Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles today refused to commute the death sentence of Michael Marnell Smith, scheduled to die Thursday night in the state's electric chair for the 1977 rape and murder of a woman along the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg.

"Based upon my review of the case, I am not persuaded that the governor's power of executive clemency should be exercised in this matter," Baliles wrote in a letter to Smith's attorney, Lloyd Snook III of Charlottesville.

Snook said his clemency request was the "final option" and that he would not pursue further appeals.

Smith, 40, is to die at 11 p.m. Thursday for the murder and rape of Audrey Weiler, a mother of two who was sunbathing on an isolated stretch of beach along the James River.

Smith, who served in Vietnam, had been released from prison five months earlier after serving three years of a 10-year sentence for rape.

Smith confessed two days after the murder, detailing to local authorities how he raped Weiler, choked her, dragged her into the James River and held her head under water until she drowned. He also stabbed her.

Smith, who had been diagnosed by psychiatrists as a sexual deviant who suffered from a personality disorder, told police he murdered Weiler because he feared he would be returned to prison.

Smith had been scheduled for execution twice in 1985, but an appeals court granted a stay each time.

As part of his fundamentalist faith, Smith believes that "whatever happens is God's will," Snook said.

Snook, Warden Michael C. Samberg and a clergyman are to witness the execution, as are five law enforcement officers, four reporters, a professor and an accountant, according to the state Department of Corrections.