Rapist cries on electric chair as he is executed over murder of teenage girl and mother

Death row inmate delivers cryptic biblical message moments before being killed

Emma Snaith
Friday 16 August 2019 12:50 BST
'33 years is ridiculous' Family of murdered teenage girl and mother speaks ahead of death row inmate execution

A man convicted of the murders of a mother and her 15-year-old daughter has been executed in Tennessee marking the third time the state has used the electric chair in less than a year.

For his final words, Stephen West said: "In the beginning, God created man." He then started to cry, before adding: And Jesus wept. That is all.

The 56-year-old's words appeared to reference Book of Genesis and John 11.35 in the bible, where Jesus shows empathy for man as he cries for Lazurus' death before resurrecting him.

West had a Philly cheesesteak and French fries as his last meal.

State officials pronounced him dead at 7.27pm on Thursday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

West was put on death row for kidnapping and stabbing to death 51-year-old Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila Romines, in 1986. He also was convicted of the teenager's rape.

At the time, West was a 23-year-old McDonald’s employee who had spent three years in the US Army.

In a clemency plea, West claimed that it was his 17-year-old accomplice Ronnie Martin that killed the mother and daughter.

The pair had been driving around drinking before going to the Romines’ home. When Wanda let them inside, they raped Sheila before stabbing the mother and daughter to death.

While West was sentenced to death, Martin pleaded guilty as a juvenile and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 2030.

In a statement, West's lawyers said they were deeply disappointed the state executed "a man whom the state has diagnosed with severe mental illness; a man of deep faith who has made a positive impact on those around him for decades; and a man who by overwhelming evidence did not commit these murders but has nevertheless taken personal responsibility for his involvement in these crimes."

Earlier this week, West said he preferred to die in the electric chair after previously voicing no preference, which would have seen him killed by lethal injection by default.

His lawyer wrote in a court filing that the electric chair is "also unconstitutional, yet still less painful" compared with the state's preference of a three-drug lethal injection.

Lawyers for inmates David Miller and Edmund Zagorski made the same arguments before they chose to die by the electric chair in 2018. Both unsuccessfully argued to courts that Tennessee's procedure, which uses the drug midazolam, results in a prolonged and torturous death.

People gather for a candlelight vigil for death row inmate Stephen West

Tennessee has put two inmates to death by lethal injection since August 2018. But condemned inmates whose crimes occurred before 1999 can also opt for the electric chair.

The last state other than Tennessee to carry out an execution by electrocution was Virginia in 2013, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Centre.

Eddie Campbell, a relative of the victims, said the family had suffered for many years owing to the protracted legal process.

"Our family has suffered very deeply over the past 33 years through all the appeals that we think is very unfair for anyone to have to go through," he said in a statement released after the execution. "I hope that (West) has made peace with God and has truly asked God for forgiveness for such a heinous crime."

Additional reporting by AP

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