Michael Bruce Ross
|Michael Bruce Ross|
Nov. 21, 1998 mugshot
July 26, 1959|
|Died||May 13, 2005
|Cause of death||Lethal Injection|
|Other names||The Roadside Strangler|
|Criminal penalty||Death penalty|
Span of killings
|May 12, 1981–June 13, 1984|
|State(s)||Connecticut and New York|
|June 29, 1984|
Michael Bruce Ross (July 26, 1959 – May 13, 2005) was an American serial killer. In 2005, he was executed by the state of Connecticut, making it the first execution in Connecticut (and the whole of New England) since 1960.
Ross was born in Putnam, Connecticut on July 26, 1959 to Patricia Hilda Laine and Dan Graeme Ross. The oldest of four children, having two younger sisters and a younger brother, he grew up on a chicken farm in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Ross's home life was extremely dysfunctional; his mother, who had abandoned the family at least once and had been institutionalized, beat all four of her children, saving the worst for him. Some family and friends have suggested that he was also molested by his teenaged uncle, who committed suicide when Ross was six. He was a bright boy who performed well in school. He graduated from Killingly High School in Killingly, Connecticut in 1977, and graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he studied agriculture, in May 1981. He became an insurance salesman. He exhibited antisocial behavior from a young age. Ross began stalking women in his sophomore year of college and, in his senior year, he committed his first rape. His first murder followed soon after.
Between 1981 and 1985, Ross murdered eight girls and women aged between 14 and 25 in Connecticut and New York. He raped seven out of his eight murder victims. He also was alleged to have raped, but not killed a 21-year-old woman named Vivian Dobson in 1983. Plainfield police rejected the possibility that Ross had been Vivian Dobson's rapist. They did not press charges and Ross made no confession. Ross confessed to each of the eight murders and was convicted for the last four of them. He was sentenced to death on July 6, 1987 and spent the next 18 years on death row.
- Dzung Ngoc Tu (25) – May 12, 1981. Cornell University student
- Tammy Williams (17) – January 5, 1982. Brooklyn, Connecticut
- Paula Perrera (16) – March 1, 1982. Wallkill, New York
- Debra Smith Taylor (23) – June 15, 1982. Griswold
- Robin Dawn Stavinsky (19) – October 23, 1983. Norwich
- April Brunais (14) – April 22, 1984. Griswold
- Leslie Shelley (14) – April 22, 1984. Griswold
- Wendy Baribeault (17) – June 13, 1984. Griswold
During his incarceration, he met his fiancée, Susan Powers, of Oklahoma. Powers broke up with Ross in 2003 but still visited him until his death. He became a devout Catholic after his arrest in 1984, meeting regularly with two priests through the years and praying the rosary each morning. Ross had accomplishments, such as translating Braille, acting as a "big brother" to other inmates, and sponsoring an impoverished child from the Dominican Republic.
Though he opposed the death penalty, Ross strongly supported his own death sentence in the last year of his life, saying that he wanted to spare his victims' families any more pain. According to Kathry Yeager, a Cornell graduate, Ross believed that he had been "forgiven by God" and that he would be going to "a better place" once he was executed. She said, "He's not being punished. He's moving on to life eternal. That's what is ironic about the death penalty. He's looking forward to the peace." Yeager also said that Ross had come to believe there was no way his death sentences would be commuted without forcing the victims' families to suffer through more legal hearings; and that he knew his life would be meaningful, even behind bars: "He's had a horrible life, and he's wanted to do good." In spite of this, an hour before the execution was to take place in the early hours of January 26, 2005, Ross's lawyer, acting on behalf of Ross's father, obtained a two-day stay of execution. Ross was then scheduled to die by lethal injection on January 29, 2005, at 2:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. However, earlier in the day, the execution was again postponed because of doubts that Ross was mentally competent; having fought against his death sentence for 17 years, he suddenly waived his right to appeal. His attorney claimed that Ross was incompetent to waive appeals, as he was suffering from death row syndrome. In his final days, Ross became an oblate, or associate, of the Benedictine Grange, a Roman Catholic monastic community in West Redding, Connecticut.
Ross was executed by lethal injection on May 13, 2005, at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut. He was 45 years old. Ross did not request a special last meal before facing his execution, thereby dining on the regular prison meal of the day: turkey à la king with rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit, and a beverage. When asked if he would like to make a last statement, he said, without opening his eyes, "No, thank you." Ross was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. His remains were buried at the Benedictine Grange Cemetery in Redding, Connecticut.
After the execution, Dr. Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist who had argued that Ross was not competent to waive appeal, received a letter from Ross dated May 10, 2005, which read "Check, and mate. You never had a chance!" Ross's execution was the first in Connecticut (and in all of New England) since 1960. It was also the first and only execution in Connecticut administered by lethal injection. As of July 25, 2013, Ross is the most recent inmate executed in Connecticut, although the state's death row housed 10 convicted murderers who were in various stages of legal appeals prior to the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut on April 25, 2012. Vivian Dobson, whom Ross was alleged to have raped, became a vocal opponent of the death penalty in an effort to save Ross's life. The execution of Michael Bruce Ross was the first in Connecticut in 2005, the first execution in Connecticut since 1960, the 22nd execution in the United States in 2005, and the 966th execution in the United States since 1976.
Michael Ross appeared in a British television series about serial killers in 1995. The filmmakers who produced the segment gave him the nickname "The Roadside Strangler" because the other killers in the series had nicknames. One of the producers of the series said the name may have been the result of a brainstorming session at a motel bar. Ross was not called "The Roadside Strangler" by the Connecticut media or by local law enforcement while he was alive.
On August 4, 2014, The Man in the Monster: An Intimate Portrait of a Serial Killer, a detailed account of Ross' killing spree, capture, trial, time in prison and execution, was published by Penguin Press. Written by former Columbia School of Journalism professor Martha Elliott, the book documents the ten-year telephone and prison visit relationship that developed between the author and her subject. Generally well received, the book garnered positive reviews by Library Journal, Kirkus, the Boston Globe, Booklist and The National Book Review. Elliott's experience with Ross was featured on Criminal, a Radiotopia podcast on crime, in Episode 34: The Stay.
- Capital punishment in Connecticut
- Capital punishment in the United States
- Death row syndrome
- List of individuals executed in Connecticut
- List of most recent executions by jurisdiction
- List of murderers by number of victims
- Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Serial Killer -- Michael Ross". About.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- "From Ivy Leaguer To Serial Killer". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "CAM Cover Story". cornellalumnimagazine.com. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Bell, Rachael. "Michael Bruce Ross: Staring Death in the Face". truTV Crime Library.
- Haigh, Susan (January 29, 2005). "Pastoral adviser: Ross 'upset, frustrated, angry' with delay". Journal Inquirer. Retrieved on January 1, 2009.
- "Michael Bruce Ross". Prosecuting Attorney Clark County Indiana. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- "Serial killer sent taunting note before execution". Hartford, Connecticut: CNN. AP. June 14, 2005. Archived from the original on June 16, 2005. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
- "Connecticut governor signs death penalty repeal". CBS News. April 25, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
- Griffin, Alaine (2012-06-04). "Death Sentence Reversed In Snowmobile Murder-For-Hire Case". Courant.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- Mahoney, Edmund H. (23 May 2010). "How Did Michael Ross Become 'The Roadside Strangler'?". courant.com. Hartford Courant.
- "Episode 34: The Stay (1.8.2016) | Criminal". thisiscriminal.com. Retrieved 2016-01-08.