CINCINNATI — The voice was strong and unwavering, carrying no hint that it soon would be snuffed out, just like Joseph Paul Franklin snuffed out 18 lives during his racist, murderous reign of terror.
From Missouri's death row hours before he is scheduled to be executed, Franklin told The Cincinnati Enquirer in a telephone call Monday he regrets killing two Cincinnati teens in 1980 and that he's not really worried about being executed.
"I ain't tripping on it," Franklin said of his execution set for 1:01 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
Franklin, 63, was convicted of murders in several states but only faced the death penalty in Missouri where he was convicted of killing a man in a St. Louis synagogue in a sniper shooting. He was honest about his punishment in Missouri.
"Yeah, I actually believe that I deserve (to be executed). I ain't going to deny it," Franklin said in a 39-minute call late Monday. "I'm hoping for mercy."
He showed no mercy, though, to Darrell Lane, 14, and Dante Evans Brown, 13, as the cousins walked to a Cincinnati-area store in June 1980.
Franklin, in the midst of what he called his prolific month of race killings, lay in wait on a railroad trestle for anyone with black skin to walk past. When the boys did, Franklin shot each twice with a .44-caliber deer rifle, blasting holes in their chests.
"They just happened to walk by on the sidewalk to tell you the truth," Franklin said of his Cincinnati victims. "I basically set up an ambush for whoever walked by … I had no idea how old they were."
In a rambling conversation, Franklin blamed physical and psychological abuse as a child and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for alienating him from society to the point that he was drawn to white supremacist views, and from there to carrying out their efforts to cleanse the country of blacks and other minorities deemed subhuman.
"I regret the fact that I murdered people," Franklin said. "I don't really think that's the most important thing I've done in my live. I don't see it as some type of achievement."
White supremacy and killings blacks, Jews and minorities became his life. He meticulously planned them and looked for high-profile targets to strengthen his message of white supremacy. His victims included porn king Larry Flynt, whose Hustler magazines often depicted sex acts between people of different races, and Urban League president Vernon Jordan.
"I had race on my mind at all times," Franklin said. "I was just very impressionable when I was young and just became obsessed with it. I just warped my brain.
"I actually consider myself a warrior. I felt that as misguided as I was, I felt I was fighting to preserve the white race."
Now he's fighting to save his skin. Missouri's governor denied clemency Monday, leaving little hope for Franklin to survive.
"I'd like for people to think of me as a person who is filled with a lot of love for people, not filled with hate for people," Franklin said.
When reminded that authorities attributed 18 killings over a decade to him, he said, "That was not my true self. If there was any possible way I could make it up to them, I would."
His goal now, he said, is for families of those he killed to not hate him.
"Of course, I would apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness," Franklin said.
"I'm a human being just like everybody else."