A Lineup Of State's Death Row Denizens

Posted: March 01, 1990

Pennsylvania's death row houses some of the worst, most evil, most unredeemable human beings who ever breathed the commonwealth's air.

Needless to say, all are convicted murderers. Many have murdered more than one person. And all have killed in a manner so atrocious that, under the law, their punishment can only be death.

Death row, actually isolated parts of the state's three biggest prisons, has been growing more crowded in recent years. Now, 112 killers are lined up to be executed in the state's oak electric chair, unused since sex-killer Elmo Smith was put to death in 1962 for murdering a Manayunk teen.

Some death row dwellers have been waiting to die almost since the state's newest capital punishment law took effect in 1978. Some of the more notorious residents of death row are:

* Gary Michael Heidnik, the North Philadelphia investment whiz who muffler- clamped and murdered women in his basement torture chamber while trying to sire a race of basement babies. Heidnik says he wants to get the chair, but he's still probably years from execution.

* Jay C. Smith, the former suburban school principal who killed teacher Susan Reinert and her two children. He is awaiting a new trial, so won't be executed for quite some time - if ever.

* Leslie Beasley, who came within a week of being strapped into the chair in 1986. He killed a Mays Landing, N.J., man in 1976 and a Germantown bicyclist and Philadelphia policeman in 1980. His state appeals are exhausted, and he is high on Gov. Casey's short list of those who will soon get death warrants.

* Larry Rush, who stabbed his pregnant cousin 51 times in her South Philadelphia apartment and is suspected of numerous other killings.

* Ralph Trent Stokes, who coolly executed three people to eliminate witnesses while robbing Smokin' Joe's Corner restaurant on City Avenue in March 1982.

* Kevin "Peanut" Hughes, a sex pervert who raped, murdered and burned the body of 9-year-old Rochelle Graham in 1979. He burned the letters "PEA" on the ceiling of the murder room. On the ceiling of his own bedroom, he had burned the letters "PEANUT." He also is among the killers the governor is likely to condemn first.

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