Robert Anthony Buell
Executed this morning by lethal injection for the July 1982 abduction and slaying of 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison of Marshallville.
Buell, a former loan specialist with the city of Akron’s Planning Department, was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. inside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville. Buell, 62, gave a one-minute statement just before prison officials unleashed a triple dose of drugs that eventually stopped his heart. He said once again — as he has maintained for his 18 years on death row — that he did not kill Krista.
His death was witnessed by the Harrison men: Krista’s father, Gerald, and older brothers Mark and Dana. 20 years ago, the brothers served as pallbearers at their sister’s funeral. Although he was permitted to have 3 witnesses, Buell declined. He leaves his mother Ola, sister Carole and a 37-year-old daughter.
Buell was convicted in 1984 for the murder of Krista, who was abducted from a park across the street from her home in July 1982. Her body was found 6 days later in a remote area of Holmes County. Although Buell was identified as a suspect months after her murder, he was not arrested until 1983, when a 28-year-old Damascus woman escaped from his home after being abducted at gunpoint by Buell and taken to his Clinton home, where she was beaten, raped and tortured.
Rare carpet fibers found inside Buell’s van and home were linked to those found on Krista’s body. Additionally, paint stains found on a pair of men’s jeans found near the crime scene matched those found at Buell’s home. The jeans and a shirt were similar in size and brand name to those Buell owned. Buell was also a suspect, but never charged, in the abductions and slaying of Tina Marie Harmon, 12, of Creston, and Deborah Kaye Smith, 11, of Massillon. He was also identified by women and teen-age girls, who were sexually assaulted in the 1980s.
Buell pleaded no contest to charges related to the abduction and rape of the Damascus woman and also a Pennsylvania woman, who was abducted and raped by Buell inside his home. Buell was serving a 121-year prison term when he went on trial for Krista’s murder. A jury convicted him after an 11-day trial and recommended a death sentence. Through his pastor, the Rev. Ernie Sanders, Buell conceded he stalked and abducted women, but said he “draws the line” when it comes to children. Prosecutors said the evidence of Buell’s guilt in Krista’s death was overwhelming.
Convicted killer listens to classical music hours before scheduled execution
A convicted killer listened to classical music in his cell hours before his scheduled execution Wednesday as another court refused his request for a delay. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday joined lower courts in deciding not to stop the execution of Robert Buell, whose appeal was based on objections to the hypnotizing of witnesses at his trial.
A handful of protesters were outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Wednesday. Tom O’Brien, 38, a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University, said his research convinced him the death penalty is inherently unfair. “I saw the injustices that were prevalent throughout the system, and said I need to take a stand against it,” said O’Brien, who was attending his first death penalty protest.
A state appeals court in Cleveland had wanted more time to consider Buell’s appeal but canceled plans for a hearing when the Ohio Supreme Court refused the request. The 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals said it would issue a written ruling. Prison officials said Buell awoke at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and had a breakfast of bran flakes and a glass of milk. He spent time listening to the radio in his cell. Buell was prepared for the worst, said one of his attorneys, Jeffrey Kelleher.
Outside the prison, 7 protesters set up posters with the photos of the 4 men executed since 1999, with candles ready to be lighted on the ground. A poster to the side held a picture of the slain girl, Krista Harrison, with a white silk rose attached. Some were among small groups of death penalty protesters who had gathered Tuesday in Cleveland and Akron, including Kathy Soltis, a member of the Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The number of protesters have shrunk since the state switched to daytime executions, Soltis said. Also, Buell is a “less sympathetic figure,” she said, because the victim was a child and Buell is not mentally ill.
Krista was abducted from a park across the street from where she lived in the village of Marshallville on July 11, 1982, as she collected aluminum cans with a boy. Her body was found 6 days later. Buell, a former Akron city planner who lived in the nearby town of Clinton, claimed he was innocent and that there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime. He also argued that he could not defend himself properly because prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses were hypnotized. Buell’s lawyers say the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnesses’ memories before they testified.
Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming. It included fibers on Krista’s body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell’s van and blue and tan paint found on men’s jeans dumped at the crime scene that matched paint found in Buell’s home. The crime went unsolved for 15 months until a 28-year-old woman who was abducted at gunpoint and raped and tortured at Buell’s home escaped and ran to a neighbor’s house. The details of the assault led to his arrest for Krista’s death.
Buell pleaded no contest to rape and other charges from the attack on the 28-year-old and the abduction and rape 5 months earlier of a 29-year-old woman. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes. Buell was later named as the chief suspect in the slayings of two other girls and identified by other victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio.
- September, 10, 1940
- September, 24, 2002
- Lucasville, Ohio
Cause of Death
- execution by lethal injection