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Arizona man executed for 1987 murders

FLORENCE, Ariz. — Arizona on Wednesday executed a death-row inmate for two gruesome slayings committed 25 years ago.

Daniel Wayne Cook was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1987 strangulation murders in Lake Havasu City of 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old Kevin Swaney.

Cook, 51, had avoided execution by one day in April 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay to allow consideration of an appeal based on a claim of ineffective counsel early in the appellate process. That claim was later rejected.

The Supreme Court refused to stay the execution a second time on Wednesday.

Cook’s death by injection was the second in the nation in less than 24 hours.

Texas on Tuesday night executed Marvin Wilson, a man with an IQ that was once tested at about 61, after the Supreme Court denied his petition for a stay. Other tests over the years had shown his IQ to be above 70, the generally accepted minimum competency standard.

Cook, 51, spent nearly half of his life on Arizona’s death row. Another man who participated in the 1987 killings, John Matzke, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testified in Cook’s 1988 trial in Mohave County Superior Court and was released from prison in 2007 after serving a 20-year sentence.

Cook and Matzke had worked at the same restaurant with both victims, and had shared an apartment with Cruz-Ramos.

Court documents say Cook and Matzke were drunk and high on methamphetamine when they stole about $90 from Cruz-Ramos, a Guatemalan immigrant. After Cruz-Ramos confronted the two, they tortured, raped and murdered him.

Swaney arrived at the apartment hours later and was also raped and murdered.

Cook’s lawyers argued that the judge at his trial improperly denied his request for expert help to present sentencing evidence that he had been abused as a child and other mitigating circumstances.

Cook represented himself during his trial and sentencing after concluding that his defense lawyer wasn’t competent, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was Cook’s decision to not present sentencing evidence.

One test

In Texas, Wilson, 54, was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. at the state prison in Huntsville. Wilson’s attorneys had argued that he should have been ineligible for capital punishment because of his low IQ.

The Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution less than two hours before his lethal injection began.

Before the execution, Wilson smiled and raised his head from the gurney, nodding through a window to his three sisters and son. He told them several times that he loved them and asked that they give his mother “a big hug.”

“Y’all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint,” he said. “Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord!”

He did not acknowledge his victim’s father, two brothers and an uncle who were watching through an adjacent window. They later declined comment.

AP writer Michael Graczyk contributed to this report.