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Arizona executes man for brutal rape, murder of co-workers

FLORENCE, ARIZONA (BNO NEWS) -- An Arizona man who tortured, raped and murdered two of his co-workers was executed by lethal injection Wednesday after spending nearly half his life on death row, prison officials said. He is the 26th person to be executed in the United States this year.

Daniel Cook, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:03 a.m. local time at Arizona State Prison Complex - Eyman in Florence, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix. It came several hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Cook's attorneys to block the execution.

His last meal on Tuesday night included eggplant lasagna, garlic cheese mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, broiled asparagus, root beer soda, and ice cream. The drug for his execution was administered at 10:26 a.m. local time on Wednesday and it took approximately 37 minutes before the sentence was carried out.

Cook's last moments were said to be emotional as he sobbed while making his last statement. "I'd like to say sorry to the victim's family. I know that's not enough," he said before taking a pause. "Where am I?" he then asked. "To my lawyers, thank you. Red Robin, yum. I'm done. I love you."

Cook was convicted of the brutal murder of 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old Kevin Swaney in Lake Havasu City in 1987. Prosecutors said Cook had quit his job and on July 18 began drinking alcohol and smoking methamphetamine with his former co-worker John Matzke.

Cruz-Ramos confronted Cook and Matzke after he discovered they had stolen $90 money from him. But the two overpowered Cruz-Ramos, stripped off his clothing and bound him to a chair where they beat him with their fists and a pipe. Cook also cut Cruz-Ramos with a knife, raped him, burned his genitals with cigarettes and pierced a staple through his foreskin.

About six hours after the brutal assault began, after midnight, the Cook and Matzke attempted to strangle Cruz-Ramos with a sheet. They then continued to put a pipe over his throat and stood on it until he died.

Several hours later, Swaney arrived at the apartment and saw Cruz-Ramos, whose body had been dumped in a closet. Cook and Matzke then attacked Swaney, who was crying, and also tied him to a chair. Cook stripped off Swaney's clothing and raped him before Cook and Matzke strangled him with a bed sheet.

Matzke went to the police and was offered a plea agreement for 20 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Cook, who had suffered severe sexual and physical abuse as a young child. Matzke was released from prison in July 2007 after he completed his 20-year sentence.

Cook was the fifth person to be executed in Arizona so far this year and the 26th in the United States. It came less than a day after 54-year-old Marvin Wilson was executed at Huntsville Unit in Walker County, Texas, for the shooting death of a police drug informant in November 1992.

The execution of Wilson was highly controversial because his attorneys claimed he was mentally handicapped. A psychological test conducted in 2004 pegged Wilson's IQ at 61, which would make him mentally retarded. But prosecutors and officials argued that the test was carried out by an inexperienced intern and pointed out that several other tests showed his IQ to be above 70.

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