A serial killer known as the "stocking strangler" who raped and murdered multiple elderly women has been executed by the lethal injection in Georgia, US.

Carlton Gary, 67, who was convicted of raping and killing the women in attacks that terrorised a small city decades ago, was pronounced dead at 10.33pm local time Thursday, authorities said. He died from an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson.

He was the first inmate executed by the state of Georgia this year. Gary was strapped on a gurney with his eyes closed when the warden asked him if he wished to make a final statement or have a prayer recited shortly before the death procedure was to be carried out. The inmate did not respond to the warden's question, keeping his eyes closed shortly before he was put to death.

He also had little to say the night before when he was given the option to request whatever he wanted for his final meal. Gary instead told officials he wanted whatever other prisoners were having that evening. He subsequently received "the institutional tray" - standard prison food including a grilled hamburger, hot dog, white beans, coleslaw, and grape beverage.

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Gary was convicted in 1986 on three counts each of malice murder, rape and burglary for the 1977 deaths of 89-year-old Florence Scheible, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond and 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff. Though charged only in those deaths, prosecutors say Gary attacked nine elderly women in the west Georgia city of Columbus from September 1977 to April 1978. Most were choked with stockings, and seven of them died.

Police arrested Gary six years after the last killing, in May 1984. He became a suspect when a gun stolen during a 1977 burglary in the upscale neighbourhood where all but one of the victims lived was traced to him.

At trial, prosecutors introduced evidence from all nine attacks, arguing that common factors established a pattern. The victims were all older white women who lived alone and were sexually assaulted and choked, usually with stockings.

They were attacked at home, usually in the evening, by someone who forced his way inside. All but one of the Georgia victims lived in the Wynnton neighbourhood, and all lived near Gary at the time of the crimes. Prosecutors also presented evidence that they said connected Gary to similar crimes in New York State.

Gary was convicted for the 1977 murders of three elderly women in Georgia, including 89-year-old Florence Scheible, pictured. Photo / Supplied
Gary was convicted for the 1977 murders of three elderly women in Georgia, including 89-year-old Florence Scheible, pictured. Photo / Supplied
Kathleen Woodruff, 74, was also another victim. Photo / Supplied
Kathleen Woodruff, 74, was also another victim. Photo / Supplied

Gary's lawyers had argued in a clemency petition and filings before state and federal courts that evidence that wasn't available to his trial lawyer, either because the necessary testing didn't exist yet or because it wasn't disclosed by the state, proves he's not the "stocking strangler".

They also had argued that DNA from sperm found on clothing taken from one of the victims' homes was later found to belong to someone other than Gary. This was especially significant, they had contended, because the woman survived the attack and dramatically identified him at trial.

The parole board, the only authority in Georgia with the power to commute a death sentence, on Wednesday declined to spare his life after holding a closed-door hearing to listen to arguments for and against clemency. Appeals filed by Gary's attorneys were rejected Thursday before the Georgia Supreme Court, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

- with AP

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