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Federal Jury Sentences Convicted Killer Gary Sampson To Death

BOSTON (CBS/AP) -- A federal jury has sentenced Gary Sampson to death for the murder of two Massachusetts men in 2001.

Sampson, 57, was condemned to die in 2003 for killing Jonathan Rizzo, 19, and Philip McCloskey, 69. But that decision was later overturned by a judge who granted him a new sentencing trial in 2011, after finding that one of the jurors at his first trial had lied about her background.

The jury decided on the death penalty in the murder of Rizzo, but not McCloskey.

Sampson received a separate life sentence for killing a third man, Robert "Eli" Whitney, in New Hampshire. Whitney's murder was among the aggravating factors the jury cited to issue their decision Monday.

Philip McCloskey Jonathan Rizzo Robert Whitney gary sampson
Philip McCloskey (left), Jonathan Rizzo (middle) and Robert Whitney (right)

Sampson tricked the carjack victims into thinking he would spare their lives but then stabbed them more than a dozen times, slit their throats and left them to die in the woods, prosecutors said during the death penalty trial.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz addressed reporters after the verdict was read.

"Today, we know Gary Lee Sampson will pay with his life for all the heinous crimes that he committed," said Ortiz.

Family members of Rizzo and McCloskey spoke at Ortiz's press conference.

"I think this was all about never giving up and 15 years is a long time, but we somehow don't know how to quit," Mike Rizzo, Jonathan's father, said.

"It was difficult, but we still got the verdict we wanted, either way. You know, it was tough. But when it's all said and done, he's getting the death penalty," Scott McCloskey, Philip's son, told reporters.

The U.S. Attorney for Boston added one final sentiment to the victims' families.

"On behalf of myself and the prosecution team and the investigators, that we are truly sorry for everything you have been through," Ortiz said at a press conference.

Marshfield Police tweeted a reaction to the news of Sampson's death penalty verdict Monday afternoon.

"15 1/2 years ago the lives of three families were forever changed by the unimaginable, horrific and evil actions of Gary Sampson," Marshfield Police Chief Phillip Tavares said in the statement. "Gary Sampson represents a level of evil that I hope to never encounter again for the rest of my life. I can only hope that today's verdict brings some type of comfort or a small degree of closure for the families of his innocent victims."

According to, Sampson is one of 62 people currently on federal death row. He and convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are the only two from Massachusetts.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, only three people have been executed--and none since 2003.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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