Mario Giovanni Centobie

Executed April 28, 2005 06:22 p.m. by Lethal Injection in Alabama

18th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
962nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Alabama in 2005
31st murderer executed in Alabama since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Mario Giovanni Centobie

W / M / 32 - 39

Keith Turner
W / M / 29

Centobie was convicted in 1995 of kidnapping his ex-wife and son and was sentenced to 40 years in prison despite his claims that they accompanied him voluntarily. At the time, they were in protective custody because of previous domestic violence by Centobie. In 1998, Centobie escaped with fellow prisoner Jeremy Granberry while being transferred between jails. They overpowered their guards and stole their car. They fled into Alabama, where they were stopped by Tuscaloosa police officer Cecil Lancaster. Centobie shot and wounded Lancaster from the car's passenger seat. The next day, they were pulled over again on a traffic stop by Moody, Alabama Officer Keith Turner. After speaking with Turner, Centobie reached back into the car as if to retrieve his driver’s license. Instead, he pulled the deputy's stolen handgun and shot Turner three times - one bullet hit his bullet resistant vest, another entered his hip, and the last struck the back of his head. Granberry was soon captured, but Centobie slipped away, only to be captured later, returning to the home of his ex-wife. While incarcerated awaiting trial, Centobie again escaped, this time with the help of a prison guard, Donna Hawkins, whom he had charmed. He was captured in Georgia two weeks later. Hawkins was sentenced to an 18-month prison sentence for permitting or facilitating his escape. Granberry pleaded guilty to the crimes against him and in July 2000 was sentenced to three life terms.

Centobie v. State, 861 So.2d 1111 (Ala.Crim.App. 2001) (Direct Appeal).
Centobie v. Campbell, ___ F.3d. ___ (11th Cir. 2005) (Next Friend/Stay)

Final Meal:
He did not make a request for a last meal, but prison officials say he ate heartily: Chili and rice, okra and corn tomato soup, cornbread, gingerbread cake and fruit punch for lunch. Pizza, poor boy and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and three sodas from prison vending machines for a snack. Barbecue chicken, egg noodles with butter, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes and a strawberry soda for dinner at 3 p.m.

Final Words:

Internet Sources:
00Z660 CENTOBIE, MARIO G W/M DOB: 01/26/1966 Holman CF (Death Row)


"Convicted Cop Killer Executed by Lethal Injection in Alabama," by Garry Mitchell. (AP 4/28/05)

ATMORE, Ala., (AP) -- Mario Centobie had no final statement before his execution Thursday for the 1998 murder of a Moody police officer.

Centobie, 39, of Biloxi, Miss., was executed at 6:22 p.m. CST. He stared at the ceiling throughout the execution process, never looking toward the witnesses _ which included the victim's friends and family, eight uniformed Moody police officers and Centobie's mother and brother. ''He chose his path,'' said St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor. ''Under the laws of the state of Alabama, he got his just punishment.''

Centobie's mother, Tracy Centobie, sat directly in front of the viewing window with another of her sons, who kept one arm around his mother as her body trembled slightly. They refused to comment on the execution. Retired Moody Police Chief Bobby Clements, who was among the witnesses, said he was glad that the ''antiseptic, professional execution'' was over. Clements said he hoped it would bring closure to the families involved.

Centobie spent his final day with his own family, meeting with his mother, two brothers and a sister until 4:30 p.m., along with two members of Kairos, a prison ministry group, said Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett. He said Centobie ordered a final meal of barbeque chicken, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes, egg noodles with butter and cornbread. Centobie left his television and radio to other death row inmates. Centobie earlier rejected an unsolicited attempt to block his execution, saying in an affidavit he preferred death over a life in prison.

Centobie was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Moody police officer Keith Turner in 1998 while a fugitive from Mississippi. The fatal shooting made him the focus of a huge manhunt; he was captured on the Mississippi coast but escaped again from an Alabama jail before being recaptured in Atlanta. At his trial, he admitted shooting the Moody policeman. One shot was to the back of the victim's head.

In his affidavit rejecting any appeal, Centobie said it was a ''luxury'' knowing when he would die because it gave him time to prepare. On death row since Jan. 8, 1999, Centobie in the affidavit said the unsolicited appeal by federal defender Katherine Puzone was adding ''torture and stress'' to his final days.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor rejected Puzone's petition to halt the execution. The Montgomery lawyer, who did not immediately return a phone message Thursday for comment, claimed Centobie was mentally incompetent and unable to make his own decisions and that the state's lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

Puzone's next appeal was rejected Wednesday night by 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. A final appeal was filed Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied to stay the execution. Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw responded to Puzone's attempt by saying that she did not represent Centobie. In the affidavit taken by Crenshaw, Centobie agreed. ''I told her that I did not want her to represent me. I have told my family not to talk to Ms. Puzone because I don't want her to represent me,'' Centobie said.

Centobie took issue with Puzone's claim that he was mentally ill. ''The only kind of mental condition that I may be suffering from is depression'' as a result of being on death row and his crimes, Centobie said.

A year before his turn to crime, Centobie won accolades in Mobile County from sheriff's officials as a diver for helping rescue victims of the Amtrak disaster on Bayou Canot in 1993 that killed 47 passengers and crew. But Centobie, a former firefighter at Pearl, Miss., and Harrison County, Miss., began serving a 40-year sentence in 1996 for kidnapping his estranged wife and 6-year-old son. He escaped in June 1998 with fellow inmate Jeremy Granberry after overpowering two law officers taking them to a court appearance in Laurel, Miss.

The two officers were found the next day unharmed and shackled to posts at a dilapidated barn. Centobie and Granberry, 19, had fled in their patrol car. After shooting and wounding a Tuscaloosa police officer, Centobie made it to Moody, near Birmingham's eastern border. When the Moody police officer stopped to investigate a suspicious vehicle on a dead-end street, he was shot to death about 10:30 p.m. on June 27, 1998.

Centobie was caught July 5, 1998, near Biloxi. He escaped again about three months later, with help from a female guard he had charmed at the Etowah County Jail. But he was recaptured in Atlanta with the help of love letters he sent to the guard, Donna Hawkins, who got 18 months in prison for her role.

Centobie was also given three life sentences for wounding the Tuscaloosa police officer _ now-retired Capt. Cecil Lancaster. Lancaster witnessed the execution at the request of the slain officer's family, including Turner's widow, Brandy Phillips of Ragland, who was also present. ''We believe this to be a just execution,'' Lancaster said. But, he added, ''It won't bring back the young officer.''


One of the Birmingham area's most sensational escape artists, a man who defied police for days as he embarked on a cop-killing spree across Alabama, will likely die quietly this week. Mario Centobie, the crafty and some say charismatic killer, is to be executed Thursday for the killing of Moody Police Officer Keith Turner. Now 39, Centobie has waived his rights to all appeals, and is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Prison at 6 p.m. It is in some ways an odd and anticlimactic end. "I hate he decided not to fight it, but that's his decision," said his Pell City attorney, Stan Brown. "He just didn't want to waste any more time. He wanted to get it over with."

Retired Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster, too, wants to get it over with. Lancaster, who was shot by Centobie, will be among those on hand to witness his death. He said he is going at the request of the slain officer's family, including Turner's widow, Brandy. "I think life is the most precious gift God gives you, and to take a human life goes against my Christian upbringing," Lancaster said. "But I know if Mario Centobie were to ever get back out on the street, and if anybody were to get in his way, he would kill without hesitation. This is a fair and just punishment."

In 1998, Centobie, a decorated former Mississippi firefighter, was serving a 40-year sentence at Parchman Prison for kidnapping his estranged wife, Cheryl, and 6-year-old son, Dominic. That June, Centobie escaped with fellow inmate Jeremy Granberry. The two overpowered lawmen taking them to a court appearance in Laurel, Miss. Jones County, Miss., Sheriff Maurice Hooks and retired Deputy Ray Butler were found the next day unharmed and shackled to posts at a dilapidated barn. Centobie and Granberry fled in their patrol car.

Several hours later, Lancaster, then a 49-year-old administrative officer who was headed home from work in his patrol car on Interstate 359, became suspicious of the Mississippi sheriff's vehicle because the rear bumper was missing. He pulled it over, not knowing a search was on for the fugitives. As he walked to the vehicle, Centobie, the passenger, turned and fired before anyone spoke. The first shot struck Lancaster's midsection, but a bullet clip on his belt stopped the round. A second bullet went through his side, shattered two ribs, and exited his back. Two days later, Centobie shot and killed Turner when he pulled the fugitives over on a traffic stop in Moody. Centobie later testified in court that he shot Turner as the officer began to pull out his own weapon. Centobie said he yelled for Turner to stop, and then shot him in the kidney area, knocking Turner to one knee. Centobie said the officer's blue lights were flashing and he just wanted to get away. He fired twice more, including an execution-style shot to the back of Turner's head.

Granberry was caught the next day, but for a week, Centobie eluded a massive police search that brought hundreds of lawmen to Moody and kept the St. Clair County town on edge. Centobie, however, slipped through the dragnet and carjacked a Moody man, forcing him to drive him to Mississippi. The man escaped from Centobie at a Mississippi rest area and Centobie hitched a ride in a van of tourists. Police caught him later that day - two interstate exits away from his ex-wife's home. Centobie had a Mississippi sheriff's engraved pistol tucked in his waistband when caught. He thought about resisting, his lawyer later said, but opted not to because the family was nice enough to give him a ride and he didn't want them shot in crossfire.

Three months later, Centobie escaped again when he walked out of Etowah County's maximum-security jail. Investigators say Centobie charmed guard Donna Hawkins, convincing her he loved her. He was captured in Atlanta almost two weeks later, traced there through the syrupy love letters he wrote to Hawkins. Hawkins was convicted in the escape, and spent 18 months in prison. After his second capture, women sent cards, letters and pictures to him in jail. His lawyer once asked him how he charmed women. "He said, `I'm nice to them and I tell 'em what they want to hear,'" Brown said.

Shortly before his trial, Centobie went on a hunger strike to protest harsh conditions in prison, which included one of his female lawyers being strip-searched before she could see him. He was also caught with a makeshift plastic handcuff key in his mouth during a court appearance in Tuscaloosa. Brown said it's been over a month since he's had contact with Centobie, who was on Death Row at Donaldson Correctional Facility until recently being moved to Holman Prison in Atmore for the execution. "His attitude has changed a lot," Brown said. "He's more pessimistic than he used to be."

Lancaster said he's made his peace with Centobie. "I realize how close I came to death and I'm trying to make the most of the second chance God has given me," he said. "Mario Centobie shot the uniform; he didn't shoot me personally. And that's what he did to Keith Turner." "I hope Mario has made peace with God and is ready to walk into eternity," Lancaster said. "I hold no ill will toward him and wish him the best he can possibly have."

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Mario Centobie - Alabama - April 28, 2005 6 PM CST

The state of Alabama is scheduled to execute Mario Centobie April 28. Centobie was sentenced to death for the 1998 fatal shooting of Moody Police Officer Keith Turner in St. Clair. The police officer was killed after Centobie and Jeremy Granberry escaped from Missisippi authorities while being held for another crime. Centobie was also given three life prison terms for the wounding of Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster.

Centobie’s trial took place in Elmore County due to the amount of publicity surrounding the St. Clair County area where the shooting took place. During his trial, Centobie gave jurors a dramatic, play-by-play account of his crime including pointing his fingers to represent a gun and shouting “Bang.” During his appeals proceedings, Centobie acted as his own attorney. He claimed he had to shoot Turner but did not intend to kill him.

In 1994, four years before the crime, Centobie was recognized for his service with fire and rescue workers after an Amtrak train crashed in Mobile in 1994.

He was abandoned by his father at the age of four after his parents divorced. His mother sought a divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment by Centobie’s father. At the age of 20, Centobie shot himself in the stomach with a shotgun because he was distraught. He married but later divorced. His wife requested a restraining order citing habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.

Centobie has dropped his appeals and is not seeking clemency. Please take a moment to write Gov. Riley protesting Alabama’s collusion in this state-assisted suicide.

Tuscaloosa News

"Witnesses say Centobie got what he deserved," by Jason Morton. (April 29, 2005)

ATMORE - The execution of Mario Giovanni Centobie marked the final page in a tale of murder, deceit and a life on the run that was led by a man who once helped save the lives of others. As the victims and family members of victims looked on, Centobie was put to death by lethal injection Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

It was an 11-day crime spree through two states in 1998 that led the 39-year-old to death row. Those he encountered, injured and terrorized along the way said they believe death row was a place he earned.

In 1998, Centobie was almost two years into a 40-year sentence for burglary, kidnapping and aggravated assault. A former firefighter in Mississippi who graduated valedictorian of his class at the Mississippi State Fire Academy, Centobie had been convicted of kidnapping his estranged wife and child at gunpoint and holding them against their will during a four-day trip through Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

On June 25, he and another inmate, Jeremy Granberry, were being transported from the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., to a court appearance in Laurel, Miss., which is located in Jones County. Driving the inmates was Jones County Sheriff Maurice Hooks. Along for the ride was Hooks’ friend, retired Deputy Ray Butler. Somewhere along the way, Centobie and Granberry overpowered the two lawmen, tied them up and stole Hooks’ gun and the cruiser. They raided a Jones County residence before hitting the road. The next day, Hooks and Butler were found shackled to posts, unharmed, behind a run-down building in rural Mississippi.

After escaping, Centobie and Granberry made their way to Tuscaloosa, where a police captain who saw the men became suspicious. Capt. Cecil Lancaster, who retired from the Tuscaloosa Police Department earlier this year, has since testified that he spotted the Mississippi patrol car and noticed it had a damaged back bumper. Lancaster told the court in June 2000 that he slowed down on Interstate 359 hoping the car would pass so he could get a better look at the occupants. “I slowed down and they slowed down," Lancaster said in then-Tuscaloosa Circuit Judge Scott Coogler’s courtroom. “Finally, I said, 'I’m going to make them pass me.’ "

When Lancaster dropped his speed to 40 mph, the car passed, and he saw that the driver and passenger were not police officers. “I looked over at the occupants, and they were looking straight ahead," Lancaster said. “My curiosity was aroused. Something was suspicious." Lancaster pulled the Mississippi patrol car over and walked toward the driver. He was a few inches from the rear door when Centobie, sitting in the front passenger seat, turned and fired.

The fugitives sped away as Lancaster lay on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot that shattered two ribs and exited his back. He has since made a full recovery. Granberry and Centobie dumped the Mississippi cruiser in Greenwood Circle, burglarized a nearby house for food and clothing, then stole another car from Margurite’s Lounge on Old Montgomery Highway. More than 50 officers from city, county and state agencies launched a manhunt, but Centobie and Granberry never were found. Two days later, on June 27, they showed up in Moody.

Officer Keith Turner, 29, had been with the Moody Police Department about three months when he stopped a beige, 1981 Mercury Marquis that he believed was a stolen vehicle. It was the last traffic stop he would make in his short law-/senforcement career.

During Centobie’s trial for the murder of Turner, jurors heard the 911 conversation that Turner had just before he was killed. Nothing about it was extraordinary. But after several long seconds, the voice of Officer Chris Long, who came to assist Turner with the stop, breaks the silence. “Shots fired! Shots fired!" Long said. “Officer down! Officer down!"

Long told a St. Clair County Circuit Court that he saw a man running into the woods and another man standing over Turner as he reached the scene. “I didn’t see any movement," Long told the court of Turner’s condition. “He appeared to take one breath."

While Granberry was captured the day after Turner was killed, Centobie managed to elude the 400-agent search force that combed the small town of Moody for a week. Granberry pleaded guilty to the crimes against him and in July 2000 was sentenced to three life terms. Centobie’s attorney at the time, Stansel Brown, said Centobie “just basically ran and hid" while trying to find food and water. Then Centobie slipped through the dragnet on July 4, 1998.

At a Moody convenience store, Centobie forced Moody resident Daniel Alexander at gunpoint to drive him out of town and toward Mississippi. Alexander said just days after the ordeal that Centobie was panicky and agitated as they drove along Interstate 65. “I started talking to him about the Lord, and it seemed to calm him down," Alexander said.

In Jackson County, Miss., Alexander drove his car to a rest area where he parked and pretended to fall asleep. Once Centobie got out to use the restroom, Alexander sped away. Stranded, Centobie managed to convince a van of Hispanic tourists to give him a lift.

Lt. Obie Wells, a deputy with the Jackson County, Miss., Sheriff’s Office, was at a substation in Ocean Springs, Miss., when he heard the tip that Centobie was headed south along Interstate 10 in a van. “I didn’t know I had the guy," Wells said at the time. “I knew that was the description. “I had to treat it like it was the guy, and it was a felony." Wells called for backup from authorities in Harrison County, Miss., which the vehicles were nearing. When help arrived, the officials pulled the van over at the Cedar Lake exit.

William McConnell, then a criminal investigator with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, said the driver of the van told him that Centobie never threatened the family. “The driver of the van told us that Centobie told him: 'Don’t get out of the car. They don’t want you. They want me. God bless you,’ " McConnell said days after Centobie’s capture.

Centobie exited the van, lifted his shirt to show Wells and the others his gun and then removed the weapon. After dropping the gun’s clip, he ejected a .45-caliber slug from the chamber and laid it down on the ground. “That van was full of good people, and I didn’t want anybody hurt," was Centobie’s reply when asked why he didn’t put up a fight, McConnell said. Authorities believe Centobie was headed to his ex-wife’s residence. The two divorced shortly after his 1996 conviction. “I knew he would try to return home because when he went to prison he told his wife that when he got out … he was going to kill her," McConnell said.

After being extradited to Alabama and housed in the Etowah County Jail, which authorities thought would be safer than the St. Clair County facility, Centobie managed to get loose again. This time, he has inside help. Donna Hawkins, a former jailer for the Etowah County Jail, eventually confessed to opening five electronically locked doors that allowed Centobie to walk out of the facility on Oct. 8, 1998. Hawkins was eventually sentenced to 18 months in prison. This time, Centobie went missing for 13 days before he was finally captured in Atlanta.

That was Centobie’s last taste of freedom. Although he tried again to escape from other facilities, including the Tuscaloosa County Jail (a makeshift handcuff key was discovered under his tongue in June 1999), he has been incarcerated ever since.

He was convicted on May 14, 1999, of capital murder for the death of Turner. After a few appeals, Centobie dropped all efforts for remaining appeals. In July 2004, state Attorney General Troy King filed a motion calling for an execution date for Centobie. It was granted earlier this year.

Lancaster, who was asked by Turner’s widow to attend today’s execution, said he has since forgiven Centobie. While he said on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe anyone “deserves to die," he does support the death penalty and is convinced that if given the chance, Centobie would kill again. “I will get no satisfaction out of seeing him put to death," Lancaster said. “And I don’t hold any hatred -- that’s something I will not allow myself to do. … “But let’s face it. We all make choices in life. If we don’t follow the rules and regulations, there are penalties that we have to pay."

Birmingham News

"Convicted cop killer Centobie executed; makes no apology," by Carol Robinson. (April 29, 2005)

ATMORE - Mario Giovanni Centobie, a killer and escape artist, smiled slightly and gave a thumbs-up before he was executed Thursday night for the 1998 murder of Moody police Officer Keith Turner. Centobie, strapped to a gurney, stared at the ceiling, fidgeted nervously, repeatedly broke into a grin and sometimes nodded his head. He said nothing. He didn't acknowledge his mother or brother sitting in a witness room to his right, or the relatives and co-workers of Turner in a separate witness room straight ahead. Divorced for 10 years, Centobie wore his wedding ring. He was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m.

Centobie's mother, Tracy Centobie, clutched a handkerchief and shook visibly throughout the 20 minutes it took to watch her son die. As she cried quietly, a son draped his arm around her shoulder. Among those witnessing Centobie's death were the slain officer's widow, Brandy Phillips, and Dorothy Merkl, Turner's mother. Phillips showed no emotion during the execution and declined comment. "At the point his chest stopped moving, I felt relieved," said the officer's brother, Patrick Turner, another witness.

Those who came expecting and hoping for an apology didn't get it. "I never saw any remorse," Patrick Turner said. "He did not even apologize to his own mama for what he put her through. He didn't care." Moody Police Chief Johnny Kile said the execution was painful to watch but was easier than Turner's death during a 1998 two-state crime spree that followed Centobie's escape from a prison in his native Mississippi. "He wasn't left on the side of the road with a bullet in the back of his head," Kile said.

Retired Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Cecil Lancaster, who was shot by Centobie and survived, said he long ago forgave his attacker and felt sorrow for his family. But, he said, Centobie's fate should serve as a reminder that life is about choices. "Mario Centobie chose the path he went down. Nobody ever made him make one of these decisions."

In the hours before he was put to death, Centobie visited with his mother, two brothers, a sister and members of the prison ministry group Kairos. Centobie was upbeat and in good spirits throughout the day though he was said to become agitated when there was talk of appeals filed against his wishes by a federal defender. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.

Centobie left his only possessions, a television and a radio, to fellow Death Row inmates. He had no money left in his account. He did not make a request for a last meal, but prison officials say he ate heartily: Chili and rice, okra and corn tomato soup, cornbread, gingerbread cake and fruit punch for lunch. Pizza, poor boy and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and three sodas from prison vending machines for a snack. Barbecue chicken, egg noodles with butter, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes and a strawberry soda for dinner at 3 p.m. At 4:10 p.m. he was served communion by Rev. Raymond McDonough, a Catholic priest from Birmingham.

Centobie, 39, was on Alabama's Death Row for almost six years. He was convicted in 1999 and rejected all appeals after he was sentenced to death for killing Turner.


"Convicted Cop Killer Awaits Lethal Injection At Holman Prison; Centobie Denounces Unsolicited Attempt To Block His Execution ." (UPDATED: 6:14 pm CDT April 28, 2005)

ATMORE, Ala. -- Convicted cop killer Mario Centobie has rejected an unsolicited attempt to block his execution by lethal injection and is set to die on Thursday evening. The 39-year-old former Mississippi firefighter and rescue diver, once hailed for heroism when an Amtrak train plunged into an Alabama bayou in 1993, is scheduled for execution at Holman Prison near Atmore.

He said in an affidavit he preferred death over a life in prison and that he is ready to die. He also has expressed disapproval of a Montgomery attorney who filed an unsolicited appeal on his behalf claiming that he is mentally ill. “The only kind of mental condition I may be suffering from is depression, which is just a condition of being on death row. The crimes I have committed have also caused me to have some depression,” said Centobie in a statement. Centobie has been allowed unlimited visitation on Thursday and has been visited by his family. He also said in his statement that he wants to be put to death because he does not want to be a burden to his family or taxpayers.

Centobie was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Moody, Ala., police Officer Keith Turner in 1998 while a fugitive from Mississippi. Relatives and uniformed co-workers of the slain officer plan to witness the execution.

Centobie escaped in a Mississippi sheriff's patrol car in June 1998 while serving a prison term for kidnapping his estranged wife and 6-year-old son. He shot and wounded a police captain in Tuscaloosa before the fatal shooting in Moody. Centobie was captured on the Mississippi coast. He escaped again from an Alabama jail before being recaptured in Atlanta.

The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.

Birmingham Post-Herald

"Centobie's final chapter; Hero-turned-killer's execution Thursday," by Andrew Nelson.

Until 10 years ago, Mario Centobie was probably best known as a decorated Mississippi firefighter. He helped locate bodies after an Amtrak train derailed and went into a bayou near Mobile in 1993. The wreck killed 47 people. However, a crime spree in the late 1990s that culminated with the fatal shooting of a Moody police officer and wounding of a Tuscaloosa officer changed that.

On Thursday, Centobie is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, less than 50 miles away from where his actions as a firefighter at the train crash site led to recognition from the Mobile County sheriff.

On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a request by a Mobile federal public defender to block the execution. The request was made without Centobie's permission. Centobie had dropped any further requests to block his execution and waived his rights to appeal. Federal defender Katherine Puzone claimed Centobie is mentally incompetent and that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

No one seems to know exactly what spurred the crime sprees of Centobie in the late 1990s, which also included jail escapes in two states and convictions of kidnapping his child and ex-wife. "I believe he's a sociopath," said retired Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster, whom Centobie shot during a traffic stop in 1998. "Whatever is good for Mario is good for everybody else. He looks out for No. 1. That's the typical sociopath's behavior."

Stan Brown, a Pell City attorney and one of Centobie's lawyers, is less sure about what caused Centobie's violent actions. "I certainly don't know the answer to that question," he said Tuesday afternoon. "I wish I did." It probably isn't one event that sparked Centobie's actions, Brown said. "I'm sure there are lots of events in his life that shaped what happened over the course of a period of time," he said.

Centobie was born and reared near the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Brown said. His parents divorced when he was a child. He graduated from Long Beach High School in 1984. He became a firefighter and served in the Mississippi towns of Orange Grove and Pearl.

Van Davis, former district attorney for St. Clair County, said Centobie's legal troubles began when he was charged with kidnapping his ex-wife and son in 1995. At the time, they were in protective custody because of previous domestic violence on Centobie's part, Davis said. He had argued that they had gone with him voluntarily. And when he was sentenced to 40 years for their kidnapping, he felt like he got a raw deal, he said. "He felt like the system did him wrong in Mississippi," Davis said. "He felt like he should never have been in prison."

Centobie and another prisoner escaped in June 1998 while being transferred between jails. They overpowered their guards and stole their car. "In his mind, he wasn't going back at any cost," Davis said. "Human life pretty much never meant anything to him. He was a smart person, but he was also a very dangerous person when he was on the run."

They fled into Alabama, where they were stopped by Lancaster in the early evening of June 25, 1998. Centobie shot and wounded Lancaster from the car's passenger seat. About 40 hours later and 75 miles away, while in another stolen car, they were pulled over by Moody police Officer Keith Turner. Turner called for backup before Centobie shot him three times, including one shot to the back of Turner's head.

The other prisoner was soon captured, but Centobie slipped away from a massive dragnet in St. Clair County. He was eventually captured near Biloxi, Miss., apparently on his way to see his son, who lived nearby.

Centobie was held in a Gadsden jail. By regulation, high-security prisoners had to be handcuffed before their cell door could be opened. However, Centobie would not cooperate if he did not like a particular guard. And after many warnings, a cell extraction team would be sent in to subdue him, said Etowah County Sheriff James Hayes, whose agency ran the jail. Brown said that as he got to know Centobie during the trial, he found him to be smarter than the average criminal. He proved to be charming and humorous. He was a good conversationalist, and he was capable of charming women, able to tell them what they wanted to hear, Brown said.

He managed to charm Donna Hawkins, a guard, into letting him go that October, authorities said. He was on the run for about two weeks before being recaptured near Atlanta. Her lawyer at the time said Hawkins was having emotional problems and that Centobie was a powerful manipulator who took advantage of her. Hawkins was sentenced to an 18-month prison sentence for permitting or facilitating his escape. Centobie was convicted in 1999 of Turner's murder and sentenced to death.

Many of those involved in the case said they are experiencing mixed emotions in the days leading up to his execution. Brown, his attorney, said his feelings were mixed. He is against the death penalty for anybody, not just his client. "I think it's morally wrong," he said. "Certainly, if it would bring back Keith Turner's life, I'd be glad to help with the execution."

Turner's widow, Brandy Phillips, said she is glad that Centobie will soon die because he will not be able to escape again and threaten the public. "It's a constant worry right now that he is going to escape and hurt another police officer or an innocent victim," said Phillips, who has since remarried. "I am sad that somebody is losing a father and somebody is losing a son. He has a mother, and I know it is hard on her."

Lancaster said he forgave Centobie long ago for shooting him, but he said death is a fair and just punishment. "I'll be saddened by the loss of a human life," said Lancaster, who at the request of the Turner family will be present at Centobie's execution. "But I also know we have to be judged on our past actions. And he has proven to be a true, substantial threat to society." The shooting changed Lancaster's perspective. Before his encounter with Centobie, he was looking forward to retirement.

After he recovered from the shooting, he appreciated his workday more, and spent much of his time telling other officers what happens during such incidents. "At times we need to stop and remember that nobody is guaranteed tomorrow," he said. "We make plans for the future, but we can't look to the future for what we see as our happiness. We have to see each day as it comes and see whatever joy and peace we can in that day."

The Daily Home Online

"Centobie to be executed Thursday," by Kellie Long. (April 27, 2005)

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Mario Centobie, who confessed to killing Moody police officer Keith Turner in 1998, will die by lethal injection. Centobie was sentenced to death in 1999 for the June 27, 1998, murder of Turner. He was also sentenced to three life sentences for the wounding of a Tuscaloosa police officer.

According to St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor, the federal court on Tuesday denied a motion filed Friday to stay the execution. He said Centobie also filed an affidavit in response to the motion saying he did not authorize the stay request and he was ready to die. "His execution will bring a sense of closure and some relief for the city of Moody, the county, and law enforcement officers," Minor said. "It will also serve as a reminder to families of law enforcement now that we're there for them, God forbid it happen again, and will ensure anyone who kills a police officer in the line of duty receives the ultimate penalty, which is the death penalty."

Minor said fewer than 10 people will witness the execution, but he will be among them, as will former Moody Police Chief Bobby Clements and Turner's widow, Brandy Phillips. Current Moody Police Chief John Kile was the shift supervisor the night Turner was killed and said he plans to take about six other officers with him to Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore Thursday, where the execution is scheduled to take place. "It'll give us final closure to a certain degree," he said. "If we can ever get a final closure because someone in our life is still missing."

Kile said that by sending uniformed officers to the prison he hopes to show support for Turner and his family. "This is a final gesture of respect for his family," Kile said. He said Turner's murder was devastating to the department and the community and it serves as a reminder to young police officers that it can happen. "It was very traumatic to us. It eases over time, but it always stays with you," Kile said. "Some details you remember like yesterday. He (Centobie) is getting what he justly deserves."

Centobie and 19-year-old Jeremy Granberry escaped custody while being transported from Parchman Prison in Mississippi to a court hearing June 25, 1998. They stole a sheriff deputy's patrol car and handgun and headed toward Tuscaloosa, where they were stopped on Interstate 359 by Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Cecil Lancaster. Lancaster was shot twice by the suspects but was able to return fire, preventing them from running him down with the stolen car.

After stealing another car, the two continued on Interstate 20 until they reached the Moody exit. At approximately 10:29 p.m. June 27, 1998, Turner stopped to check a suspicious vehicle. After speaking with Turner, Centobie reached back into the car as if to retrieve his driver’s license. Instead, he pulled the deputy's stolen handgun and shot Turner three times — one bullet hit his bullet resistant vest, another entered his hip, and the last struck the back of his head.

Former Moody police officer Chris Long was working patrol that same night and heard Turner tell his dispatcher where he was and that he was checking a suspicious vehicle. "I was only a few seconds away," Long recalled. "I heard the shots. In just a few seconds your whole world can turn upside down."

Long, who now works for the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, said he remembers every detail of that night. He was the first on the scene of the shooting and exchanged gunfire with Centobie. He said Tuesday he was glad to see the day coming when the murderer of his friend will be executed. "I'm glad it's coming quickly," he said. "I didn't figure it would happen until about 20 or 30 years from now." Long said he believes Centobie's death will also bring him personal closure on one of the worst nights of his life. "I've kind of got mixed feelings, but I'm relieved it's finally here," he said. "Even though he'll be executed, it won’t bring Keith back. I still lost a friend."

For eight days after Turner's murder, more than 750 lawmen from across the nation descended upon the Moody community in one of the largest manhunts in state history. Granberry was quickly found, still in the Moody area. He was convicted in 1999 of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole. He is serving his time at Holman Correctional Facility — the same prison where Centobie is to be executed.

Centobie was not captured until July 5, 1998, near Biloxi, Miss. He was still carrying the gun used to kill Turner.

Sheriff's deputy Roy Mullins was on duty the night Turner was killed and remembers spending more than seven days working 20-hour shifts. "I was on a call at the dead end of Shoal Creek Valley Road when the call went out," he said. "I dropped everything and went straight there. They set me up on a roadblock, and I stayed there for 15 hours. "I worked every day looking for the men who killed Keith. Finding them was just something you don't give up on. When they found Granberry, I thought, 'We're halfway there.'" Mullins said he is also glad to see the execution date looming. "It is different when it's someone you work with and who’s gotten you out of tight spots before," he said. "Justice will be served."

Centobie v. State, 861 So.2d 1111 (Ala.Crim.App. 2001) (Direct Appeal).

Defendant was convicted in a jury trial in the St. Clair Circuit Court, No. CC-98-67, Robert E. Austin, J., of capital murder of police officer, and was sentenced to death. Defendant appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals, McMillan, P.J., held that: (1) defendant's statement to police was knowing and voluntary and not obtained in violation of Miranda; (2) Miranda warnings were not required before defendant's conversation with victim's wife at jail; (3) evidence of defendant's escape from jail after murder was admissible as evidence of consciousness of guilt; (4) evidence of uncharged crimes was admissible to show that all of defendant's criminal acts were part of one continuous criminal adventure; (5) trial court's allowing an additional number of law enforcement officers to be seated in courtroom was not an abuse of discretion; (6) photographs depicting gunshot wounds were admissible to corroborate medical examiner's testimony; (7) failure to sequester jury was not plain error; (8) prospective juror who heard about case was not required to be removed for cause; (9) sufficient foundation existed to admit still photograph copied from surveillance camera at restaurant; and (10) death sentence was proper. Affirmed.

McMILLAN, Presiding Judge.
The appellant, Mario Centobie, was charged with capital murder for intentionally causing the death of Officer Keith Turner, a police officer, while he was on duty, see § 13A-5-40(a)(5), Ala.Code 1975. On the appellant's motion for a change of venue, venue was changed from St. Clair *1118 County to Elmore County. After testifying in his own behalf and admitting to having committed all of the elements of the charged offense, the appellant was found guilty as charged. Following a sentencing hearing, the jury returned an advisory verdict recommending death by electrocution. The final sentencing hearing was held before the trial court, which accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death by electrocution.

On appeal from his conviction, the appellant raises 17 issues, many of which he did not raise by timely objection in the trial court. Because the appellant was sentenced to death, his failure to object at trial does not bar this Court's review of these issues; however, it does weigh against any claim of prejudice he now raises on appeal. See Whitehead v. State, 777 So.2d 781 (Ala.Crim.App.1999) provides: “In all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the Court of Criminal appeals shall notice any plain error or defect in the proceedings under review, whether or not brought to the attention of the trial court, and take appropriate appellate action by reason thereof, whenever such error has or probably has adversely affected the substantial right of the appellant.” This court has recognized that “ ‘the plain error exception to the contemporaneous objection rule is to be “used sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a miscarriage of justice would otherwise result.” ’ ” Whitehead v. State, supra, at 794, quoting Burton v. State, 651 So.2d 641, 645 (Ala.Crim.App.1993).

A summary of the facts surrounding this offense is set out in the trial court's sentencing order and findings of fact, issued pursuant to § 13A-5-47(d), Ala.Code 1975. That order states, as follows:

“On the 25th day of June, 1998, Sheriff Maurice Hooks of Jones County Mississippi and an assistant, Ray Butler, were transporting Mario Centobie and Jeremy Granberry from Parchman Prison to court hearings in Jones County. In the small town of Richland, Mississippi, Hooks stopped to allow the inmates to use the restroom and Hooks and Butler were overpowered by the two inmates. Centobie pulled Hooks's Ruger .45 automatic pistol from his holster and forced Hooks and Butler at gunpoint to an isolated area where they were both left tied to poles. Centobie kept Hooks's .45 Ruger as he and Granberry fled the area in Hooks's marked sheriff's car, which coincidentally, was without a rear bumper due to an earlier accident involving Sheriff Hooks.

“Several hours later in the evening hours of June 25th Capt. Cecil Lancaster of the Tuscaloosa Police Department was returning home after attending a meeting after work. He noticed Hooks's marked patrol car being driven by two individuals proceeding on I-359. The fact that the marked vehicle had no bumper or tag attracted Lancaster's attention. As the vehicle passed, Lancaster's suspicions were further raised by the fact that neither occupant of the vehicle acknowledged him. Lancaster pulled the vehicle over. As he approached the vehicle shots were fired by one of the occupants from within the vehicle through the back driver's side window striking Lancaster twice. The bullets fired into Lancaster were consistent with having been fired from the .45 Ruger belonging to Sheriff Hooks. While Lancaster lay on the ground, after being shot, the vehicle began to back up as if to run over him. He managed to fire shots into the rear window of the vehicle, which then immediately fled the scene. “After shooting Officer Lancaster, Centobie and Granberry then abandoned the Sheriff's patrol vehicle and stole a 1981 Mercury vehicle belonging to Brandon Blake from Marguerite's Lounge in Tuscaloosa.

“On June 27th, at about 10:30 P.M. Lori Mullins, working Central Dispatch and 911, received a radio transmission from Officer Keith Turner who was on duty in a marked Moody patrol car, that Turner had stopped a vehicle. Inside Blake's stolen vehicle Centobie told his companion Granberry ‘I ain't going back to Parchman.’ As Centobie exited the vehicle he placed the .45 against the back of the front seat and left the door open. Centobie approached Turner. After Turner asked Centobie, ‘Hey, what are y'all doing?’ Centobie returned to the front seat of the vehicle under the guise of getting his license and registration. Turner continued to approach the vehicle and when he was next to Centobie and the vehicle, Granberry jumped from the vehicle. Centobie pulled the .45 and shot Turner three times. One shot lodged in Turner's vest, one shot hit Turner in the hip area, and a third shot was fired directly into the back of Turner's head. Turner's death was immediately caused by the fatal shot to the back of the head.

“After fleeing the area of the shooting, Centobie avoided an extensive manhunt for several days. On July 4th, Centobie kidnapped Daniel Alexander in the parking lot of a small store at about 9:30 P.M. in order to effect his escape from the Moody area. After kidnapping Alexander, Centobie forced him to drive to Mobile. Alexander escaped from Centobie at a rest area near the Alabama Mississippi state line west of Mobile and alerted law enforcement to Centobie's presence in the area. Centobie was finally captured by Mississippi authorities on July 5, 1998. Lt. Obie Wells found Centobie riding in a van on I-10 near Biloxi. At the time of his capture, Centobie was still armed with Sheriff Hooks's .45 Ruger.”

* * *

The record indicates that on the day the appellant was returned to the Etowah County jail following his capture after the murder of Officer Turner, the victim's widow, Brandi Turner, was at the sheriff's department searching for information concerning her husband's death. She was unaware that the appellant was being returned that particular day. After being informed that the appellant was at the jail, Mrs. Turner requested and was granted permission to speak with him. Although she was escorted to the appellant's cell by law-enforcement officers, she was left alone with the appellant after he requested that the officers leave. Evidence was presented indicating that the appellant initiated the conversation with Mrs. Turner, asking if she was Brandi Turner. The only question Brandi Turner asked in the presence of the law-enforcement officials was “Why?” The appellant sent the law-enforcement personnel away and answered her question. Mrs. Turner did not inform the authorities of the content of their conversation until several days later. At that time, she told them that when she asked the appellant, “Why did you murder my husband?” the appellant replied that he did not murder Officer Turner, he merely shot him. Upon further questioning, the appellant informed Mrs. Turner that he shot Officer Turner in the head because “he had to.”

* * *

The record indicates that on September 29, 1998, the State filed notice of its intention to offer “other crimes” evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b), Ala.R.Evid. The evidence consisted of: (1) the assault, robbery, and kidnapping of Sheriff Maurice Hooks and Ray Butler that occurred on June 25, 1998, in Rankin County, Mississippi, as well as the appellant's and Jeremy Granberry's escape from custody; (2) the attempted murder of Capt. Cecil Lancaster of the Tuscaloosa Police Department on June 25, 1998, as well as the theft of an automobile from Tuscaloosa, which was later found in Moody, Alabama; and (3) the kidnapping of Daniel Alexander from St. Clair County on July 4, 1998, in furtherance of the appellant's escape from St. Clair County to avoid prosecution. In its notice, the State argued that it intended to offer the acts “to show identity, motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, and flight by the defendant to avoid prosecution.” The appellant takes issue with the fact that the State was allowed to offer into evidence, through the testimony of Investigator Manlief, evidence suggesting that the appellant committed several uncharged burglaries while he was “within the perimeter of the manhunt.” Investigator Manlief testified that the appellant gave a statement to him and that in the statement he admitted to breaking into several houses within the perimeter of the manhunt and stealing food from the back of the refrigerators in those houses where it would not be missed.

* * *

As required by § 13A-5-53, Ala.Code 1975, we address the propriety of the appellant's conviction and his sentence of death. The appellant was indicted and convicted of capital murder, see § 13A-5-40(a)(5), Ala.Code 1975 , for intentionally killing Officer Keith Turner, a police officer, while he was on duty. The record reflects that the appellant's sentence was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factors. See § 13A-5-53(b)(1), Ala.Code 1975.

A review of the record shows that the trial court correctly found the existence of four aggravating circumstances: (1) that the capital offense was committed by a person under a sentence of imprisonment; (2) that the defendant had been previously convicted of another capital offense or felony that involved the use of threat of violence to a person; (3) that the capital offense was committed while the defendant was engaged in or was an accomplice in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit a robbery and kidnapping; and (4) that the capital offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody. The trial court correctly considered all of the statutory mitigating circumstances, but found that none existed. Additionally, the trial court found the presence of two nonstatutory mitigating circumstances: (1) that the defendant was at one time a public servant-a firefighter with an outstanding record of public service; and that the defendant had on prior occasions exhibited meritorious service in protecting members of the public; and (2) the circumstances of the defendant's upbringing as related in detail in the presentence report. The trial court weighed the mitigating circumstances and the aggravating circumstances and properly determined that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. We agree.

As required by § 13A-5-53(b)(2), Ala.Code 1975, this Court must independently weigh the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances to determine the propriety of the appellant's death sentence. After an independent weighing, this Court is convinced that the appellant's sentence of death is the appropriate sentence. Section 13A-5-53(b)(3), Ala.Code 1975, provides that we must also address whether the appellant's sentence was disproportionate or excessive when compared to sentences imposed in similar cases. The appellant's sentence was neither. See, e.g., Hyde v. State, 778 So.2d 199 (Ala.Crim.App.1998). We have searched the entire record for any error that might have adversely affected the appellant's substantial rights during the guilt phase or the sentencing phase of this trial; we have found none. Rule 45A, Ala.R.App.P.

The appellant received a fair trial. His conviction and sentence of death are proper. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court is due to be, and it is hereby, affirmed. AFFIRMED.

Centobie v. Campbell, ___ F.3d. ___ (11th Cir. 2005) (Next Friend/Stay)

Background: Attorney who worked for organization that provided defense to individuals who could not afford counsel, filed a "next friend" habeas corpus petition on behalf of state death row inmate who did not oppose execution of his death sentence. State moved to dismiss the petition. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, 05-00848-CV-RDP-TMP, R. David Proctor, J., dismissed petition. Attorney sought certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal the District Court's order.

Holdings: The Court of Appeals, held that:
(1) attorney did not have "next friend" standing to bring habeas corpus petition, and
(2) inmate was competent to accept execution of sentence. Denied.

Mario G. Centobie is under a sentence of death pursuant to a 1999 capital murder conviction. Execution of the sentence is scheduled for April 28, 2005. Centobie's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. See Centobie v. State, 861 So.2d 1111 (Ala.Crim.App.2001), aff'd, 861 So.2d 1145 (Ala.2003). Centobie did not file any state or federal collateral attacks on his conviction or sentence and declared that he wished to waive further legal proceedings. On April 22, 2005, Attorney Katherine Puzone of the Federal Defenders of Alabama filed a "next friend" habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Puzone asserts that Centobie is suffering from a mental disease that renders him incompetent to be executed or waive his appeals. The State of Alabama moved to dismissed the petition. The district court held that Puzone does not have standing to proceed on Centobie's behalf and dismissed the petition. Puzone appeals.

Puzone needs a certificate of appealability ("COA") in order to appeal the district court's order. See Sanchez-Velasco v. Sec'y of Dep't of Corr., 287 F.3d 1015, 1024-25 (11th Cir.2002) (noting that attorney seeking to proceed as "next friend" in habeas proceeding moved for COA). We may issue a COA only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). This means the petitioner must show "reasonable jurists could debate" the district court's resolution of the petition. Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 1603-04, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000)

We conclude that a COA is not warranted because Puzone lacks standing to litigate on Centobie's behalf. In certain circumstances, a "next friend" has standing to proceed on a party's behalf. However, "next friend" standing "is by no means granted automatically to whomever seeks to pursue an action on behalf of another." Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 163, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 1727, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990); see also Hauser v. Moore, 223 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir.2000) (providing standard for determining "next friend" status).

We conclude that Puzone is not "truly dedicated to the best interests of the person on whose behalf [s]he seeks to litigate," and she does not have "some significant relationship with the party in interest." Hauser, 223 F.3d. Puzone has never represented Centobie and has no relationship to him outside of this matter. He vigorously opposes her efforts to extend legal proceedings. Their interests are thereof wholly divergent, and their relationship is too attenuated to support "next friend" standing. See Sanchez-Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1029.

Additionally, we conclude that even if Puzone had standing to litigate on Centobie's behalf, the issuance of a COA is not warranted because Puzone has not made a substantial showing of the denial of Centobie's constitutional rights. She alleges that he is incompetent to be put to death. See Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 410, 106 S.Ct. 2595, 2602, 91 L.Ed.2d 335 (1986) (holding that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of a legally insane prisoner); see also Weeks v. Jones, 52 F.3d 1559, 1565-69 (11th Cir.1995). However, she has not made a substantial showing that Centobie is in fact incompetent. Her evidence is speculative and inconclusive, and completely at odds with the conclusions of mental health professionals who have observed Centobie, including during a competency evaluation prior to trial. All reliable evidence leads to a conclusion that Centobie understands his legal options but has rationally chosen to accept execution.

For these reasons, we deny a certificate of appealability, and deny a stay of execution. DENIED.