Condemned killer Nathan Dunlap says he's sorry for 'horrible things I did,' pleads for his life

Murder victim's parejnts don't buy apology

DENVER - In his first video statement since he shot five people -- killing four -- nearly 20 years ago, condemned killer Nathan Dunlap says, "I do not want to cause the victims' families or anybody any more pain than I've already caused."

The video clip was among letters and statements written by Dunlap, his attorneys and other supporters that his defense team delivered to Colorado Gov. John Hickenloopper Monday as they make their case that the 39-year-old death row inmate should be granted clemency.

"I do not want to cause the victims' families or anybody any more pain than I've already caused," Dunlap, wearing a green uniform, says from prison on the video.

Meanwhile, in a handwritten letter to the governor, Dunlap pleads for his life, saying he feels regret, sadness and grief for the deadly shooting rampage at a Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurant in Aurora in 1993.

"Even though it is difficult for me to say I'm sorry, I am sorry. I do feel regret, sadness and grief. Not for getting caught but what I've done. I'm sorry for the pain and suffering I've caused the victims' families and friends, Bobby Stephens and his family and friends, and my family and friends," Dunlap writes. Stephens, a pizza parlor employee, was shot in the face but ran to a nearby apartment and called police. He later identified Dunlap as the killer.

"Growing up I was taught that sorry is a sorry word," Dunlap writes. "I would hear things like, 'You're not sorry. You're just sorry you got caught.'"

"I know saying, writing, and feeling sorry isn't enough and I wish there was something more that I could do to relieve any pain," Dunlap writes. "I'm aware that there are some victims' family members who feel my execution will relieve their pain. I understand that.

"Because of that and the horrible things I did, I don't feel I have the right to ask for clemency. I mean, how can I ask for life or anything when I took so much and disregarded the pain I was going to inflict?" he tells the governor. "However, I ask that you consider granting me clemency. If possible, I'd like to spare my family and friends from the same pain that I caused the victims' families and Bobby Stephens and his family and friends."

Dunlap stresses that "it's hard for me to express my feelings and thoughts on paper" and tells Hickenlooper "I hope to meet with you [in person] and answer any questions you may have."

Dunlap was 19 years old when he walked into the restaurant at closing time and shot five people in the head, before taking $1,500 from a safe. The fatal victims were the night manager, Margaret Kohlberg, 50, a mother of two; Colleen O'Connor, 17; Sylvia Crowell, 19, and Benjamin Grant, 17. Only 20-year-old Bobby Stephens survived.

Dunlap had recently been fired from the restaurant.

He was convicted and sentenced to be executed in 1996, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his last guaranteed appeal in February.

Hickenlooper hasn't said how he would respond to a request for clemency. He met Friday and Saturday with victims' family members and others to hear their views.

A murder victim's parents don't buy Dunlap's apology and regret.

"He listened -- he didn't say much," said Bob Crowell, whose daughter Sylvia was killed in the shootings.

He and his wife, Marj, said the majority of family member's wanted an execution and were against clemency.

"I would feel like the knife that has been in my back for 19-and-a-half years has been turned violently," Bob Crowell said.

They watched the video from Dunlap's clemency petition and said his interview "didn't ring true."

"Talk is cheap," said Marj Crowell. "I think it would be mocking justice for him to avoid execution."

An Arapahoe County judge recently set Dunlap's execution for the week of Aug. 18-24.

Dunlap's defense attorneys say he had an undiagnosed bipolar disorder when he committed the killings and therefore should not be executed.

"We will not stop trying to save Mr. Dunlap's life now or next week or the week after," said Phil Cherner, Dunlap's attorney. "We represent a very remorseful client, and it is a tragedy that this thing is moving forward."

However, former prosecutor Jim Peters says Dunlap was a criminal before the Chuck E. Cheese shooting and had been involved in a number of treatment programs before the shootings.

"He had all the benefits that our society could give to him, and then after that what he decided to do was walk into a Chuck E. Cheese, wait until everybody left and then come out firing," said Peters. "He has never expressed remorse. He's only said that it felt better than sex and they're all stupid. There are very few cases in my mind that warrant the death penalty, and this is one of them."

Since Colorado reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, only one person has been executed. Gary Lee Davis was executed in 1997.

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