The death penalty is legal in 31 American states. In nearly every one of these states, prison wardens allow those who have been condemned to death the right to choose one final meal. Some inmates select extravagant dinners like lobster tails, while others opt for more simple fare such as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Grim Final Act
Eating a last meal is usually the final act of self-preservation that an inmate performs before they cross over to the unknown. No wonder the grim ritual holds such fascination for those of us still firmly entrenched within the land of the living.
Here are the stories of several notorious prison inmates and the foods they chose to be their last meals ever. Do these unusual feasts match the crimes committed? You decide.
Stephen Wayne Anderson
While Stephen Wayne Anderson was incarcerated in Utah for burglary charges, he killed one inmate, attacked another, and assaulted a prison guard. During this time, he also admitted to committing six earlier murders for hire in Las Vegas. He was sentenced to death for these murders, but then shockingly escaped from prison and murdered an 81-year-old woman.
A Cheesy Final Meal
Once Stephen Wayne Anderson was caught and arrested, he was executed via lethal injection in 1981. Anderson’s last meal consisted of two grilled cheese sandwiches, a hominy/corn mixture, one pint of cottage cheese, radishes, one slice of peach pie, and one pint of chocolate chip ice cream.
One of the most prolific of all female serial killers, Aileen Wuornos served as inspiration for the Charlize Theron movie Monster. She was eventually found guilty of murdering six men, and received a death sentence for each of her victims. Wuornos’ execution date was set for October 9, 2002.
Bizarre Last Words And A Simple Meal Request
Wuornos did the prison clean-up crew a favor and opted out of a final meal. Instead of eating, she drank a simple cup of black coffee. Her final words were less simple: “Yes, I would just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back, like Independence Day, with Jesus. June 6, like the movie. Big mother ship and all, I’ll be back, I’ll be back.”
William Bonin was a serial murderer who targeted, raped, and killed at least 21 boys during 1979 and 1980. Nicknamed the “Freeway Killer” because he dumped most of his victims by the side of the highway, Bonin was the first person to be lethally injected in the state of California.
Pizza, Ice Cream, And Bowling
William Bonin’s last meal consisted of two pepperoni and sausage pizzas, three scoops of chocolate ice cream, and three six-packs of soda (both Pepsi and Coca-Cola). Before his death, he expressed no remorse for his victims. He did admit that he wished he had practiced bowling enough to go professional when he had been a young man.
Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner was imprisoned for a 1984 murder, then killed another man during an unsuccessful escape attempt. Later, he stabbed a third man to death. In the first execution by firing squad to be carried out in 14 years, Gardner died on June 18, 2010.
Not An Endorsement Peter Jackson Would Appreciate
Gardner got more than just a meal out of his last request: he also got to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy while he ate steak, lobster tail, apple pie with vanilla ice cream, and 7-Up soda to wash it all down.
Gary Heidnik kidnapped, raped, and tortured six women, keeping them captive in his Philadelphia basement. One of the victims died while in captivity, and Heidnik allegedly cooked her head and body before grinding the flesh, mixing it with dog food, and feeding it to the other captives.
Not Deserving Of A Final Meal
Despite the atrocious crimes he’d committed, Heidnik was offered a final meal (as required by law in Pennsylvania). Heidnik’s dinner, before he was executed by lethal injection, consisted of two cups of black coffee and two slices of cheese pizza. He died on July 6, 1999,
The last person ever to be executed in the state of Iowa, Feguer was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a man named Dr. Edward Bartels. He had met Dr. Bartels by randomly searching for physicians in the phonebook, in an effort to obtain prescription drugs.
A Measly Meal
Feguer shot Dr. Bartels and left his body in a cornfield. The governor of Iowa, Harold Hughes, was strongly opposed to the death penalty and appealed to President John F. Kennedy to commute the sentence. His request was denied. For his final meal, Feguer requested “a single olive with the pit still in it.” Prison officials obliged, and Feguer was hanged the following morning.
The serial killer known as the “Gainesville Ripper” brutally murdered five University of Florida students in August of 1990, in a crime wave that terrorized the campus and surrounding community. Rolling confessed to killing three more victims. He was sentenced to death in 1994.
What Rolling Requested
Before his death by lethal injection sixteen years after his sentencing, Rollin selected a dinner of lobster, butterfly shrimp, a baked potato, sweet tea, and strawberry cheesecake. He died on October 25, 2006, with many of his victims’ families in attendance. He sang a gospel hymn before his execution.
Before her execution, Teresa Lewis was the only woman on death row in Virginia. She was the first woman in the state to die from lethal injection. She was convicted of killing her husband and her stepson in order to get her hands on a $250,000 life insurance policy.
She Wanted Comfort Food
Lewis requested two fried chicken breasts, sweet peas, Dr Pepper, and a dessert of German chocolate cake for her last meal. Her final words, to stepdaughter Kathy: “I just want Kathy to know that I love you, and I’m very sorry.” Lewis was executed on September 23, 2010.
Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for 168 counts of murder after he detonated a bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City, in an act of terrorism. The attack, which is known as the “Oklahoma City Bombing,” was the deadliest terror attack on US soil prior to September 11, 2001.
Mint Was A Must For McVeigh
McVeigh said that he committed the massive attack in retaliation against the federal government for the way it handled a siege in Waco, Texas in 1993. The siege killed 76 people. For his final meal, which he consumed on June 10, 2001, McVeigh kept things simple. The terrorist asked for just two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Thomas J. Grasso
Grasso was executed in 1995 in Oklahoma, after he strangled an 87-year-old woman in her home with her own Christmas tree lights. Wow, that’s brutal.Despite the nature of his crime, Grasso was allowed a final meal. He made it count with this doozy of a list: two dozen steamed mussels, two dozen steamed clams, a half-dozen BBQ ribs, a Burger King double cheeseburger, two large strawberry milkshakes, half a pumpkin pie, and whipped cream with diced strawberries.
The Spaghetti-os Incident
Additionally, Grasso requested a 16-ounce can of Spaghetti-os with meatballs as part of his final meal. The prison served him homemade spaghetti in error, which was unacceptable to him. Grasso’s last words: “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
Allen Lee Davis
Allen Lee Davis was executed in Florida in 1999, for the murder of his parents’ pregnant neighbor and her two young daughters. The execution was botched, and photos of Davis’ bloody body were leaked to the media. As a result, Davis was the last inmate to be killed by the electric chair in Florida.
An Enormous Seafood Meal
Nicknamed “Tiny,” Davis was apparently a seafood aficionado, as his last meal request consisted of a lobster tail, fried clams, half a pound of fried shrimp, potatoes, half a loaf of garlic bread, and an A&W Root Beer. That is quite a massive last dinner.
Velma Barfield was convicted of (and later executed for) one murder, but she eventually confessed to six killings, including those of her mother and two different husbands. The victims had all been poisoned. Barfield was the first woman in the United States to be executed by lethal injection when she was killed in 1984.
Barfield chose a simple meal for her last: a bag of Cheez Doodles and one can of Coca-Cola. The last words she uttered before her November 2, 1984 death were “I know that everybody has gone through a lot of pain, all the families connected, and I am sorry, and I want to thank everybody who have been supporting me all these six years.”
Ronnie Threadgill was sentenced to death in Texas for a 2001 nightclub carjacking and murder. He ambushed a car with three young men in it and shot one of them to death. Threadgill then got into the driver’s seat and started to drive away, but stopped to dump the victim’s body before continuing on his way.
Threadgill’s final meal request was for baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, sweet peas, bread, tea, punch, and water. However, the state of Texas had done away with special “last meals” to condemned inmates, so Threadgill had to eat what rest of the unit had that day.
Lawrence Russell Brewer
Lawrence Russell Brewer is the reason that Texas abolished the “special last meal” provision for death row inmates. Brewer, by the way, was convicted for his role in the lynching death of an African American man. The murder was deemed a hate crime, and Brewer never expressed remorse for the heinous act. Brewer was executed in 2011.
Brewer’s Insane Request
Brewer’s last meal request: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a pound of barbecued meat with half of a loaf of white bread; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; a pint of Blue Bell ice cream; a block of peanut-butter fudge, and three root beers.
Karla Faye Tucker
In 1998, Karla Faye Tucker became the first woman to be executed in the state of Texas since 1863. Her crime? Killing two people with a pickaxe. The murders took place after Tucker had spent a weekend using drugs with friends. Prior to this, Tucker was known to travel with famous rock bands like the Eagles and the Allman Brothers Band.
Keeping A Trim Figure
Tucker was sentenced to death for the crimes, and executed 14 years after that. She requested a peach, a banana, and a garden salad with ranch dressing for her final meal. Part of her last words included this bit: “Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now.”
Ricky Ray Rector
Ricky Ray Rector was executed in Arkansas for the 1981 murder of two people, including police officer Robert Martin.
After committing the murders, Rector had shot himself in the head in an act that destroyed his frontal lobe, making it extra unusual that he was sentenced to the death penalty. Also unusual: then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton witnessed the execution during his 1992 Presidential campaign.
Saving It For A Rainy Day
For his last meal, Rector received steak, fried chicken, cherry Kool-Aid, and pecan pie. He left the pecan pie on the plate, and when the guards arrived to take him to his death, Rector told them that he was “saving it for later.”
Bruno Hauptmann was the man who kidnapped and murdered aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932, in what was known as “The Crime of the Century.” He had demanded a $50,000 ransom for the child. The German carpenter never confessed to the crime, but was found guilty and sentenced to death by electrocution.
Quite An Assortment
Hauptmann was executed for his despicable act on April 3, 1936, but not before he enjoyed a final meal of coffee, milk, celery, salmon salad, cheese slices, corn fritters, olives, fruit salad, and cake. Two thousand people gathered outside his the private memorial service given for him.
Betty Butler, a married woman, was rumored to have had an affair with another woman named Evelyn Clark — scandalous in the conservative 1950s. Though this story was never proven either way, we do know for fact that Butler strangled Clark in front of a group of fishermen after the two had a fight while canoeing on the lake.
Sounds Like Brunch
Butler, who had strangled her victim with a handkerchief, was sentenced to the electric chair. Before her death she ate scrambled eggs with cheese, toast, a bowl of apricots, and drank two glasses of milk. She was executed on June 11, 1954, and wore a pink and black dress for the occasion.
Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck
Raymond Fernandez and his lover Martha Beck murdered at least 20 women whom they solicited together from personal ads geared toward lonely people. Their crime spree, which took place between 1947 and 1949, earned them the nickname “The Lonely Hearts Killers.” The lovebirds were sentenced to death in 1951.
What Did The Lonely Hearts Killers Choose As Final Meals?
Fernandez chose an onion omelet, French fries, chocolate candy, and a Cuban cigar as his last meal. He opted to share with the rest of the men in his unit. Despite being ridiculed for her weight by the press, Beck consumed a heavy dinner of fried chicken, fried potatoes and a salad.
John Wayne Gacy
Gacy, one of the creepiest serial killers in modern history (and that’s saying a lot), was known as the “Killer Clown.”That’s because he dressed as a clown he called “Pogo,” and he would routinely attend community children’s parties, parades, and other events in full costume. Shudder.
A Bucket Of KFC
Gacy, who raped and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and was sentenced to death for 12 of them, requested a hefty final meal before his execution. He asked for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, one dozen fried shrimp, French fries, strawberries, and Diet Coke. He died of lethal injection on May 10, 1994.
Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. After Germany was defeated, Eichmann escaped to Austria and then Argentina. He was tracked down and brought to Israel, where he was found guilty of multiple charges including crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people.
Haunting Last Words
Before his hanging death on June 1, 1962, Eichmann received the standard final meal consisting of olives, cheese, bread, and half a bottle of red wine. According to witnesses, some of his last words were “I hope that all of you will follow me.” He also stated “I greet my wife, my family and my friends. I am ready.”
Richard Glossip is the odd man out on this list, as he’s the only person who’s still actually alive. He was sentenced to death for a 1997 murder. Glossip’s case received lots of media attention because there was very little corroborating evidence indicating that he was guilty.
On September 30, 2015, Glossip was granted his final meal request: two orders of Long John Silver’s fish and chips, a Wendy’s Baconator burger, a Pizza Hut medium double bacon double cheese pizza, and a strawberry malt. He ate the gargantuan 5,000 calorie meal but was then granted a last-minute stay of execution by Oklahoma’s governor.
Gerald Lee Mitchell
Gerald Lee Mitchell robbed two men during a drug deal, then shot them both. One of the men died. Later that day, Mitchell robbed and killed another man. This murder was allegedly over a necklace that Mitchell wanted and the other man would not hand over to him.
Not Too Jolly
Mitchell was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the crimes. For his final meal, which he consumed on October 22, 2001, he requested only a bag of Jolly Ranchers. It is unknown how many of the candies he consumed, or whether he had a favorite flavor.
Gary Carl Simmons, Jr.
In 2011, a butcher named Gary Carl Simmons was found guilty of murdering his drug dealer and raping the man’s girlfriend. Simmons then dismembered the drug dealer’s body and scattered the pieces into an alligator-infested swamp. He was sentenced to death for the crimes.
Another Huge Request
Simmons had a real whopper of a last meal request, that one estimate puts at nearly 30,000 calories. Two Pizza Hut pizzas, loaded; 10 eight-ounce packs of ranch dressing; 10 eight-ounce packs of Parmesan cheese; a large bag of nacho cheese-flavored Doritos; eight ounces of jalapeño nacho cheese; four ounces of sliced jalapeños; one super-size order of McDonald’s fries (with extra ketchup and mayo); two large strawberry shakes; two cherry Cokes; and two pints of strawberry ice cream.
German Peter Kürten committed a horrifying series of sexual assaults and murders between February and November of 1929. He was nicknamed “The Vampire of Düsseldorf” because he tried to drink the blood of some of his victims. One doctor assigned to the case called Kürten “the king of the sexual perverts.”
The Vampire’s Final Request
Kürten was sentenced to death by beheading in April of 1931. Before he was executed for his crimes, he requested the traditional German dish Wienerschnitzel with fried potatoes and white wine. He asked for second helpings of each, a request that was denied. As he was walked to the guillotine, Kürten posed a disturbing question to the accompanying psychiatrist. “Tell me… after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
Douglas Franklin Wright
In 1996, Douglas Wright became the first person executed by lethal injection in the state of Oregon. His crime? He had brutally murdered three homeless men, a woman and her mother, and a 10-year-old boy. Wright had lured the three homeless men with promises of jobs.
A Not-So-Sweet Honeybun
Wright’s final meal request was a simple one: a single Honeybun. Directly before his death by lethal injection, Wright mouthed, ”I’m sorry,” to the mother of one of his victims. One of the witnesses to the execution told The Seattle Times, “Here’s a man basically being put to sleep. It’s very quiet, very dignified, as humane as possible, in contrast to the way he had killed others.”
John Martin Scripps
John Martin Scripps was an English serial killer who was convicted of murdering one man in Singapore and a married couple in Thailand, while pretending to be a fellow tourist. Scripps may have killed other people in countries around the world, but these murders were unproven. He dismembered his victims before disposing of their bodies.
“The Tourist From Hell”
Tabloids began referring to Scripps as “the tourist from Hell” because of the grisly nature of his crimes. Before his hanging death in Singapore, he asked for a pizza and a cup of hot chocolate. His mother spoke of Scripps before the execution, saying “Whoever he is now, he’s the person the prison service trained him to be. These bastards have no right to take my son’s life. I brought him into the world. I am the only person who can take him out of it.”
Gary Gilmore became the first person in nearly a decade to be executed in the United States when he was killed by a Utah firing squad. Gilmore had been convicted of two murders. His life (and death) were the focus of a Norman Mailer book and a television movie.
Looking Through Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
This was Gilmore’s final food order: a steak, potatoes, milk, coffee, and three shots of contraband whiskey that his uncle claimed to have smuggled in for the occasion. Gilmore died on on January 17, 1977. After the injection, his corneas were transplanted to donors. The act inspired a punk band called The Adverts to write the song “Looking Through Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.”
John Allen Muhammad
John Allen Muhammad, known as “The Beltway Sniper” for a series of 2002 highway shootings that left 17 people dead, was sentenced to death in 2006. He committed the crimes along with 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, who is now serving multiple life sentences in a Virginia prison.
Muhammad’s Final Meal
In Virginia, people sentenced to death are granted the opportunity to choose between electrocution and lethal injection. Muhammad did not select a method and the state opted for lethal injection. According to Muhammad’s attorney, the sniper asked for chicken with red sauce and several cakes for his final meal. He died on November 10, 2009.
Barton Kay Kirkham
Barton Kay Kirkham was sentenced to death in 1955, for the murder of two grocery store clerks during an armed robbery. He requested a death by hanging, which many viewed as an attempt to inconvenience the state. He was the last person to be executed by hanging in Utah.
“Not So Much Fuss”
Before his 1958 execution, Kirkham requested pizza and ice cream, explaining that “you get cheese, meat and everything in one meal. Not so much fuss.” A big music fan, he played classical music on a piano while he ate. He joked to witnesses about his musical capabilities, “I’ll just have to practice more.”