Ross was born in Putnam, Connecticut on July 26, 1959 to Patricia Hilda Laine and Dan Graeme Ross. The oldest of four children, having two younger sisters and a younger brother, he grew up on a chicken farm in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Ross’s home life was extremely dysfunctional; his mother, who had abandoned the family at least once and had been institutionalized, beat all four of her children, saving the worst for him. Some family and friends have suggested that he was also molested by his teenaged uncle, who committed suicide when Ross was six. He was a bright boy who performed well in school. He graduated from Killingly High School in Killingly, Connecticut in 1977, and graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he studied agriculture, in May 1981. He became an insurance salesman. He exhibited antisocial behavior from a young age. Ross began stalking women in his sophomore year of college and, in his senior year, he committed his first rape. His first murder followed soon after.
Between 1981 and 1985, Ross murdered eight girls and women aged between 14 and 25 in Connecticut and New York. He raped seven out of his eight murder victims. He also was alleged to have raped, but not killed a 21-year old woman named Vivian Dobson in 1983. Plainfield police rejected the possibility that Ross had been Vivian Dobson’s rapist. They did not press charges and Ross made no confession. Ross confessed to each of the eight murders and was convicted for the last four of them. He was sentenced to death on July 6, 1987 and spent the next 18 years on death row. During his incarceration, he met his fiancée, Susan Powers, of Oklahoma. Powers broke up with Ross in 2003 but still visited him until his death. He became a devout Catholic after his arrest in 1984, meeting regularly with two priests through the years and praying the rosary each morning. Ross had accomplishments, such as translating Braille, acting as a “big brother” to other inmates, and sponsoring an impoverished child from the Dominican Republic.
Though he opposed the death penalty, Ross strongly supported his own death sentence in the last year of his life, saying that he wanted to spare his victims’ families any more pain. According to Kathry Yeager, a Cornell graduate, Ross believed that he had been “forgiven by God” and that he would be going to “a better place” once he was executed. She said, “He’s not being punished. He’s moving on to life eternal. That’s what is ironic about the death penalty. He’s looking forward to the peace.” Yeager also said that Ross had come to believe there was no way his death sentences would be commuted without forcing the victims’ families to suffer through more legal hearings; and that he knew his life would be meaningful, even behind bars: “He’s had a horrible life, and he’s wanted to do good.” In spite of this, an hour before the execution was to take place in the early hours of January 26, 2005, Ross’s lawyer, acting on behalf of Ross’s father, obtained a two-day stay of execution. Ross was then scheduled to die by lethal injection on January 29, 2005, at 2:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. However, earlier in the day, the execution was again postponed because of doubts that Ross was mentally competent; having fought against his death sentence for 17 years, he suddenly waived his right to appeal. His attorney claimed that Ross was incompetent to waive appeals, as he was suffering from death row syndrome. In his final days, Ross became an oblate, or associate, of the Benedictine Grange, a Roman Catholic monastic community in West Redding, Connecticut.
Ross was executed by lethal injection on May 13, 2005, at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut. He was 45 years old. Ross did not request a special last meal before facing his execution, thereby dining on the regular prison meal of the day: turkey à la king with rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit, and a beverage. When asked if he would like to make a last statement, he said, without opening his eyes, “No, thank you.” Ross was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. His remains were buried at the Benedictine Grange Cemetery in Redding, Connecticut.
- July, 26, 1959
- Putnam, Connecticut
- May, 13, 2005
- Somers, Connecticut
Cause of Death
- execution by lethal injection
- Benedictine Grange Cemetery
- Redding, Connecticut