Bruce Momjian

Pennsylvania Performs First Execution in 33 Years


I ask that the people of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania please accept my 14 years of imprisonment and my execution now as all of my debt to society paid in full.  And I ask that the people of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania please forgive me of all the terrible crimes I committed against them and I thank them sincerely.

May 2, 1995


BELLEFONTE, Pa. (Reuter) - Convicted killer Keith Zettlemoyer Wednesday became the first person executed by the state of Pennsylvania in 33 years.

Zettlemoyer, 39, was pronounced dead at 10:25 p.m. EDT at Rockview State Correctional Institution, 12 minutes after he was injected with a lethal dose of barbituates and paralytic agents, prison spokesman Sam Mazzotta said. Zettlemoyer was convicted in the 1980 killing of a friend, Charles DeVetsco, who was a potential witness in a burglary case. Zettlemoyer had said in the weeks before the execution he no longer wished to fight his sentence.

"I ask that the people of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania please accept my 14 years of imprisonment and my execution now as all of my debt to society paid in full," Zettlemoyer said in a final statement released before his death.

"And I ask that the people of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania please forgive me of all the terrible crimes I committed against them and I thank them sincerely," he said.

His last meal was two cheeseburgers, french fries, chocolate pudding and chocolate milk.

The execution was the first in Pennsylvania since 1962. The state re-enacted a death penalty law in 1978 but legal and political obstacles have delayed the resumption of executions.

Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, however, has promised to expedite death sentences and since he took office in January he has signed five death warrants, including Zettlemoyer's. There are now 188 prisoners on Pennsylvania's death row.

In a statement after the execution, Ridge said, "Nearly 15 years ago, Keith Zettlemoyer brutally murdered his friend, Charles DeVetsco. May Keith Zettlemoyer's soul rest in peace. May the soul of Charles DeVetsco rest in peace."

Scores of death-penalty opponents and supporters protested outside the prison prior to the sentence being carried out.

Death penalty opponents and DeVetsco's mother continued the legal battle to save Zettlemoyer's life until minutes before the execution, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a request for a stay.

The U.S. Supreme Court had also rejected a stay request earlier Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Post-Conviction Defender Organization, which represents death-row inmates, had argued Zettlemoyer was seriously mentally ill and incapable of fighting the execution on his own.

DeVetsco's mother, Aldona DeVetsco, explained her opposition to the execution in an interview with a Philadelphia television station. "Life is sacred. It's about the only sacred thing on earth — and no one has a right to do away with it," she said.