23 Executed Criminals Who Spoke Some Immortal Last Words

Published February 23, 2016
Updated October 22, 2019

From notorious serial killers to possible wrongful convictions, these are the most memorable last words of executed criminals from around the world.

Some break down and beg for their lives. Some remain stubbornly hardened and brutal to the end. Some make no sense at all. Whichever way they go, there’s always someone on hand to record the last words of executed criminals. See the bizarre mix of terrifying, witty and poignant in the (very final) quotes below:

Thomas Grasso

Thomas Grasso Mugshot
In 1990, Thomas J. Grasso was convicted of strangling 87-year-old Hilda Johnson with her Christmas tree lights. Six months later, he strangled Leslie Holtz, an 81-year-old man, with an electrical cord.

He was executed by lethal injection on March 20, 1995. He had requested SpaghettiOs as part of his last meal, but received spaghetti and meatballs instead.

Robert Alton Harris

Robert Alton Harris
Robert Alton Harris was found guilty of the murder of two teenage boys in San Diego, California in 1978. He was executed in a gas chamber on April 21, 1992.

Wikimedia Commons

Erskine Childers

Erskine Childers Execution
In addition to writing the novel The Riddle of the Sands, Robert Erskine Childers was a gun smuggler. He was executed on November 24, 1922, during the Irish Civil War, for illegally possessing a semi-automatic pistol nicknamed the “Destroyer.”Wikimedia Commons

Carl Panzram

Carl Panzram Mugshot
Carl Panzram was executed by hanging on September 5, 1930. The reasons are best explained by the man himself:

“In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.”
National Geographic Indonesia

James French

James French Mugshot
James D. French was sentenced to life in prison for killing a motorist while hitchhiking. Allegedly, French, not wanting to serve the life sentence, was too afraid to commit suicide and subsequently killed his cellmate, compelling the state to sentence him to death. He was executed by electrocution on August 10, 1966.


Barbara Graham

Barbara Graham Mugshot
Barbara Graham, a.k.a. “Bloody Babs,” broke into the home of Mabel Monohan in an attempt to rob her. Graham pistol-whipped Monohan, cracking her skull. She and her accomplice, John True, left with next to nothing, missing about $15,000 worth in jewels that were in the house. Graham was eventually arrested when True testified against her. She was executed in the gas chamber on June 3, 1955.Murderpedia

Andre Chikatilo

Japanese Buy Brains
Andrei Chikatilo, a.k.a. “The Butcher of Rostov,” was a Soviet serial killer who confessed to murdering over 50 women and children between 1978 and 1990. He was executed in February 1994 with a gunshot to the head.

Edward "Ned" Kelly

Edward Ned Kelly
Edward “Ned” Kelly was a notorious bushranger (escaped convict who hid out in the wilds of Australia) who was charged with various murders, bank robberies, and a series of other minor charges. He was executed by hanging on November 11, 1880, and remains Australia's most famous outlaw to this day.

Wikimedia Commons

George Engel

last words of executed criminals George Engel Anarchy
Anarchist and labor union activist George Engel was thought to have been involved in the 1886 bombing of the McCormick Plant in Chicago, and was eventually found guilty of conspiracy. He was hanged on November 11, 1887. Wikimedia Commons

John Spenkelink

John Spenkelink Execution
John Spenkelink had served time for petty crimes before being convicted of murdering Joseph Szymankiewicz, another criminal, in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1973. Spenkelink was executed by electrocution on May 25, 1979.

His execution, just the second nationwide after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, brought up a lot of controversy on whether capital punishment discriminates against the poor.

Wikimedia Commons

Karla Faye Tucker

Face To Face Jesus
In a burglary gone wrong, Karla Faye Tucker, along with accomplice Danny Garrett, murdered Jerry Lynn Dean and Dorothy Thornton. Despite widespread protests from anti-death penalty advocates, Tucker was executed by lethal injection on February 3, 1998.

Image Source: Clark Country Prosecutor

Leonel Herrera

Leonel Herrera Mugshot
Leonel Torres Herrera was convicted in 1981 of shooting and killing Los Fresno police officers Enrique Carrisalez and David Rucker. Herrera was executed by lethal injection on May 15, 1993.Executed Today

Gary Burris

Gary Burris Mugshot Quote
Gary Burris was given the death sentence for the murder of Indianapolis cab driver Kenneth Chambers in 1980 and executed by lethal injection on November 20, 1997.

Patrick Bryan Knight

Patrick Bryan Knight Quote
Patrick Bryan Knight was executed by lethal injection on June 26, 2007, for the murder of his two neighbors.

Before his execution, Knight held a contest with inmates to come up with a joke for him to tell as his last words. He even set up a website and made the competition public. But his last words were not actually the competition’s winning joke; they were instead his own.

Image Source: Clark County Prosecutor

Robert Drew

Death Penalty Murder
Robert Drew was accused of brutally stabbing Jeffrey Mays to death in 1983 and was executed by lethal injection on August 2, 1994. However, with no physical evidence tying him to the crime, some still argue that Drew was an innocent man.

Image Source: Murderpedia

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein War Criminal
As most people are aware, Saddam Hussein was the fifth President of Iraq, serving from July of 1979 until April 9, 2003. Following his capture during the second Gulf War, he was eventually found guilty of crimes against humanity by the Iraqi Special Tribunal and executed by hanging on December 30, 2006.

See the up-close military photo taken at the moment of Hussein's capture..

Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Good

Sarah Good Witch
Sarah Good was one of the first women to be accused and executed during the Salem witch trials. She was claimed to have cast evil spells and attacked a woman with a knife. She was executed by hanging in July of 1692. Wikimedia Commons

Steven Judy

Steven Judy Execution
Steven Judy was found guilty of raping and murdering Terry Lee Chasteen and killing her three children in 1979. He was executed by electrocution on June 15, 1981. Corvallis Today

Aileen Wuornos

Last Words Executed Criminals Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos killed seven men between 1989 and 1990. She was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.YouTube

Ted Bundy

Last Words Executed Criminals
One of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century, Ted Bundy was a serial killer, rapist, and necrophile who was responsible for the murder of at least 36 women. He was executed by electrocution on January 24, 1989.

Wikimedia Commons

Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini Last Words
As leader of the National Fascist Party, Benito Mussolini ruled Italy from 1922 until 1943. His alliance with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany formed the initial backbone of the Axis powers of World War II.

In the waning days of the war, he was executed at gunpoint by anti-fascist partisans on April 28, 1945.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gary Gilmore

Gary Gilmore Mugshot
Famous for both demanding the death sentence and for becoming the first person to receive it in the United States after it was reinstated in 1976, double murderer Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah on January 17, 1977.

He requested that his organs be donated, and within a few short hours after his death, two people had his corneas. Ten years after his death, his last words inspired Nike’s famous “Just do it.” advertising campaign.

Kicks On Fire

Harry Harbord "The Breaker" Morant

Harry Harbord Morant
Harry Harbord “The Breaker” Morant was an Anglo-Australian military officer who was arrested for war crimes during the Second Anglo-Boer War. He was executed by firing squad on February 27, 1902. Wikimedia Commons

Next, check out serial killer quotes that will chill you to the bone, and the famous last words of 19 historical greats.

Briana Jones
Briana Jones is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and artist roaming the hot sands of the southwest. She enjoys the strange and unusual, and green tea.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Jones, Briana. "23 Executed Criminals Who Spoke Some Immortal Last Words." AllThatsInteresting.com, February 23, 2016, https://allthatsinteresting.com/last-words-of-executed-criminals. Accessed June 25, 2024.