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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

Ohio executes inmate who killed neighbor in 1994


LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Ohio on Tuesday executed an inmate who strangled his neighbor in 1994 and whose lethal injection was postponed a week when he tried to kill himself on death row by overdosing on pills.

Lawrence Reynolds Jr., 43, died by lethal injection at 10:27 a.m. Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

His death came nine days after prison guards found Reynolds unconscious in his cell from a suicide attempt. Reynolds became the fourth inmate to die by Ohio's new lethal injection procedure, which uses a one-drug method instead of three.

Reynolds was convicted for the 1994 killing of Loretta Foster, a 67-year-old widow who baby-sat children in her neighborhood and lived three doors down from him in Cuyahoga Falls near Akron.

Prosecutors said Reynolds was an alcoholic who was out of work and needed money for booze. He forced his way into Foster's house, strangled her with rope and left with $40 in cash and a blank check from her purse.

Reynolds had been challenging Ohio's new execution method, saying the state still hasn't corrected problems with accessing inmates' veins before the single drug is used. He lost his final court battle Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Reynolds' crime shattered the victim's family and tore apart his own.

Foster was like a grandmother to kids in the neighborhood and even baby-sat for Reynolds' three younger siblings. Reynolds had few family visits while in prison, and his parents wanted nothing to do with his request for clemency last summer.

Reynolds' childhood was marred by alcohol abuse, according to prison records. He graduated from high school and then spent six years in the Army. When he returned home, he couldn't hold down a job because of late-night drinking binges.

About a month before her murder, Foster hired Reynolds to paint her basement. Reynolds claimed he was promised $300 but only got $100, prosecutors said.

Reynolds harassed the widow for weeks — knocking on her door after dark, hiding outside and jumping out to scare her.

He went to the widow's house again on Jan. 11, 1994, this time wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a wooden tent pole, which he used to beat Foster when she reached for a phone and tried to call for help, prosecutors said. Then he strangled her and removed her clothes.

At a bar later that night, Reynolds told a group of friends what happened. Unsure whether to believe him, the group went to Foster's house and saw her body lying on the floor.

Two of the friends went to a police station and reported what they saw. Detectives who arrived at Reynolds' house arrested him, seizing the camouflage outfit, gloves, tent pole and the blank check.

At the trial, Reynolds' defense team didn't deny that Reynolds was responsible for the murder but attempted to show that he was drunk and had not gone to Foster's house intending to kill her.

He was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and attempted rape.

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