Only Native American on federal death row is executed after 19 years for killing nine-year-old girl and her grandmother in 2001 and says ‘No, I’m good’ when asked if he had any final words
- Lezmond Mitchell, 38, of the Navajo Nation tribe, was executed Wednesday
- He was given a lethal injection in Terre Haute penitentiary in Indiana
- He showed no remorse and asked if he had final words replied: ‘No, I’m good’
- Mitchell killed Tiffany Lee, 9, and Alyce Slim, 63, in 2001
- Mitchell and accomplice Johnny Oslinger stabbed Slim 33 times
- They slit Tiffany’s throat and stoned her to death, then decapitated their bodies
- Navajo Nation, 13 other tribes and his lawyers asked Trump for clemency
- They argued the death penalty violates Navajo culture and sovereignty
- It is the fourth federal execution this year after a 17-year pause
- The White House is pushing ahead with federal executions before the election
The only Native American on federal death row was put to death Wednesday, despite objections from many Navajo leaders who had urged President Donald Trump to halt the execution on the grounds it would violate tribal culture and sovereignty.
With the execution of Lezmond Mitchell for the grisly slayings of a nine-year-old and her grandmother, the federal government under the pro-death penalty president has now carried out more executions in 2020 than it had in the previous 56 years combined.
Mitchell, 38, expressed no remorse during the public portion of the execution. Asked by a prison official if he had any last words for victims’ family members and other witnesses behind glass at the death chamber, Mitchell casually responded, ‘No, I’m good.’
Lezmond Mitchell, 38, (pictured) the only Native American on federal death row – who murdered a nine-year old girl and her 63-year-old grandmother – will be put to death today unless Donald Trump wades in and signs a clemency petition
Mitchell was sentenced to death for the brutal slayings of Tiffany Lee, 9, and Alyce Slim, 63, (pictured) after they offered him and his accomplice Johnny Oslinger a lift in their pickup truck as they hitchhiked on the Navajo Nation in 2001
Daniel Lee, father of Tiffany Lee, wipes tears after a statement by his attorney on Wednesday
Moments later, prison officials began the lethal injection of pentobarbital that flowed to IVs in his hands and forearms in the tiny, pale-green death chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Mitchell lay strapped down on his back, his glasses still on and a medical mask across his face, never moving or tilting his head to look around the room. His chest heaved and his thumb tapped the gurney momentarily, as his breathing became labored and his stomach area began to throb. But after about 10 minutes, Mitchell no longer appeared to move at all and his partially tattooed hands turned pale.
LEZMOND MITCHELL’S CRIMES:
In October 2001, Lezmond Mitchell, then 20, and Johnny Orsinger, a teenager, were planning an armed robbery and needed a vehicle to carry it out.
They traveled from Round Rock, Arizona, to Gallup, New Mexico before hitchhiking back to the Navajo Nation.
Tiffany Lee, 9, and her grandmother Alyce Slim, 63, were traveling to Tohatchi, New Mexico, to see a traditional healer for leg ailments and then went on to Twin Lakes, New Mexico.
On their return, they stopped at a gas station on Navajo land and Slim agreed to give Mitchell and Orsinger a ride in her pickup truck.
Slim pulled over near Sawmill, Arizona, to let the two men out.
Mitchell and Orsinger stabbed Slim 33 times before putting her body next to Tiffany in the back seat.
They drove to an abandoned sheep camp in the mountains and told the little girl to prepare to die.
Mitchell slit Tiffany’s throat but when she did not die, Orsinger dropped rocks on her head to kill her, court records reveal.
The killers later returned to where they dumped the victim’s bodies, decapitated them and buried some of their remains while leaving some in the woods.
They also burned the victims’ belongings.
Days later, Mitchell was also involved in an armed robbery at a trading post in the Navajo Nation.
Because the crimes occurred on tribal land, state prosecutors had no jurisdiction so the two killers were tried in federal court.
Mitchell was convicted of robbery, firearm violations, carjacking resulting in death, murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to death.
Orsinger was a juvenile at the time so was ineligible for the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison.
He is serving his sentence in an Atlanta prison.
Mitchell has long maintained that Orsinger, who had a criminal record at the time, was the ringleader of the grisly crimes.
An official with a stethoscope checked for a pulse and listened to Mitchell’s hear before he was declared dead at 6:29 p.m. EDT. It took nearly 30 minutes for him to die.
Mitchell, then 20, and an accomplice were convicted of killing Tiffany Lee and 63-year-old Alyce Slim after the grandmother offered them a lift as they hitchhiked on the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation in 2001. They stabbed Slim 33 times, slit Tiffany’s throat and stoned her to death. They later mutilated both bodies.
A bid by tribal leaders to persuade Trump to commute Mitchell’s sentence to life in prison failed, as did last-minute appeals by his lawyers for a stay. The first three federal executions in 17 years went ahead in July after similar legal maneuvers failed. Keith Nelson, who was also convicted of killing a child, is slated to die Friday.
Lawyers for Nelson argue the drug used in the executions, pentobarbital, can cause severe pain and should be deemed unconstitutional.
Tiffany Lee’s older brother and her father thanked Trump for moving forward with the execution and have criticized the opposition by tribal officials.
‘They will have to answer to God why they wanted this murderer to live,’ the brother, Donel Lee, told The Associated Press. ‘But now I’m at peace with it and justice is served. Now he (Mitchell) has to answer to God, and I hope my little sister was standing there with God while he judged him.’
Tiffany’s father, Daniel Lee witnessed the execution. He stood in tears shortly after, wearing a Trump campaign hat, and said in a statement that Mitchell’s death brought him some long-awaited closure.
Critics have accused the Trump administration of pushing to resume executions after a nearly 20-year hiatus in a quest to claim the mantle of law-and-order candidate. Mitchell’s execution occurred during the GOP’s convention week.
In a statement, Mitchell’s lawyers said the execution ‘added another chapter to its long history of injustices against Native American people.’
The Federal Death Penalty Act allows tribes to decide whether to subject their citizens to capital punishment for a set of major crimes involving Native Americans on Native land. Nearly all, including the Navajo Nation, have said no. The Justice Department charged Mitchell with carjacking resulting in death, which fell outside that provision of the law.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez offered prayers Wednesday to both the victims’ and Mitchell’s family.
He blasted the federal government for ignoring the tribe’s decision to not accept the death penalty.
‘We don’t expect federal officials to understand our strongly held traditions of clan relationship, keeping harmony in our communities, and holding life sacred,’ he said in a statement. ‘What we do expect, no, what we demand, is respect for our People, for our Tribal Nation, and we will not be pushed aside any longer.’
Carl Slater was among Navajo leaders hopeful Mitchell’s sentence would be reduced to life in prison. Navajo culture teaches that all life is sacred.
Navajo Nation (pictured), 13 other tribes and Mitchell’s lawyers have asked Trump for clemency saying the death penalty violates Navajo culture and sovereignty
Auska Mitchell holds a photograph of his nephew Lezmond Mitchell. Tribal sovereignty means Native Americans govern tribal land but the Major Crimes Act gives the federal government jurisdiction over certain major crimes
‘I’m incredibly fearful for all the relationships between Indian Country and the U.S. government, that this will set the precedent that any voice our governments give to our people and our collective citizens will be disregarded, ignored,’ Slater said after Mitchell died. ‘And, ultimately, the federal government will do whatever it pleases to Indian peoples.’
CRIMINAL JURISDICTION ON TRIBAL LAND:
Tribal sovereignty means Native American governments have the right to govern their own members on tribal land.
If a crime is committed on tribal land, the tribe can prosecute the case and the state has no jurisdiction.
However, when it comes to certain crimes, the federal government has jurisdiction.
This was not the case until the Major Crimes Act was passed in 1885, after a ruling in 1883 where the federal government tried and failed to order the death penalty in a murder case on the Great Sioux Reservation because it didn’t have jurisdiction.
The Act gives the federal government jurisdiction over certain major crimes occurring on tribal territory and by a tribal member against another tribal member, including murder.
But, under the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act, the government cannot pursue capital punishment for a Native American for a crime on tribal land without the tribe’s consent.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
In Mitchell’s case, federal prosecutors successfully pursued the death penalty and were able to go against the wishes of the Navajo because one of his charges was ‘carjacking resulting in death’.
The capital crime is not listed in the Major Crimes Act but is considered to have ‘nationwide applicability’ meaning it can be charged as a federal crime no matter where it takes place across the US.
Death-penalty advocates say the Trump administration’s restart of executions brings justice to victims and families. One woman and 58 men currently are on death row. Many of their executions have been pending for over 20 years.
‘Nearly 19 years after Lezmond Mitchell brutally ended the lives of two people, destroying the lives of many others, justice finally has been served,’ Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
Family and friends described Slim, a school bus driver who was approaching retirement, as gracious, spiritual and well-liked by students on her route.
Attorneys representing some of Slim’s family — including her daughter and Tiffany’s mother, Marlene — said they supported the execution. Marlene Slim spoke against capital punishment at the time of sentencing.
Michael Slim, the grandson and cousin of the victims, is an outlier. Once an advocate of death penalty in the case, he gradually changed his mind and said it should be left up to God.
‘We are all guilty of sin, so it’s not fair for us to condemn someone,’ he said this week. ‘It’s not my job to say ‘we should kill him.’
Mitchell has long maintained that his accomplice, Johnny Orsinger, took the lead in the killings. Orsinger was a juvenile then and couldn’t be sentenced to death. He’s serving a life sentence in Atlanta.
Mitchell, through his attorneys, said he wanted to participate in a traditional way of resolving disputes known as peacemaking that’s meant to restore harmony and balance. But he was not allowed to contact victims’ families under a court order.
Auska Mitchell, Mitchell’s uncle on his maternal side, said he had been praying and burning cedar earlier Wednesday and was heartbroken to hear his nephew died.
‘I hope he gets the peace in death that he didn’t get in life,’ he said. ‘It can’t be peaceful being on death row and probably solitary all the time. That’s no life to live’
None of Mitchell’s family attended the execution.
Among several anti-death penalty protesters at an intersection across the street from the prison was Sister Barbara Battista, who is serving a spiritual adviser to Nelson as he awaits execution.
Nelson and Mitchell were friends, having been on death row together for nearly two decades, she said. Both men and other death row inmates haven’t been holding out much hope that their lives will be spared, Battista added.
‘They are all pretty resigned,’ she said.
Members of Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona demonstrate against the scheduled execution of Mitchell on Wednesday
Prior to this year, the federal government had carried out just three executions since 1963, all of them between 2001 and 2003, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was among them.
The first of the resumed executions was of former white supremacist Daniel Lewis Lee on July 14. Two others, Wesley Purkey and Dustin Honken, were executed later the same week. The victims of all three also included children.
The executions of Christopher Andre Vialva and William Emmett LeCroy are scheduled for late September.
The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, where Mitchell will become the fourth federal inmate executed this year
Other 2020 federal executions:
Daniel Lewis Lee
Daniel Lewis Lee was the first person to be put to death in a federal execution in 17 years
Daniel Lewis Lee, 56, a 46-year-old member of the white supremacist group Aryan Peoples’ Republic, was the first person to be put to death in a federal execution in 17 years at Terre Haute prison in Indiana on July 14.
In 1999, Lee was convicted of the 1996 murder of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, in Arkansas.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Lee’s attorney Morris Moon last year said that his case ‘exemplifies many of the serious flaws in the federal death penalty system.’
In the shocking crime, Lee and the ringleader of the Aryan People’s Republic, Chevie Kehoe, dressed in police raid clothing and lay in wait for Mueller in his home, according to court documents.
When the Muellers returned, Lee and Kehoe overpowered and incapacitated Mueller and his wife.
They then interrogated the couple’s young daughter, Sarah Powell, about where they could find cash, guns, and munitions.
The home invaders found and took roughly $50,000 in cash, guns and ammunition.
After robbing and torturing the victims with a stun gun, prosecutors said Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois Bayou.
Their bodies were found five months after they went missing.
However, Lee’s attorney insisted that ‘Kehoe was alone responsible for the death of the child in this case.’
‘The prosecution witnesses testified that Mr Lee steadfastly refused to harm the child,’ the lawyer said.
On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death.
Kehoe, however, was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences – a disparity that Lee’s attorney said illustrates the ‘grave injustice’ of the federal death penalty.
Lee’s attorney said that during the guilt phase of the trial, the government presented a hair they claimed was microscopically similar to Lee’s as part of the evidence – though DNA later showed that the hair was not from Lee.
The lawyer also argued that the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R), a psychological assessment that was presented to the jury during the penalty phase, is scientifically flawed.
‘Mr. Lee’s jury also never learned critical information about his exceptionally traumatic background,’ the attorney said.
‘Experts have described the physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; neglect; violence; and chronic trauma he suffered throughout his infancy, childhood and adolescence, as ‘devastating’ and ‘simply extraordinary,’ he continued.
Lee remained on death row since his conviction.
Kehoe is imprisoned in Florence High Penitentiary in Fremont County, Colorado.
Wesley Ira Purkey
Wesley Ira Purkey, 67, violently raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl, and then dismembered, burned, and dumped the young girl’s body in a septic pond
Wesley Ira Purkey, 67, was executed on July 16 for kidnapping, raping and killing 16-year-old Jennifer Long before dismembering, burning and then dumping her body in a septic pond in 1998.
On January 22, 1998, Purkey, drove from his home in Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri for a job interview with a plumbing company.
After the interview, Purkey smoked half a rock of crack cocaine and began driving down the street when he passed 16-year-old Jennifer Long, who was walking on the sidewalk.
He pulled over to ask Jennifer if she wanted to ‘party,’ then took her to a liquor store and bought her gin and orange juice.
He then told her needed to go back to his home in Kansas. She asked to be let out of his truck.
Instead, Purkey reached into the glove box, grabbed a boning knife, and placed it under his thigh, making it clear she couldn’t leave.
When they arrived at his home in Lansing, about 30 miles away, Purkey took Jennifer into his basement.
Holding a knife, he ordered her to take her clothes off and lie down on the floor, where he raped her.
After Purkey finished the vile sexual assault, Jennifer told him that she had been a virgin.
Jennifer Long, 16, was a virgin when Purkey raped, murdered and dismembered her
He confessed that he then grew fearful, and as Jennifer tried to escape his house, he grabbed her leg and forced her to the ground.
The two briefly struggled before Purkey became enraged and repeatedly stabbed Jennifer in the chest, neck, and face with the boning knife, eventually breaking its blade inside her body.
When he confessed, he told FBI Agent Dirk Tarpley, ‘it’s not like in the movies. They don’t die right away. It took her a little time to die.’
Purkey dismembered Jennifer’s body with a chainsaw and tried to burn the body parts in his fireplace while his wife and stepchildren were away at work and school.
Nine months after raping and murdering Jennifer Long, Purkey was employed by a plumbing company when he met Mary Ruth Bales, 80, on a service call at her home during the evening of October 26.
Purkey told Bales his employer charged a lot for the job she needed, and he offered to return later to do the work under the table if she would pay him $70 up front.
She paid, and Purkey left, using Bales’s money to hire a prostitute and buy several rocks of crack cocaine the next morning.
Purkey and the prostitute retired to a motel room for several hours, where they had sex and smoked the crack cocaine before driving together to Bales’s house.
Telling the prostitute that someone who lived in the home owed him money, Purkey went inside with a toolbox from his truck and bludgeoned Bales to death in her bedroom with a claw hammer.
Investigators determined that Bales died from blunt force trauma resulting from repeated strikes to her skull with the claw side of the hammer.
On November 5, 2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri found Purkey guilty of kidnapping a child resulting in the child’s death, and he was sentenced to death.
Wesley Ira Purkey was executed Thursday after the Supreme Court voted it could go ahead, after he was granted a delay Wednesday.
Purkey was also convicted of killing 80-year-old Mary Bales (above) with a hammer
Dustin Lee Honken
‘Iowa’s Walter White’ Dustin Lee Honken
Dustin Honken, 52, dubbed ‘Iowa’s Walter White’ after he went from being a nerdy chemistry student to a methamphetamine kingpin and murderer, became the third to be executed this year on July 17.
Honken was sentenced to death in 2004 for the brutal 1993 slayings of five people including two little girls aged 10 and six and government informants.
Honken shot and killed five people—two men who planned to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters.
In 1993, Honken was operating a methamphetamine lab in Arizona when one of the two dealers he used for distribution, Greg Nicholson, was pinched by police and turned informant, according to court documents.
Honken was arrested on state drug charges, but made bond. Once free, he began a desperate hunt for Nicholson, who went into hiding by staying with Lori Duncan, a single mother raising her two girls, 10-year-old Kandi and six-year-old Amber.
On July 25, 1993, Nicholson, Duncan, Kandi, and Amber suddenly disappeared.
Five days later, Honken appeared for his plea hearing, but declined to plead guilty.
Honken told his attorney he heard a rumor Nicholson had skipped town. Honken also provided his attorney with a VHS tape of Nicholson saying Honken was not guilty of the charges against him.
The government turned its attention to the other possible witness against Honken: his other dealer, Terry DeGeus.
Honken was also convicted of murdering his meth distributors, Gregory Nicholson (left) and Terry DeGeus (right), who were scheduled to testify against him
DeGeus disappeared on November 5, 1993.
After another informant wore a wire and caught Honken referencing eliminating the witnesses against him, Honken’s bail was revoked.
While incarcerated, Honken admitted to other inmates he killed witnesses to avoid earlier charges. Honken went into great detail about the murders.
Using prison informants, investigators discovered the bodies of Nicholson and the Duncan family, buried in a single hole located in a wooded area outside Mason City.
Kandi and Amber each had a single bullet hole in the back of their heads.
Nicholson and Duncan were bound, gagged, and shot multiple times, including once in the head.
DeGeus’s body was found in a field a few miles away, face down in a shallow hole with a severely fragmented skull having been shot one or more times.
On October 14, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa found Honken guilty of numerous offenses, including five counts of murder during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced to death.
Keith Dwayne Nelson
Nelson, 45, kidnapped 10-year-old Pamela Butler on October 12, 1999. She was rollerblading in front of her home when he approached her.
He then took her into a forest behind a church, raped her and strangled her to death with a wire.
A witness who saw Nelson grab Pamela was able to get his license plate, but he managed to get away.
Keith Dwayne Nelson (left), 45, kidnapped 10-year-old Pamela Butler (right) on October 12, 1999. She was rollerblading in front of her home when he approached her.
Nelson was arrested two days later on the bank of the Kansas River.
Pamela’s strangled body was found later in a wooded area in Grain Valley, Missouri.
On October 25, 2001, Nelson plead guilty in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri to the kidnapping and unlawful interstate transportation of a child for the purpose of sexual abuse which resulted in death.
He was sentenced to death. Nelson’s execution is scheduled to occur on August 28, 2020.
Christopher Andre Vialva
Christopher Andre Vialva, 39, from Texas, is on federal death row for the brutal murders of an Iowa pastor and his wife in 1999.
Vialva, 19 at the time, his accomplice Brandon Bernard, now 39, and others, kidnapped Todd and Stacey Bagley during a carjacking and drove around Bell County with them locked in the trunk for about six hours while using the couple’s ATM cards.
Vialva drove the car to a secluded area of Fort Hood, opened the trunk and shot Stacey in the head.
He then shot Todd and ordered his accomplices to pour lighter fluid in the trnk and car.
Bernard set the car alight.
Todd and Stacey Bagley, murdered by Christopher Andre Vialva
Stacey had survived the shooting and died from smoke inhalation.
Vialva was sentenced to death for the carjacking that resulted in death, the murder of Todd and conspiracy to commit murder or attempted murder of Stacey.
Bernard was sentenced to death for the murder of Stacey’s murder.
They were sentenced to death in Waco’s federal district court.
They were tried in federal court because the murders happened on Fort Hood.
Vialva is scheduled to be executed on September 24.
William Emmett LeCroy
William Emmett LeCroy is on death row for the rape and murder of Joann Lee Tiesler, a 30-year-old nurse, in 2001.
LeCroy broke into Tiesler’s home in Gilmer County, Georgia, and lay in wait for her to return.
He then attacked her, bound her, strangled her with an electrical cord, and raped her.
LeCroy, who had a long rap sheet before the murder, then slashed his victim’s throat and stabbed her in the back five times.
He made off with Tiesler’s vehicle and fled to the Canadian border, where he was arrested.
In March 2004, he was found guilty of carjacking resulting in death and sentenced to death.
LeCroy’s execution is scheduled for September 22.
William Emmett LeCroy is on death row for the rape and murder of Joann Lee Tiesler (pictured), a 30-year-old nurse, in 2001