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Florida set to execute man for 1980 murder

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Florida is scheduled on Wednesday to execute a 65-year-old man who has spent more than three decades on death row for the murder of a woman he met at a bar.

Robert Waterhouse is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. local time at the Florida State Prison in Raiford. He would be the fourth inmate executed in the United States this year.

He was sentenced to die for the January 1980 murder of Deborah Kammerer, a 29-year-old St. Petersburg woman who encountered Waterhouse at a bar in the Tampa Bay area.

Kammerer's body was found the following morning in the low-tide mud flats of Tampa Bay. An autopsy found that she had been raped, beaten and drowned.

Police arrested Waterhouse, a plasterer and drywall installer, a week after Kammerer's body was found. Investigators found blood samples, hair and other fibers that placed her in his car, records show.

At the time of Kammerer's killing, Waterhouse was on parole for the 1966 rape and murder of a 77-year-old woman in New York.

Waterhouse was convicted and sentenced to death in September 1980. His original death sentence was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court in 1988 after his appellate attorney argued the trial counsel erred by not presenting jurors with critical mitigating information, court records show. A second jury reaffirmed the death sentence in 1990.

On Monday, the Florida Catholic Conference sent a letter to Republican Governor Rick Scott, urging the governor to change his mind and call off the execution, which would be the third since Scott took office in January 2011.

"We ask that the sentence for Robert Waterhouse be commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole," the bishops said in their letter. "Such action would manifest belief in the unique dignity of every individual and the sacredness of human life."

Waterhouse would be the 72nd inmate put to death in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out federal and state death penalty statutes in 1972, prompting states to revamp their laws and procedures. Florida resumed executions in 1979.

Three inmates have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There were 43 executions in the country in 2011.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)

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