TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Wesley Ira Purkey, a convicted rapist and murderer, was pronounced dead this morning at 8:19 a.m. after receiving a lethal injection in the federal execution chamber at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute.
Court actions continued throughout the night, delaying Purkey’s execution from 4 p.m. to a revised time of 7 p.m., ultimately proceeding after 7 a.m. today (Thursday, July 16).
With his spiritual adviser standing nearby in a stance of prayer, Purkey made final statements.
“I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused Jennifer’s family. I’m deeply sorry,” Purkey said.
“I deeply regret the pain I’ve caused to my own daughter who I love so very much.
“This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever.”
After a senior Bureau of Prisons official gave the order to proceed, Purkey lay with his eyes open and soon opened his mouth and appeared to be gasping for breath.
His chest and abdomen continued to rise for a few minutes, but all movement appeared to end by 8:04 a.m.
A U.S. Marshal, two senior BOP officials and Purkey’s spiritual adviser remained in the execution chamber with him. The shades on the witness windows closed at 8:19 a.m.
BOP spokesperson Beth Pottios said six witnesses — three family members, two attorneys and his spiritual adviser — were selected by Purkey to attend the execution.
Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri in connection with the kidnapping, rape, murder and dismemberment of 16-year-old Jennifer Long.
Witnesses for the victim’s family attended the execution.
The victim's father, William Long, spoke to media after the execution. Jennifer’s stepmother, Olivia Long, stood with him along with family friend Brook Doolittle.
“It’s been a long time coming,” William Long said of the death of Purkey. “He needed to take his last breath. He took my daughter’s last breath.”
“There’s no closure. There never will be because I won’t get my daughter back,” Long said.
Purkey's execution is the second conducted this week at the federal Bureau of Prison’s only execution chamber. Early Tuesday, Daniel Lewis Lee was executed for his conviction in a triple homicide in Arkansas, becoming the first federal inmate executed in 17 years.
Wesley Ira Purkey died by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, at 8:19 a.m. after a long night of legal wrangling.
The Supreme Court early Thursday cleared the way for the second federal execution this week. The vote to allow the execution of Wesley Ira Purkey to go forward was 5-4, with the court's four liberal members dissenting.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “proceeding with Purkey’s execution now, despite the grave questions and factual findings regarding his mental competency, casts a shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries.” She was joined by fellow liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
But a lower court put an emergency hold on the execution for one hour as it weighed issues in the case, further delaying what initially had been slated for Wednesday evening at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute.
Purkey was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 16-year-old girl before dismembering, burning and then dumping her body in a septic pond. He also was convicted in a state court in Kansas after using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio. The execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
This story will be updated.