LUCASVILLE -- A man convicted of killing a 6-month-old as he raped her was executed Wednesday despite his arguments that he never meant to hurt her.
Steve Smith, 46, was executed by lethal injection for the September 1998 killing of his live-in girlfriend's daughter, Autumn Carter, in Mansfield in northern Ohio.
Smith had recently tried to get his sentence reduced to life in prison, arguing that he was too drunk to realize that his assault was killing Autumn and didn't mean to hurt the baby.
Smith's daughter and only child, 21-year-old Brittney Smith, wept loudly in the 25 minutes between when her father walked into the death chamber flanked by prison guards and when he was pronounced dead at 10:29 a.m.
Steve Smith declined to say any last words, then looked at his daughter sitting behind a pane of glass.
``I love you,'' she said as she wept. Smith turned his head away and appeared to be struggling not to cry, his chin wavering.
As the lethal injection began, Smith took several heavy breaths before he closed his eyes and looked as though he were falling asleep.
As Brittney and Smith's niece Melissa Aguirre sobbed, Autumn's mother, aunt and grandfather sat quietly watching, sometimes shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at the noise of the other women.
After the execution, Autumn's aunt, Kaylee Bashline, pumped her fists in the air as if in victory and gave a hug to Autumn's mother, Kesha Frye.
Bashline has said that her family has no reason to doubt that Smith is guilty, especially with his recent admission, and that it's not fair that he had 15 years since the crime to live, visit family and say his goodbyes.
``He got all that, and what did she get?'' Bashline said. ``She got to be killed and put in the ground where none of us gets to see her anymore. I don't find it right.''
Brittney Smith has said she has never believed her father committed the crime.