The execution date of Roy Willard Blankenship was set just two days after Georgia put to death Emmanuel Hammond for the 1988 murder of a 27-year-old preschool teacher. Blankenship is set to die at 7 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the state prison in Jackson.
Blankenship was convicted of the 1978 murder of Sarah Mims Bowen, who died of heart failure during the attack. Her bloody, nude body was discovered by friends and neighbors after the attack, and police were able to trace footsteps to the area where Blankenship lived across the street. They also matched blood scrapings and seminal fluid to Bowen.
When police confronted Blankenship two weeks after the killing, he told them that he broke into her apartment, threw her onto a bed and "got my pleasure or whatever you want to call it." He added that he didn't remember some details, saying, "I don't know why I did it. I was drunk. I know I had to be drunk."
At trial, Blankenship's attorney suggested another person who had been convicted of rape was behind Bowen's killing, and relied on testimony from a crime lab expert who said that a hair found on Bowen's body appeared to come from a black male. Blankenship is white.
In an unusual twist, Blankenship also took the witness stand and made a startling claim: He said he was in the victim's apartment but denied committing the crime.
He said he broke into his neighbor's apartment after a drinking binge and overheard a commotion involving Bowen and a third person. He said he found Bowen on the floor, placed her on the bed, tried and failed to rape her and then bolted when she appeared to wake up. He said she was still in clothes when he left, and she hadn't been beaten up.
A jury didn't buy his account and in 1980 he was sentenced to death on murder charges. But the death sentence was reversed by the Georgia Supreme Court a year later over a juror issue. He was re-sentenced to death in 1982, but that sentenced was reversed when the court ruled that Blankenship's attorneys were restricted from presenting key evidence.
At Blankenship's third sentencing trial in 1986, he was again sentenced to die. But this time, state and federal courts upheld the capital sentence.
Among the most recent was a lengthy 2008 ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected his claims that his trial lawyers were ineffective, finding that Blankenship's trial lawyers pursued a "reasonable" legal strategy and conducted an adequate investigation into his background.