Military to execute former soldier murder-rapist Ronald Gray, after 8-year delay

Spec. Ronald Gray looks back at a second floor balcony of spectators as he is escorted from a military courtroom on Fort Bragg on April 7, 1988.


By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 23, 2016

More than eight years after he originally was scheduled to die, the U.S. government is moving forward with plans to execute Ronald Gray.

Gray, a former soldier who was convicted in a series of rapes and murders in Fayetteville and Fort Bragg more than 25 years ago, lost a court battle to keep in effect a stay of execution first granted by a U.S. District Court in Kansas in November 2008.

Earlier this week, Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled the stay was no longer in effect and denied Gray's request to further block the military from moving forward with the death sentence.

Gray, who was convicted and sentenced in 1988, is being held at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

His crimes were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and near Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park off Santa Fe Drive.

Gray killed cab driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident and soldier's wife Tammy Wilson and raped several other women.

In addition to the death sentence handed down by a military court, he also received eight life sentences from civilian courts, including three to be served consecutively.

According to a notice filed by an assistant U.S. attorney on behalf of Col. Dawn Hilton, commandant of the disciplinary barracks, officials intend to set a new date and time for Gray's execution no earlier than 30 days from the date of their notice, which was filed on Nov. 21.

A spokesman with the disciplinary barracks could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

Lawyers for Gray had attempted to stop the military from moving forward with the execution, arguing in court filings that they intend to seek relief in the military judicial system.

The lawyers argued that the stay of execution should remain, even though a judge dismissed Gray's federal petition for relief in late October.

The government successfully argued the court no longer had cause to keep the stay.

In a reply to a court filing that Gray's lawyers titled "Response to Government's Notice of Intent to Execute Petitioner," the government's lawyers said there is no legal authority for an indefinite stay of execution with no pending court proceedings.

"Petitioner, of course, is free to petition the military court for a stay of execution while he pursues any remedies available in that court," the government lawyers said.

If Gray is executed, his would be the first for the U.S. military since 1961.

In military courts, only the president can give final approval to a military death sentence. Gray is the only killer on the military's death row whose execution has received that approval.

George W. Bush approved the death sentence for Gray in 2008, following a Department of Justice investigation, but the case had been entangled in court appeals ever since.

Those appeals were based on Gray's claims that the military courts lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him.

In earlier court orders, Marten, who has overseen the case since 2014, said the lawyers failed to establish evidence of error or injustice.

Gray was a former Army cook who held the rank of specialist at the time he was arrested in connection to the rape of a woman near Fairlane Acres in January 1987.

A military court later convicted Gray in the killing of Ruggles and Vickery-Clay, whose bodies - raped and murdered - were later found and linked to him.

Gray also pleaded guilty to 22 felonies in Cumberland County Superior Court, including the murders of Coats and Wilson, and five other rapes.

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