A Mississippi man who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl was executed by lethal injection Wednesday, becoming the state’s second inmate to be executed in 10 years.
Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. by Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton. He has been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to murder, rape and four counts of sexual assault against Lisa Marie Gray. When Lowden forced her into his van in June 2000, she was trapped with a flat tire.
Gray’s mother, Wanda Farris, attended the execution at Parchman Mississippi State Prison, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital, Jackson. The most recent execution in Mississippi was in November 2021.
Earlier this month, a federal judge refused to block Loden’s execution because he and four other Mississippi death row inmates were suing over the state’s use of three drugs for lethal injection, which they said was inhumane.
During the execution, Loden wore a red prison uniform and a white sheet over his body. The brown belt pinned him to the gurney.
Before the injections began, Lowden said he was “deeply remorseful.”
“For the past 20 years, I’ve been trying to do good every day to make up for the lives I’ve taken from this world,” Lowden said. “I know these are just words and cannot undo the hurt I caused. If today brings you nothing else, I hope you find peace and closure.”
He ended up saying “I love you” in Japanese, officials said.
Gray had been working as a waitress at her uncle’s restaurant in northeast Mississippi the summer before she graduated from high school. On June 22, 2000, she was leaving get off work after dark and had a flat tire.
Lowden, a Marine Corps recruiter with relatives in the area, stopped by around 10:45 p.m. and began talking to her about the apartment. “Don’t worry. I’m a Marine. We do this kind of stuff,” he said.
Lowden told investigators that after Gray allegedly said she never wanted to be a Marine, he became angry and ordered her into his van. He told investigators he sexually assaulted her for four hours before strangling her and suffocating her.
The next afternoon, court records show, “Loden was found lying on the side of the road with ‘Sorry’ tattooed on his chest and apparent self-injury wounds on his wrists.”
Faris described her daughter as a “happy, carefree, always smiling” teenager who aspires to be a primary school teacher.
“Be aware, she’s not perfect right now,” Faris said. “But she tried to do the right thing.”
Faris declined to speak to reporters after the execution.
A week earlier, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate ruled that the execution could go ahead, saying the U.S. Supreme Court also upheld a three-drug lethal injection protocol in Oklahoma seven years ago.
In November, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sought a moratorium on executions and ordered a “top-down” review of the state’s death penalty system after a series of lethal injection failures.
Mississippi conducts “mock executions and drills” every month to avoid failed executions, Corrections Department Institutional Deputy Director Jeworski Mallett told reporters.
The Correctional Services Department revealed in July 2021 court filings that it had procured three drugs for its lethal injection program: midazolam, a tranquilizer; vecuronium, which paralyzes muscles; and vecuronium, which stops the heart. potassium chloride.
Only Alabama, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee have used the three-drug regimen since 2019, MacArthur Center attorney Jim Craig said at a court hearing in November.
Most execution states and the federal government used three-drug protocols in 2008, but the federal government and most states have started using one drug, Craig said.
Twenty-seven states have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Mississippi has 36 death row inmates.
Death Penalty Action, an organization opposed to the death penalty, held a news conference Tuesday in front of the state capitol.
“It was clear that something inside him allowed him to commit such a horrific crime,” said Mitzi Magleby, a spokesman for the Mississippi chapter of Ignite Justice, an organization advocating for criminal justice reform. Shouldn’t there be room for tolerance and mercy?”
Lowden hopes his execution will be the last in the country, his lawyer Mark McDonald said in a statement after the execution.
At a news conference Wednesday, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Burkain said Loden cooperated fully with officials.
“He expressed his sadness. But he was optimistic and he ate hard,” Cain said. His last meal consisted of two bone-in tonkatsu, sweet potato and peach cobbler with ice cream.
Faris, the victim’s mother, told The Associated Press on Friday that she forgave Lowden years ago but did not believe his apology.
“I don’t particularly want to see people die,” Faris 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 member of the Associated Press/American State House News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service project that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.