Nathan Dunlap received an indefinite reprieve for killing three teenagers and a 50-year-old mother in a Colorado Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993. He was scheduled to die but will now live as long as Gov. John Hickenlooper is in office.
The decision angered those who wanted to see his execution for his violent actions, and some Republican leaders are disappointed in the governor's action. It was the first execution in 15 years but was canceled.
"We feel the governor has taken the cowardly way out. They're just hoping we'll forget about this until we get the next governor," Marj Crowell told the Associated Press. She lost her 19-year-old daughter, Sylvia, in the massacre.
"Hickenlooper should've been up front with voters when he ran for office if he could not carry out the death penalty," GOP Attorney General John Suthers said in an official statement. "The governor is certainly entitled to these views, but granting a reprieve simply means that his successor will have to make the tough choice that he cannot."
"Colorado's system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable," Hickenlooper said after announcing his decision. "Such a level of punishment really does demand perfection."
Even Dunlap, though "grateful" for the reprieve, recognized that many would be unhappy with Hickenlooper's decision.
"This is not a day to celebrate. It's a powerfully good day for him, but there are four families who lost victims, who have grieved and continue to grieve," Dunlap's attorney, Phil Cherner, said.
Cherner argued during the trial that Dunlap suffered from abuse as a child and now suffers from bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a manic episode when he entered the Chuck E. Cheese and killed four people.
"This is a cold-blooded killer. He planned it, and he executed it, and now, 19 years later, he still hasn't paid for it. That's just wrong," Sandi Rogers, whose 17-year-old son was killed, said last week.
"The thought of Dunlap being granted clemency and being put in the general population where he can hang out with his homies scares me to death. It scares me to my core," Rogers added.