Former Firefighter Turned Cop Killer Executed by Injection in Alabama

ATMORE, Alabama (AP) -- Without saying a word or even glancing at the witnesses to his execution, a one-time rescue diver who was convicted of killing a police officer was put to death.

Mario Centobie stared at the ceiling before the execution, witnessed by his mother and brother, the victim's friends and family and eight uniformed police officers. He was executed by injection at 6:22 p.m. CDT Thursday (2322 GMT Friday).

''He chose his path,'' said St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor. ''He got his just punishment.''

Centobie's mother sat in front of the viewing window with another of her sons, who kept one arm around her as her body trembled slightly. They declined to comment on the execution.

Centobie, 39, of Biloxi, Mississippi., opposed efforts to block his execution.

He was convicted of killing Moody police officer Keith Turner in 1998. A fugitive when the shooting occurred, he became the focus of a huge manhunt; he was captured on the Mississippi coast but escaped again from an Alabama jail before being recaptured in Atlanta.

Centobie, a former firefighter, won accolades in 1993 from Mobile County sheriff's officials when as a diver he helped rescue victims of an Amtrak disaster on Bayou Canot that killed 47 people.

A year later, however, he kidnapped his estranged wife and 6-year-old son; he began serving a 40-year sentence in Mississippi in 1996.

He and another inmate escaped in 1998, overpowering two officers who were taking them to a court appearance.

After shooting and wounding a Tuscaloosa police officer, Centobie made it to Moody, near Birmingham's eastern border, and shot Turner, who had stopped to investigate a suspicious vehicle.

Centobie, captured near Biloxi several days after the slaying, escaped again with help from a female guard he had charmed. Love letters to the guard, who received prison time for her role, helped authorities recapture him in Atlanta.

Katherine Puzone, a federal public defender, tried to get a court order blocking the execution, claiming among other things that Centobie was mentally incompetent. A final appeal was denied Thursday by the Supreme Court.

Centobie opposed Puzone's efforts, saying he was sane but preferred death over a life in prison.