In the final minutes of his life, Robert Wayne Holsey had a lot to get off his chest.
He made his words count.
For the past 19 years locked away, he had time to think about how he killed a charismatic, young deputy and essentially ended his own life at the same time.
Holsey’s criminal resume only padded his qualifications for Georgia’s death penalty, which he met solely by killing a man working at the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office to protect people from the likes of Holsey.
“He spent two-thirds of his adult life in state prison behind bars,” said District Attorney Fred Bright.
Before he turned 17, Holsey spent a year in the Youth Development Center for putting a knife to a little kid’s throat.
When Holsey was 18, he snuck up behind a store clerk, smashed the clerk’s face with a brick and grabbed $315 from the cash register.
As a young, assistant district attorney, Bright handled that case.
After Holsey served about seven years of a 15 year sentence, he was back behind bars two years later for nearly stabbing a man to death in a bar fight and shooting at two others the same night.
Holsey served two more years and was out of prison exactly 22 months when he grabbed his girlfriend’s gun and held up a Jet Food Store outside of Milledgeville on Dec. 17, 1995.
Less than four minutes after the robbery, Deputy Will Robinson pulled over the red Ford Probe mentioned in the lookout. Robinson radioed in the license plate number after Holsey stopped the car in front of the Royal Inn motel.
Holsey started shooting, and Robinson fired back.
With a fatal head wound, no one knows if the deputy had a chance for his 26-year-old life to flash before his eyes.
Robinson’s last words, noting details of the traffic stop, led investigators to his killer, who was convicted and sentenced to death two years later.
“I think it’s important for the public to know that record,” Bright said after witnessing his first execution Tuesday.
Bright presented Holsey’s past Monday when a plea for clemency was denied. No stay of execution was granted.
“In my heart of hearts, I honestly and truly believe that true justice was finally served (Tuesday night),” Bright said. “People who violate the laws need to realize there are consequences to for their actions.”
Holsey’s attorneys argued his alcoholic trial lawyer failed to include evidence of childhood abuse and alleged intellectual disabilities.
The killer’s sister, who served in the military and works in law enforcement, counters the argument by her example, Bright said.
“His lawyers tried to blame this on his upbringing, and she turned out 180 degrees the opposite in the same household and with the same parents,” he said.
After meeting with three ministers Tuesday, Holsey told the crowded room of execution witnesses that he was solely responsible for Robinson’s death.
“Wayne Holsey did the most respectable thing he ever did (Tuesday) night. He admitted his guilt, which I have known for 19 years,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who was Baldwin County’s chief deputy when Robinson was killed.
Sills personally took Holsey into custody, but he had clammed up under interrogation.
Forensic evidence showed he had Robinson’s blood on his shoe from what was believed to have been an execution-style murder with a shot fired behind Robinson’s ear, possibly when he was already down.
Still, Holsey never owned up to the crime.
Once all the appeals were exhausted and Holsey was in the death chamber, Holsey looked at Robinson’s father and brothers, who had their arms around each other on the front row.
Holsey apologized to the Robinson family, with hope in his heart they could one day forgive him.
Then he turned toward Bright, Sills and Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and apologized to each one of them by name.
He even apologized to his hometown community and asked that they don’t hold it against his family. Holsey then looked at his sister, Regina, on the second row.
He also apologized to her, told her he loved her and to take care of their mama.
After a final prayer, Holsey fixed his eyes on his sister, repeatedly mouthing the words “I love you.”
She nodded slightly and softly repeated the name of Jesus as her brother began to slip away.
Bright knew she was there, but he deliberately kept looking forward, wondering if he would be witnessing an execution if Holsey had taken responsibility sooner.
“It’s over. I’m glad that the family has closure now,” Bright said. “It’s been a long road for everyone involved in the process.”
Sills, who was also witnessing his first execution, said he gave the hardest and most emotional speeches of his career when he argued against clemency.
“I don’t get any personal pleasure, I really don’t, but people like Holsey, and people like that in Georgia who qualify to get the death penalty, you deserve it, in my opinion,” Sills said.
Still, Holsey’s apology touched Sills, who said Holsey had been trustworthy when he was in the local jail for lesser crimes in his younger days.
“I had more respect for Wayne Holsey (Tuesday) night than at any time, and I’ve known him off and on for the last 30 years in some way,” he said.
Four more men Sills put away are on death row.
“The hoodlum world can take notice that this is what will happen to you, and there is no greater deterrent,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.