr. Waterhouse’s lawyer, Robert Norgard. Earlier in the day Wednesday, a similar motion was denied, also in federal court.
Looking gaunt, haggard and pale, Mr. Waterhouse, 65, was wheeled into the death chamber on a hospital gurney at 8:08 p.m. He spoke in a bold, strong voice indirectly addressing the 23 witnesses on the opposite side of a large picture window. “You are about to witness the execution of a wrongfully convicted, innocent man,” he said.
He then cited a “jailhouse snitch, corrupt prosecutors, prejudiced judges and falsified police reports” for his wrongful conviction. He said, “The state broke its own law in destroying DNA evidence and I couldn’t prove my own innocence. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
His finals words were: “To my wife and family, I love you. And that’s it.”
The so-called “execution phase” was initiated at 8:11 p.m. Mr. Waterhouse appeared to fall into a deep sleep before, at 8:18 p.m., the lethal injection of potassium chloride was administered. Four minutes later, he was declared dead by the attending physician.
Mr. Waterhouse had been on Florida’s death row for more than 31 years, longer than any inmate previously executed in Florida. His conviction stemmed from the Jan. 5, 1980, murder of 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer of St. Petersburg, a young mother whose brutally beaten body was discovered in the tidal flats of Tampa Bay. She had been beaten, raped and dragged into the surf, according to prosecutors. Mr. Waterhouse was linked to the crime because a witness testified to seeing the two leaving a bar together and because her blood, hair and fibers from her clothing were found in his car.
Following the execution, Ms. Kammerer’s sister, Linda Cope, addressed reporters under a tent immediately outside the prison grounds. “The monster that killed [my sister] was Robert Waterhouse,” she said. “He did terrible things to her and left her face in the water so she would drown. This tore our family apart, and we have never been the same since.
“I came here today hopefully to find closure and feel that justice has been done. Maybe she will rest better now. She didn’t deserve to die that way. Nobody does.
“May God forgive me, because I can’t forgive Robert Waterhouse.”
According to Ann Howard, communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections, Mr. Waterhouse awoke at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and had nothing to eat for breakfast. He spent the hours between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. with his wife, Fran Waterhouse, whom he married in prison more than 20 years ago after they began a correspondence. Ms. Howard said his last meal consisted of two pork chop cutlets, two eggs sunny side up, two slices of white toast, one slice of cherry pie, one pint of butter pecan ice cream, one pint of orange juice and one pint of milk.
In response to a reporter’s question, Ms. Howard said Mr. Waterhouse’s demeanor was “calm and polite” when she met with him earlier in the day Wednesday.
Due to Department of Corrections guidelines, Mrs. Waterhouse was not allowed to witness the execution. In addition to Ms. Cope, the witnesses included Ms. Kammerer’s brother, step-brother and niece. Her daughter, who now lives in Texas, did not attend.
Prior to Wednesday’s federal court actions, similar appeals were turned down by the Florida Supreme Court and the original trial judge, Robert Beach. The execution was the second ordered by Florida Gov. Rick Scott since he was elected in 2010.
As recently as earlier this month, in correspondence with a representative of The Suffolk Times, Mr. Waterhouse maintained his innocence in the Florida case. He maintained he left the bar earlier in the evening, without Kammerer, and that the blood found in his car resulted from an earlier confrontation involving two associates of his.
Mr. Waterhouse’s original conviction stemmed from the 1966 sexual assault and murder of 77-year-old Greenport resident Ella Mae Carter, a Wilmarth Avenue neighbor for whom he did yard work and chores. At the age of 19, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but was granted life parole in 1975.
Less than five years later, he murdered again in Florida.
In a 1985 interview with The Suffolk Times, Mr. Waterhouse evidenced the sort of defiance and denial that persisted up until the days before his execution Wednesday evening. “I’m okay,” he said at the time. “It’s the rest of the world that’s f—– up. I realize some people can have a problem and never realize it, but I don’t think I’m one of those people. If you ask me, I’m perfectly okay.
“Besides, for me, yesterday is a memory, and that’s all it is. Yesterday has no real relevance. What counts is today and tomorrow – if there is a tomorrow.”
Editor’s Note: The author attended the execution Wednesday night as a credentialed media member. Here’s his most recent column on Mr. Waterhouse, written in advance of the execution, and published in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times, on newsstands now.