Florida governor sets execution date for 'Ninja Killer' in murder of couple 34 years ago

Florida Department of Corrections

A man convicted of a 1989 double slaying in Florida for which he was dubbed the "ninja killer" is set for execution next month under a death warrant signed Monday by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Barring delays on appeal, the execution of Louis Bernard Gaskin is set for April 12 at 6 p.m., according to the governor’s office. It would mark the second execution in Florida this year after a long pause dating back to 2019.

The execution would be only the fourth under DeSantis, a far slower pace than recent Florida governors — and ahead of his widely expected presidential campaign.

Gaskin was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Robert Sturmfels, 56, and Georgette Sturmfels, 55, on Dec. 20, 1989 in their Flagler County home on Florida’s northeast coast. He was also convicted of armed robbery, burglary and the attempted murder of another couple that same night nearby.

He was dubbed the "ninja killer" because he wore all-black ninja clothing during the crimes. Gaskin shot his victims with a .22-caliber rifle, investigators say. Property that he stole from the Sturmfels home — a clock, two lamps and a videocassette recorder — was found at his residence and were intended to be Christmas gifts for his girlfriend.

Local media reported at the time that Gaskin quickly confessed to the crimes and told a psychologist before his trial that he knew what he was doing.

"The guilt was always there," Gaskin told him. "The devil had more of a hold than God did. I knew that I was wrong. I wasn’t insane."

Jurors voted 8-4 in 1990 to recommend the death sentence, which the judge accepted. Florida law now requires a unanimous jury vote for capital punishment, although that could be changed this year by the state Legislature.

Gaskin, now 56, has filed numerous appeals over the years but by 2020 both the Florida Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for his death warrant to be signed, Attorney General Ashley Moody said in court documents.

The state Supreme Court set a briefing schedule for all filings in any new Gaskin appeals to be completed by March 31.