By Debbie Stevenson

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD Almost 17 years have elapsed since a military judge sentenced a 20-year-old 1st Cavalry Division soldier to death for the murders of two Killeen cab drivers and the attempted murder of a third.

Now, President Bush must decide the fate of the former artilleryman, Pfc. Dwight Loving, now 37, and up to six others. The Rochester, N.Y., native was convicted during a court-martial convened in March 1989 at Fort Hood at the start of the presidency of Bushs father, President George H.W. Bush.

Lovings case was the second to carry the possibility of the death penalty in a military court in more than 20 years. It followed a reversal by the Supreme Court in 1987 of a decision made in the mid-1960s that had limited military jurisdiction when crimes were committed off post by military personnel.

In 2001, Loving and another soldier exhausted their appeals process when the Supreme Court ruled against them. On Nov. 8, 2004, then-acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee formally endorsed Lovings execution, sending it to the White House on Jan. 23 after the normal reviews.

Under military law, only Bush, as the commander in chief, can approve the order or grant clemency.

Loving was found guilty April 3, 1989, of two counts of felony murder in the deaths of Pvt. 2 Christopher Fay, 20, a 13th Corps Support Command soldier and part-time Killeen cab driver, and retired Master Sgt. Bobby Sharbino, 44. The two men were found dead in their taxis on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, 1988, both victims of gunshot wounds.

In a chilling 53-minute videotaped confession, Loving admitted the charges, recounting how he shot Fay twice in the back of the head after robbing him and describing his fascination with the bullet wound in the drivers head. Frustrated with the lack of money his crime spree had produced, he sought a third cab victim.

Howard Harrison, 28, a cab driver from Kempner, was injured when he struggled with Loving in his cab. He managed to escape after knocking the gun from Lovings hand. The court also found Loving guilty of robbing two 7-Eleven convenience stores on Dec. 11, 1988, using the pistol he had bought from a friend.

I feel that justice has been done, Harrison told the Herald after Lovings sentencing.

Loving was arrested Dec. 14, 1988, while at work in a motor pool on Fort Hood. He is now one of seven military convicts currently on the militarys death row. The men include three former soldiers, three former Marines and an airman.

As of Thursday, the White House had not commented on whether the administration would conduct its own review of Lovings case and that of 40-year-old former Army Spc. Ronald Gray, who has been on death row for 18 years at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Scripps Howard News Service reported.

The military is updating its execution procedures, issuing revised regulations Jan. 17, Scripps reported.

If Bush signs the order, the convicts will have the right to return to the Supreme Court for a final appeal.

Their deaths would be the first since 1961 when former Army Pvt. John Bennett, 28, was hanged at Fort Leavenworth for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl while he was stationed in Germany. His death warrant was signed by President Kennedy.

Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this story.

Contact Debbie Stevenson at deborah@kdhnews.com

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