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Ex-Marine says he’s ‘deeply remorseful’ as he’s executed in Mississippi for rape and murder of girl

Loden was found lying on the streets in 2000 with ‘I’m sorry’ carved on his chest

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 15 December 2022 05:32 GMT
Related video: Father of nurse shot dead lunges at accused killers in court

A “remorseful” former marine who pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 2000 was put to death in Mississippi.

Thomas Edwin Loden Jr, 58, was pronounced dead at 6.12pm local time on Wednesday by Sunflower County coroner Heather Burton. He was the second inmate executed in the state in 10 years amid growing calls for abolishing capital punishment.

Just before the lethal injection started, the inmate said he was “deeply remorseful” of his action.

“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,” he 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.

His last meal, served at about 4pm, consisted of two bone-in fried pork chops, fried okra, a baked sweet potato with butter, Pillsbury Grands biscuits with butter and molasses, peach cobbler with French vanilla ice cream and Lipton sweet tea.

The inmate had requested to see four visitors and a mental health official and was “up and in good spirits”, Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner Nathan Cain told Fox News Digital.

Wanda Farris, the mother of slain teenager Leesa Gray, second from right (AP)

Loden was put on the death row in 2001 after he pleaded guilty to murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray, who he forced into his van when she was stranded with a flat tire.

The minor was waiting tables at her uncle’s restaurant in northeast Mississippi during the summer. On 22 June 2000, she left work after dark and got a flat tire when Loden, a Marine Corps recruiter, stopped at around 10.45pm and began talking to her.

“Don’t worry. I’m a Marine. We do this kind of stuff,” he said, according to court records.

He became livid after Gray allegedly said she would never want to be a Marine, and forced her inside his van.

Loden told investigators that he spent four hours sexually assaulting her before strangling her to death.

Court records showed Loden was found the next afternoon lying by the side of a road with the words “I’m sorry” carved into his chest and self-inflicted injuries.

Wanda Farris, the mother of the victim, attended the execution at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

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

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

Last week, Ms Farris told the Associated Press that she forgave Loden years ago but did not believe his apology. “I don’t particularly want to see somebody die,” she said. “But I do believe in the death penalty. I do believe in justice.”

Earlier this month, US district judge Henry Wingate declined to block the state from carrying out his execution despite a pending lawsuit from Loden and four Mississippi death row inmates over the lethal injection protocol.

Mississippi’s Department of Corrections revealed in court papers in July 2021 that it had acquired three drugs for its lethal injection protocol: sedative Midazolam, Vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles, and Potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

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

Mississippi’s last execution was in November 2021 and there are 36 inmates on death row.

However, neighbour Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey sought a pause in executions and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system in November following failed lethal injections.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice(RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage

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