"Here they come. You ever notice how kids and bovines travel in herds?" These were the last words I heard him say. Twenty minutes later the state of Missouri executed Richard Adrian Marsh. At 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 1997 he was pronounced dead.
I met Richard Marsh when I was writing an article on the state's legal system for a Kansas City magazine. It had taken six months for him to agree to see me. What finally persuaded him was an article I'd written several years before while living in Florida.
He was born in Connecticut in 1955. He served in the Marines for three years and eventually ended up as a machinist in East Hartford, Connecticut, where he was eventually promoted to assistant shop foreman.
He told me he started dating this woman named Shelly. She had a "beautiful neck," he declared more than once. "Everything was pretty normal by regular standards. I might have been twenty-seven when it could have started ... gradual." The first time he said this to me his light gray eyes seemed to darken and match the color of his hair, and the lines at the corners of his narrow mouth became more pronounced.
The day before his thirtieth birthday he said he was driving to work at 6:30 in the morning, the traffic heavy as usual. Someone was right on his bumper, driving a "gas-guzzling-polluting pickup." He chuckled that first time he told me. He said he imagined stopping his car, pulling out a 357 Magnum from under the seat, getting out and blowing the front window of the truck away, and watching the driver's head explode. He yawned. "Perfectly normal fantasy." But then he told me he had his epiphany, a word he used often. He said a quiet revelation came over him; he'd decided that the stranger in the pickup truck would only live for a week more at the most. That was the beginning.
The "bumper humper," as he referred to him, was the first. He tore his stomach open with a kitchen knife. He remained "purely" calm for six months, and then it started again. Next was a vice-president of a bank with a chain, a wide receiver with an ice pick, a Lutheran minister with an ax, one limb at a time, an editor of a fashion magazine with a dull razor, and a Texas Congressman with a shotgun blast to the groin. "Ten years is not a bad run, especially when everything is trying to slick out."
The reason Richard Adrian Marsh agreed to see me was that he had read in this magazine article I wrote that I was a member of The Nature Conservancy, as was he. I mentioned in my story that I was concerned about the decreasing number of the gentle Manatee along the Florida coast due to careless boaters, dredgers and water polluters. Richard told me he was concerned about the Manatee as well.