RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ The killer of two women and a pair of young children was executed by injection early Friday after failed attempts by lawyers to reduce his sentence to life in prison.

Earl Richmond Jr., 43, was pronounced dead at 2:19 a.m. at the state's Central Prison in Raleigh, said Pamela Walker, spokeswoman for the state Corrections Department.

Richmond spent Thursday meeting with family members and his lawyers, Walker said.

One of Richmond's attorneys, Jonathan Broun, said Richmond transformed himself in prison.

``The old Earl Richmond that did these crimes died many years ago,'' Broun said after the execution.

Richmond's legal team had urged the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution because they believed that improper testimony was allowed during his trial.

The court declined to hear the appeal Thursday evening, and Gov. Mike Easley later denied clemency for Richmond, allowing the execution to move forward.

Richmond was sentenced to death by a Cumberland County jury in 1995 for the killings of 27-year-old Helisa Stewart Hayes, her 8-year-old son, Phillip, and her 7-year-old daughter, Darien.

After his arrest in North Carolina, Richmond was charged in the April 5, 1991, slaying of Army Spec. Lisa Ann Nadeau at Fort Dix, N.J. Nadeau, 24, of Plainfield, Conn., was found bound, beaten, stabbed and strangled in her Army base residence.

Richmond is the second person executed in North Carolina this year and the 36th since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.