Tommy David Strickler, 24, convicted of murdering a James Madison University student, was sentenced yesterday to die in Virginia's electric chair after telling the judge he is innocent and only God has the power to take someone's life.
Augusta County Circuit Judge Thomas H. Wood said in Staunton, Va., that he agreed with a jury's recommendation that Strickler be executed.
The jury convicted Strickler, who was described by prosecutors as a drifter, last June of the capital murder, abduction and robbery of Leann Whitlock, 19, of Roanoke.
Given Strickler's criminal past -- eight felony convictions -- Wood said he believed the former New Market resident would kill again if he had the opportunity.
Strickler blamed Whitlock's kidnapping and murder on Ronald Lee Henderson, who was captured in Oregon in July and is fighting extradition to Virginia.
Henderson, 33, of Frost, W.Va., faces the same capital murder, abduction and robbery charges as Strickler in the slaying of Whitlock.
Whitlock was kidnapped Jan. 5 from a Harrisonburg shopping mall and beaten to death with a 69-pound rock. Her naked body was found more than a week later in a wooded area outside Waynesboro, Va.
Wood said the evidence was clear that Strickler was the ringleader in her kidnapping, participated in her murder and then showed no remorse afterward.
"Within an hour Mr. Strickler was in a local nightclub acting like he had just come from a movie," Wood said.
Virginia law requires all death sentences to be reviewed by the state Supreme Court. In the past 10 years, the justices have reversed five death penalty decisions out of more than 50 they have heard.
Strickler's attorney, public defender William Bobbitt, had argued that prosecutors were never able to place the murder weapon, the rock, in Strickler's hands. No fingerprints were found on the bloodstained rock and no witnesses testified to the murder, Bobbitt said.