Notorious New England spree killer Gary Lee Sampson is dead

BOSTON — The man accused of killing three people during a notorious New England crime spree has died, surrounded by the prison walls he’s been staring at since 2001.

Gary Lee Sampson was convicted in the stabbing deaths of two Massachusetts men, Jonathan Rizzo and Phillip McCloskey, and for the strangulation death of a New Hampshire man, Robert Whitney in 2001.

The Bureau of Prisons shows Sampson, inmate number 23976-038, died on December 21 at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

In a statement, the BOP said “For safety, security and privacy reasons, this office does not share specifics regarding the cause of death for any inmate. The official cause of death is determined by the medical examiner and not the Bureau of Prisons.”

Michael Rizzo, whose son Jonathan was killed by Sampson, told Boston 25 federal officials notified him Wednesday of Sampson’s death.

“We are glad to hear that he is gone and can no longer be a problem to anybody, Rizzo said. “Today there is a little less evil in this world which is a good thing especially this time of year. We are sorry that he died of natural causes when Jonathan and Phillip never had that chance. Overall I have mixed feelings.”

Former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Mike Sullivan prosecuted the case against Sampson that led to his conviction and first death sentence in 2003. Sullivan said he felt nothing when he learned of Sampson’s passing.

“Everything we learned about Gary Lee Sampson, he was evil,” Sullivan said. “He was just an evil person. People that knew him for years described him the same way.”

Sampson’s 2003 death sentence was vacated in 2011 because one of the original jurors lied on a questionnaire. A retrial of the sentencing phase was granted and Sampson was sentenced to death for the second time in 2017.

Then-U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz told the victim’s families in 2017, “We are truly sorry for what you have been through, [Sampson] used manipulation and deceit to lure, torture and kill them. He blamed everyone but himself.”

Sullivan said he’s happy he won’t have to talk about Sampson ever again.

“The only time I ever think about Gary Lee Sampson is when he’s in the news. I think about the victims and I’ll continue to think about the victims on a regular basis. But I won’t have to think about Gary Lee Sampson again,” Sullivan said.

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