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Tennessee Executes Its First Prisoner In Over A Decade

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In 1985, Billy Ray Irick was convicted of the rape and murder of Paula Dyer, a seven-year-old girl he’d been babysitting. Last night, in Tennessee’s first execution in almost ten years, he was killed by lethal injection.

According to witnesses, when asked if he had any last words, Irick at first sighed and said no. But the 59-year-old then changed his mind and uttered an apology: “I just want to say I’m really sorry and that… that’s it.”

It’s reported by journalists who were present for the execution that blinds between a witness room and the execution chamber were opened at 7.26pm local time on Thursday night.

Credit: WBIR
Credit: WBIR

One minute after apologising, his eyes closed, and he began to make snoring and heavy breathing sounds, which gave way to coughing, huffing and deep breaths at 7.34pm.

Two minutes later, he was apparently silent and began to turn dark purple. When an attendant yelled his name and grabbed his shoulder there was no response, and at 7.48pm he was pronounced dead. His final meal consisted of a burger, onion rings and a Pepsi soft drink.

On the night Irick was babysitting Paula, he raped her and then strangled her to death while four of her brothers were in the next room.

Though they tried to break through to the room and save her, Irick had barricaded the door and they were unable to do so.

Irick had been living with the family – Kenny Jeffers, his wife and their eight children (including Paula) – for over a year when the incident took place.

After he had sexually assaulted and murdered Paula, Irick called her father to say that he couldn’t wake her up. When her father returned home from work at about midnight, he found his daughter lying unconscious.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

She was taken to the hospital where doctors tried to save her life for 45 minutes before she was pronounced dead.

There has been controversy recently about the drugs used by Tennessee to execute its prisoners, after 33 death row inmates filed a lawsuit contesting the execution drugs weren’t likely to succeeed, but the state Supreme Court denied Irick a stay of execution.

He was put to death through a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromid and potassium chloride injections, which stopped his heart.

Featured Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Corrections

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