STARKE, Fla. - A man convicted of raping a 29-year-old mother and dragging her into Tampa Bay's surf to drown more than three decades ago was executed by lethal injection Wednesday at Florida State Prison.
Twice-convicted murderer Robert Brian Waterhouse, 65, was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m. after proclaiming his innocence in his final statement. He had been on death row for more than 31 years -- longer than any inmate previously executed in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant last month. His execution was delayed two hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a last-minute appeal before rejecting it. The court had rejected a similar appeal earlier in the day.
Waterhouse was convicted in 1980 of murdering Deborah Kammerer of St. Petersburg, whose body was found in the tidal flats of Tampa Bay. She'd been beaten, raped and dragged into the bay, where she drowned.
Unable to identify her immediately, police turned to the public for help. Neighbors identified Kammerer's body, and an anonymous tipster led police to Waterhouse, who had served eight years in prison for a murder in New York state.
A bartender had seen Kammerer and Waterhouse leave a St. Petersburg bar together. Blood, hair and fibers in Waterhouse's car were linked to the victim. Waterhouse admitted having sex with Kammerer but denied killing her.
Then-Gov. Bob Graham signed a death warrant for Waterhouse in 1985, but his execution was delayed by an appeal that eventually got him a new sentencing hearing. That hearing in 1990 ended like the first, with a jury recommending execution by a 12-0 vote and a judge sentencing him to death.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court had rejected arguments that Waterhouse should be spared because of testimony from a newly discovered witness and the destruction of physical evidence that made it impossible to perform DNA testing that could exonerate him. Justices concluded the new testimony was unreliable and wouldn't have been enough to acquit Waterhouse if he were to be retried.
In a 1995 interview with Tampa's WEAR-TV, Waterhouse insisted he had not killed Kammerer.
"As long as they have someone on death row for the crime, they don't care if he's innocent or guilty or who he is (or) if he fell out of the sky -- they'll take anybody," he said. Waterhouse had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing a 77-year-old Long Island woman during a 1966 burglary. He was sentenced to life but was paroled after eight years.
Waterhouse visited for two hours Wednesday morning with his wife Fran. They met and married while he was behind bars. He also ate a final meal of two pork chop cutlets, two eggs sunny side up, two pieces of toast, a slice of cherry pie, a pint of butter pecan ice cream, a pint of orange juice and a pint of milk. He declined to meet with a minister or spiritual adviser.
Outside the prison Wednesday, more than 40 people protested the execution in a small, roped-off area across the street. Roman Catholic priest Father Phil Egitto of Daytona Beach brought more than half the group by bus.
"Violence begets violence. This is basically premeditated murder," Egitto said. "Killing is wrong."
The group sang songs and held up and hung signs, including some that said, "Murder is a sign. The death penalty is legal murder" and "We remember the victims but not with more killing" and "Though shalt not kill."
Only two people stood in a similar area for death penalty supporters, Jo Ellen Isbell, 49, and her fiance, Jay Golding, 41. They drove two hours from Citrus County.
"I read a lot about him and I just wanted to support (Kammerer)," Isbell said, saying she also drove up for the execution of Oba Chandler in November, the only other time she's made the trip to Starke for an execution. "My heart breaks for the family and I am very much for what's happening."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.