Mississippi executes man for rape, murder of teen girl

Dec 13, 2022, 8:04 AM | Updated: Dec 14, 2022, 7:51 pm
Sheila O'Flaherty, center, wears her opposition to the death penalty T-shirt, as she and other oppo...

Sheila O'Flaherty, center, wears her opposition to the death penalty T-shirt, as she and other opponents participate in a vigil for inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

              Sheila O'Flaherty, center, wears her opposition to the death penalty T-shirt, as she and other opponents participate in a vigil for inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary  in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Death penalty opponent Rev. SallyFran Ross, speaks during a vigil for Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              A death penalty opponent reads Bible scripture from the Book of Ecclesiastes during a vigil for inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., late Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden was executed for the rape and murder a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Death penalty opponents Sheila O'Flaherty, center, and Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood and his son Phillip Hood, participate in a vigil for Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Commissioner of Corrections Burl Cain, center, holds the microphone as Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, left, answers a question about the final words spoken by inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., prior to his execution, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden was executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Commissioner of Corrections Burl Cain, answers a reporter's question about the execution of inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden was executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner Burl Cain speaks ahead of the scheduled execution of Thomas "Eddie" Loden at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (Hannah Mattix/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
            
              Terry Larabee, of Ridgeland, Miss., stands with a small group of people who gathered in support of the mother of Leesa Marie Gray, who at 16 was raped and murdered by Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Larabee was among a small group of people who gathered at the penitentiary in support Gray's family. Loden was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              A small group of people gather in support of the mother and family of Leesa Marie Gray, who at age 16 was raped and murdered by Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., who was executed late Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Sheila O'Flaherty, center, wears her opposition to the death penalty T-shirt, as she and other opponents participate in a vigil for inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary  in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Death penalty opponent Rev. SallyFran Ross, speaks during a vigil for Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              A death penalty opponent reads Bible scripture from the Book of Ecclesiastes during a vigil for inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., late Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden was executed for the rape and murder a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Death penalty opponents Sheila O'Flaherty, center, and Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood and his son Phillip Hood, participate in a vigil for Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., outside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, in Parchman, Miss., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022. Loden, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Commissioner of Corrections Burl Cain, center, holds the microphone as Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, left, answers a question about the final words spoken by inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., prior to his execution, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden was executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Commissioner of Corrections Burl Cain, answers a reporter's question about the execution of inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden was executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner Burl Cain speaks ahead of the scheduled execution of Thomas "Eddie" Loden at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (Hannah Mattix/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
            
              Terry Larabee, of Ridgeland, Miss., stands with a small group of people who gathered in support of the mother of Leesa Marie Gray, who at 16 was raped and murdered by Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Larabee was among a small group of people who gathered at the penitentiary in support Gray's family. Loden was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              A small group of people gather in support of the mother and family of Leesa Marie Gray, who at age 16 was raped and murdered by Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., who was executed late Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, speaks about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Karei McDonald Jr., executive deputy commissioner, right, ponders a reporter's question about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, left, Karei McDonald Jr., Executive Deputy Commissioner, center, stand with state commissioner of corrections Burl Cain as they answer reporters' questions about their visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, speaks about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Karei McDonald Jr., executive deputy commissioner, right, ponders a reporter's question about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, left, Karei McDonald Jr., Executive Deputy Commissioner, center, stand with state commissioner of corrections Burl Cain as they answer reporters' questions about their visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, speaks about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Karei McDonald Jr., executive deputy commissioner, right, ponders a reporter's question about his visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., prior to Loden's execution. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Jeworski Mallett, Deputy Commissioner of Institution, left, Karei McDonald Jr., Executive Deputy Commissioner, center, stand with state commissioner of corrections Burl Cain as they answer reporters' questions about their visit with inmate Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, during a news briefing in the Visitation Center on at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. Loden pleaded guilty to raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday evening. He would become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              Attorney Emily Washington leaves a federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, after a judge heard arguments about Mississippi's three-drug protocol for executions. Washington and attorney Jim Craig joined attorney Stacy Ferraro, who represents Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., who is scheduled for execution on Dec. 14, 2022. Craig and Washington are with the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which filed the 2015 lawsuit that challenges Mississippi's execution protocol. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            
              FILE - The front gate of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., is shown Nov. 17, 2021. Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, is set to receive a lethal injection at the penitentiary on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. He's been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery against 16-year old Leesa Marie Gray. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
            
              FILE - This May 25, 2022, photo released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections shows Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., who is set to receive a lethal injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. He's been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery against 16-year old Leesa Marie Gray.. (Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP, File)
            
              Wanda Farris sits beside a picture of her daughter, 16-year-old Leesa Gray, that hangs inside Comer's Restaurant in Dorsey Miss., Thursday Dec. 8, 2022. Gray was kidnapped, raped and murdered by death row inmate Eddie Loden in the summer of 2000. Loden will be put to death by the state of Mississippi on Wednesday. (Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP)
            
              Wanda Farris, the mother of slain teenager Leesa Gray, second from right, is surrounded by supporters as she leaves the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, after they listened to several hours of arguments about Mississippi's three-drug protocol for executions. Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. pleaded guilty in 2001 to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery in the 2000 death of Gray, a 16-year-old waitress from north Mississippi. Loden is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The Mississippi Supreme Court has scheduled his execution for Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

PARCHMAN, Miss. (AP) — A man who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl in Mississippi was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, becoming the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years.

Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. by Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton. He’d been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray. She was stranded with a flat tire in June 2000 when Loden forced her into his van.

Gray’s mother, Wanda Farris, attended the execution at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital, Jackson. Mississippi’s most recent execution was in November 2021.

Earlier this month, a federal judge declined to block Loden’s execution amid a pending lawsuit by him and four other Mississippi death row inmates over the state’s use of three drugs for lethal injections, a protocol they allege is inhumane.

During the execution, Loden wore a red prison jumpsuit and was covered by a white sheet. Brown leather straps held him down on a gurney.

Before the injection started, Loden said he was “deeply remorseful.”

“For the past 20 years, I’ve tried to do a good deed every single day to make up for the life I took from this world,” Loden said. “I know these are mere words and cannot erase the damage I did. If today brings you nothing else, I hope you get peace and closure.”

He concluded his last words by saying “I love you” in Japanese, officials said.

Grey had been working as a waitress at her uncle’s restaurant in northeast Mississippi during the summer ahead of her senior year of high school. On June 22, 2000, she left work after dark and got a flat tire.

Loden, a Marine Corps recruiter with relatives in the area, stopped at around 10:45 p.m. and began talking with her about the flat. “Don’t worry. I’m a Marine. We do this kind of stuff,” he said.

Loden told investigators he became angry after Gray allegedly said she would never want to be a Marine, and he ordered her into his van. He spent four hours sexually assaulting her before strangling and suffocating her, he told investigators.

The following afternoon, court records say “Loden was discovered lying by the side of a road with the words ‘I’m sorry’ carved into his chest and apparent self-inflicted lacerations on his wrists.”

Farris described her daughter as a “happy-go-lucky, always smiling” teenager who aspired to become an elementary school teacher.

“She wasn’t perfect, now, mind you,” Farris said. “But she strived to do right.”

Farris declined to speak to reporters following the execution.

A week earlier, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate ruled the execution could proceed, saying the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld a three-drug lethal injection protocol in Oklahoma as recently as seven years ago.

In November, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sought a pause in executions and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system after a series of failed lethal injections.

Mississippi has done “mock executions and drills” on a monthly basis to avoid a botched execution, Jeworski Mallett, deputy commissioner of institutions for the Department of Corrections, told reporters.

The Department of Corrections revealed in court papers in July 2021 that it had acquired three drugs for its lethal injection protocol: midazolam, which is a sedative; vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Since 2019, only Alabama, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee have used a three-drug protocol, said Jim Craig, a MacArthur Center attorney, speaking at a November court hearing.

Craig said a majority of death-penalty states and the federal government used a three-drug protocol in 2008, but the federal government and most of those states have since started using one drug.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 27 states have the death penalty. There are 36 inmates on death row in Mississippi.

Death Penalty Action, a group opposed to capital punishment, convened a news conference Tuesday in front of the state capitol.

“Clearly, something in him snapped for him to commit such a horrific crime,” said Mitzi Magleby, a spokesperson for the Mississippi chapter of Ignite Justice, an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. “Mr. Loden was immediately remorseful. Shouldn’t there be room for grace and mercy in such a situation?”

Loden hoped his execution would be the country’s last, his attorney Mark McDonald said in a statement following the execution.

At a news conference Wednesday, Burl Cain, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Loden fully cooperated with officials.

“He professed his sorrow. But he was quite upbeat and he ate hardy,” Cain said. His last meal included two bone-in fried pork chops, sweet potatoes, and peach cobbler with ice cream.

Farris, the victim’s mother, told The Associated Press on Friday that she forgave Loden years ago, but did not believe his apology.

“I don’t particularly want to see somebody die,” Farris said. “But I do believe in the death penalty. … I do believe in justice.”

___

Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report. Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

___

More of AP’s coverage of executions can be found at https://apnews.com/hub/executions

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Mississippi executes man for rape, murder of teen girl