GARY MARK GILMORE was born on December 4, 1940 in McCamey, Texas. He later lived in Utah and Oregon while growing up and was too often in trouble.
Gary spent the majority of his troubled life incarcerated from a teenager in detention to an adult in multiple prisons.
Harry Houdini, the famous escape artist, is said to be Gary Gilmore’s Grandfather. Apparently none of his skills were passed on.
Spring 1976 Gary’s uncle Vern Damico and cousin Brenda Damico helped arrange a parole / probation agreement bringing Gary to Utah providng him with a job and a place to live.
Gilmore met Nicole Baker Barrett while she was living in Spanish Fork, Utah and their unusual romance began.
Nicole Baker Barrett
Gilmore had potential as an artist. This is one of his drawings of Nicole.
Two weeks prior to the first murder Gary burglarized Swan’s Market in Spanish Fork, Utah stealing eleven guns while the owners Gordon and Barbara Swan were out of town on a camping trip. After the trial and execution the court returned the stolen firearms including the murder weapon to the store owner.
July 19th, 1976 Gary robbed and murdered Max Jensen the attendant at a gas station in Orem, Utah.
The following day he robbed and killed Bennis Bushnell the manager of a motel in Provo, Utah. The night of the second murder Gary was apprehended and arrested.
At first Gary denied his crimes but soon admitted his guilt. He refused all available appeals to prevent his execution. Later, when convicted he was given the choice of hanging or firing squad, “I prefer to be shot” he said.
Gilmore attempted suicide while an inmate at Utah State prison and influenced his girlfriend to do the same simultaneously by overdosing on drugs she smuggled into the prison, they both failed.
Coincidentally, Barbara Swan, the store owners wife who was burglarized by Gilmore was also one of Nicole’s nurse’s during her recovery at Utah Valley Hospital.
After the dual suicide attempt Nicole was placed in a mental institution and no contact between the two was permitted. Gilmore began a hunger strike in revolt.
Gilmore attempted suicide a second time by overdosing on drugs acquired in the prison but again he failed.
Gilmore’s death was set for three different dates before he was finally executed.
More plea’s, rescheduled executions, dates, suicide attempts, and stays than any other case in history made world news again and again.
Gary’s birthday Dec. 4th 1976 was spent at the Utah State prison where he became 36 years old.
Gilmore fired three of his five attorneys during his prison stay.
Gary’s mother got involved against his wishes bringing another delay for execution.
Gary Gilmore and his mother Bessie.
Truman Capote was a well known author who had a few thoughts to add to this story. He suggested televised executions.
This legal and political battle brought the civil liberties lobbies, such as the ACLU, and individuals to Utah and the State prison in protest fearing the possible return of capital punishment.
The execution was set again at daybreak January 17, 1977. This time he would be shot.
Gary drinking whiskey from a mini bottle in Utah State prison. The night before his execution alcohol was smuggled in and a farewell party commenced.
Gary finally got his wish and was executed by firing squad only six months after committing two murders.
Gilmore’s famous last words are said to be “Let’s do it” but in fact he then said “Dominus vobiscum” Latin, translation: “The Lord be with you.” in which the priest replied,“Et cum spiritu tuo” translation: “and with your spirit.”
Most major publications such as Newsweek, Life, Criminal Minds, Rolling Stone, Playboy, People, National Enquirer and many more world wide ran stories of this bizarre case that brought back capital punishment.
Immediately after the execution Gilmore’s body was rushed to a Salt Lake City hospital where body parts were removed and donated. An autopsy was taken and his body cremated. His ashes were scattered from an airplane over Spanish Fork, Utah.
A hit song was written by a punk group called the ” Adverts” titled “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” inspired by his donated corneas.
A book about this case titled “The Executioners Song” by Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize.
A movie also titled “The Executioner’s Song” starred Tommy Lee Jones winning him the Emmy award. Co- star Rosanna Arquette, was also nominated for an Emmy. Other cast members included Christine Lahti, Eli Wallach, Steven Keats, Jenny Wright, Richard Venture, and Pat Corely.
The ten years prior to Gary Gilmore’s execution was the only time in American history capital punishment was halted nation wide. This case officially reinstated the death penalty.