23 March 1998 – Gerald Stano
When Old Sparky malfunctioned, it bought serial killer Gerald Eugene Stano some time, but not much. His original date was scheduled for 20 April 1997, but you may want to check out 25 March to find out what delayed his execution.
The sentence finally caught up with the mass murderer who was killed on this day in 1998 for a litany of crimes – to this day Stano has an unconfirmed 41 deaths to his name.
A loner when he was young, Stano wasn’t averse to stealing from his adopted parents. But the stealing escalated. After passing his computing exams he started work at a hospital and was soon fired after he was caught relieving his fellow colleagues of their hard-earned cash.
But then the first real slump came when he moved to New Jersey. He got involved with a girl and got her pregnant. Her father tracked him down with a shotgun and ordered him to pay for a termination. He did as he was told but turned to drink and drugs as a form of escapism. Seeing his decent into hell, his adopted parents asked him to move back to their house in Florida, which he did.
It worked; he stopped the substance abuse and things were good for a time. He met and married a 22-year-old and his life settled down, but the pull of all things addictive dragged him back under and soon he was abusing his new wife too. Soon they were divorced and he moved back in with his parents.
And it was this rejection that apparently tipped him over the edge of petty crime into serial killer territory.
The first of his victims to be found was unearthed near Daytona Beach airport. Mary Carol Maher, 20, had been stabbed repeatedly in the back and legs. Not long after that a prostitute was stabbed once before the criminal ran away. She was able to give a description of the man and the trail led to Stano. He was hauled in by the police and the extent of his crimes began to emerge.
Turns out he’d been behind a series of people who’d disappeared, dating back as far as 1975 – 12-year-old Susan Basile; 16-year-old Linda Hamilton; 17-year-old Cathy Lee Scharf , Barbara Ann Baur, Dorothy Williams, Christina Goodson and Ann Arceneaux; 18-year-old Ramona Neal, Joan Foster and Diana Valleck; 19-year-old Janine Ligotino; 21-year-old Emily Branch; 23-year-old Mary Muldoon and Phoebe Winston; 24-year-old Nancy Heard and Susan Bickrest; 26-year-old prostitute, Toni Van Haddocks; and 34-year-old Bonnie Hughes.
There are reports that suggest that a percentage of serial killers emerge as a result of adoption. According to the New York Times Dr David Kirschner said: ‘I’ve personally been involved in 12 cases of adoptees who have killed, including a tiny but significant group who became serial killers. … there is barely ever a mention of the impact adoption has on their lives. It’s a subject no one ever wants to talk about, particularly adoptive families.’
Whatever the reasons, nothing could placate the families of his victims. One of Ramona’s brothers went as far as to say ‘I’m so glad Florida has the guts to keep the electric chair. At least there was a split second of pain.’ Of course he witnessed Stano’s execution on the electric chair.