Georgia Department of Corrections / Reuters

Georgia executes ex-sailor for 1992 murder of crewmate

Travis Hittson put to death for killing, dismembering shipmate; second US execution this week

Georgia The state of Georgia on Wednesday executed a former sailor convicted of killing a crewmate and, with the help of another sailor, dismembering the body and burying it.

Travis Hittson, 45, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 8:14 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, according to the state Attorney General's Office. 

Hittson's was the nation's second execution this week and the seventh of the year. 

He received the death penalty for the April 1992 murder of 20-year-old Conway Utterbeck during a weekend leave from the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier.

Hittson shot Utterbeck following a night of drinking while on a trip to central Georgia to visit the parents of a third sailor on the ship, Edward Vollmer, according to court records.

“I had no emotion or nothing on my face, I know I didn’t," Hittson later told police in his confession to the killing, according to court records.

He shot Utterbeck point blank in the forehead, then went out to eat at a nearby Waffle House. Afterwards, Hittson and Vollmer dismembered his body, using a kitchen steak knife and a hacksaw, according to court records.

They buried Utterbeck's torso in a shallow grave in the woods. The men put his severed hands, head, and feet in the trunk of Vollmer’s car and returned to the ship based in Pensacola, Florida on Monday morning.

After getting off work that day, they discarded his remaining body parts in the Florida Panhandle, records said.

On Wednesday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Hittson. Earlier in the day, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Hittson's request to stay the execution.

His lawyers also unsuccessfully appealed to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life without parole, a sentence not available during his 1993 trial. The state board denied his request late Tuesday.

After reviewing Hittson's case, the parole board decided on Wednesday to take the stiffest action possible against Vollmer.

Vollmer told Hittson that Utterbeck was plotting to kill the two of them, according to court records. But there was no evidence that Utterbeck intended to harm them. Hittson later described Vollmer as "very paranoid."

Vollmer made a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for parole. He had been denied parole last year, and his next review was set for 2020.

However, the state panel on Wednesday reconsidered his case and pushed his next review to 2024, the longest period possible.


Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter