By Corrie MacLaggan and David Beasley
AUSTIN, Texas/ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Georgia Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution on Thursday for a man convicted of fatally shooting two Mercer University students in 1995, paving the way for officials to put him to death by lethal injection later in the day.
The decision came as the state of Texas also prepared to execute a man on Thursday for killing his former girlfriend in 1994 by dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire.
In Georgia, a lower court earlier in the week halted the execution of Andrew Allen Cook, 38, after his attorneys argued the state's method of lethal injection violated state and federal law.
Prosecutors appealed, and the state's highest court ruled on Thursday that the execution could proceed.
Cook killed college students Michele Lee Cartagena, 19, and Grant Patrick Hendrickson, 22, as they sat in a parked car next to a lake near Macon, according to court records. Cook fired 14 shots at the couple with an AR-15 rifle and five shots from a 9-millimeter Ruger handgun.
"The murders were completely random," according to court records. "Cook did not know the victims, and there was no interaction between Cook and the victims before he killed them."
After Cook became a suspect, investigators enlisted the help of his father, a veteran FBI agent, to help track him down. Cook admitted the killings to his father, who testified against his son at trial.
In the Texas case, Carl Henry Blue, 48, was convicted of killing ex-girlfriend Carmen Richards-Sanders, 38, in her apartment in Bryan, Texas, on the morning of August 19, 1994, as she was getting ready to leave for work.
According to court records, Blue threw open the door to Richards-Sanders' apartment, tossed gasoline on her and another man who was in the home at the time and set the two of them ablaze with a lighter.
"I told you I was gonna get you," Blue said to Richards-Sanders, according to a court summary of the case.
The male victim survived his injuries, but Richards-Sanders died 19 days later due to organ failure caused by burns over 40 percent of her body.
After turning himself in to police, Blue claimed the incident was a prank and said he did not intend to kill his ex-girlfriend, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Prosecutors said Blue had exhibited violent behavior towards other women, including a sexual assault of one former girlfriend and a beating of another when she was eight months pregnant.
One execution has been carried out so far this year in the United States. In January, the state of Virginia put an inmate to death by electrocution.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Andrew Hay)