By Marc Kovac
The murderer is scheduled to become the nation’s first convict to be put to death with a single dose of a drug.
COLUMBUS — The last time Kenneth Biros made the trip to the Death House, he brought a gold cross necklace, a portable compact disc player with some CDs, a rosary and 20 stamped envelopes.
He ate cheese pizza, a salad with Italian dressing, Pepsi, Doritos with French onion dip, blueberry ice cream and cherry pie.
He drank coffee and paced in the tiny cell just 17 steps away from the chamber where two dozen Ohio inmates had been put to death.
And he spent nearly three hours visiting with his mother, his sister, his brother and some friends in a room where they could hug and hold hands.
That was March 2007, when the convicted Trumbull County murderer spent more than 30 hours in the brick building behind the razor-topped fence at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
Biros, who murdered and dismembered 22-year-old Tami Engstrom, then scattered her body parts in Ohio and Pennsylvania , is one of the few Ohio inmates slated to make a return trip to the Death House.
A last-minute stay, issued hours after his scheduled execution time, halted Biros’ walk to the death chamber. Current court action could further delay Biros’ execution, as the state moves to implement a new execution protocol that calls for a single drug injection in place of the former three-drug method, and a direct injection backup if suitable veins are not available to carry an intravenous one.
But barring a court decision, Biros will make the trip to Lucasville from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, arrive sometime this morning, about 24 hours before his scheduled execution Tuesday at 10 a.m.
“If it’s still on, that’s great,” Tommy Heiss, Engstrom’s brother, told reporters last month following Biros’ second clemency hearing. “If it gets delayed, it’s going to be very sad for our whole family and the community. The way we feel, the way I feel, the way our family and everyone feels, I feel like we’re all a bunch of puppets, and Ken Biros is the one pulling the strings, dancing around the justice system. He’s doing everything he can to buy more time.”
“It’s a lot of stress building up and preparing for all of this, which we’ve had to go through for a second time,” added Debi Heiss, sister of the murder victim. “It’s pretty hard. ... Everyday things happen, it’s constantly reliving it every single day of your life anyway.”
She added, “My father, our stepfather who helped raise Tami almost all her life, he’s gone. Tami’s husband’s gone. A lot of her good friends have passed away. We’ve had aunts and uncles. And my children have grown up with this since they were little toddlers. That’s a very sad thing for my children to have to live with tragedy since they were born. Since they were babies, they’ve grown up with nothing but tragedy.”
Biros, housed on death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary near Youngstown, started his last trip to Lucasville early on the morning of March 19, 2007.
He arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility just before 9:30 a.m. on that day, according to an activity log tracking his minute-by-minute activities at the time.
He entered the tiny inmate cell in the Death House at 9:22, was strip searched and given standard prison-issue clothing.
He was also allowed to take a gold cross necklace, a personal Bible, nacho cheese chips, mixed nuts, graham crackers, a Snickers bar and one packet of coffee creamer. Also in his cell were his personal CD player and six CDs, a writing tablet and envelopes, a cross and a rosary.
Biros spent much of the day resting on the bed, pacing and drinking coffee in his cell. He ate part of his special meal — inmates to be executed are allowed to make a meal request on the evening prior to their execution — at about 4 that afternoon. His mother, two sisters, brother and a couple of friends arrived at the prison shortly thereafter for contact visits with Biros.
Those visits ended before 8, and Biros told prison staff “he was glad his visits went well,” according to the log.
Afterward, he finished his special meal, watched television, called his sister on the phone and read a book.
Biros mostly slept from about 11 p.m. to about 6 a.m. He skipped breakfast, drinking two cups of coffee instead and requesting a couple of Ibuprofen.
He had cell-front visits with his family and friends throughout the morning and afternoon, reading the Bible with his mother and praying with a pastor.
For lunch, he ate veggie nuggets and milk, part of the standard prison-issue lunch for the day.
After 4 p.m., Biros was informed that the stay on his execution had been upheld. He was transferred to another cell and returned to the Ohio State Penitentiary the next morning.
Upcoming executions scheduled in Ohio:
Jan. 7: Vernon Lamont Smith, Lucas County
Feb. 4: Mark A. Brown, Mahoning County
March 9: Lawrence Reynolds, Summit County
April 20: Darryl Durr, Cuyahoga County
May 13: Michael Beuke, Hamilton County
June 10: Richard Neilds, Hamilton County
Source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction