Death row inmate Billy Ray Irick died at 7:48 p.m. CDT Thursday after Tennessee prison officials administered a lethal dose of toxic chemicals, reported The Tennessean.
His execution, the first in Tennessee since 2009, comes after his 1986 conviction in Knox County for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer.
Witnesses to the execution included members of Paula's family, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones, Tennessee Deputy Attorney General Scott Sutherland, Irick's attorney Gene Shiles and seven members of the media.
Irick is the 133rd person put to death by Tennessee since 1916. Before Irick, all but six executions occurred before 1961.
Moments before officials began administering the fatal doses, Irick, held down by straps over his chest and arms, muttered his final words: "I just want to say I'm really sorry. And that ... that's it."
The execution began later than scheduled. The blinds to the execution room lifted at 7:26 p.m., 16 minutes later than expected.
Irick, with nearly shoulder-length hair, a scraggly beard and dressed in a white prison jumpsuit and black socks, was coughing, choking and gasping for air. His face turned dark purple as the lethal drugs took over.
"I never thought for one moment that it would come to this," Shiles said inside the prison before the execution began. "I never did."
Witnesses entered the execution viewing chamber at 6:43 p.m., where prison officials turned out the lights until the blinds to the glass were lifted.
"I’m here first and foremost for the victim Paula Dyer and for the citizens of Knox County, the same citizens that convicted him and sentenced him to death," Jones said. "I wanted to hear some more from him. You’re always looking for that explanation.”
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Shiles and Sutherland left the viewing room at 7:12 p.m., presumably to go into the execution chamber and observe Irick's IV being administered.
When the two men returned to the observation room around 7:25 p.m., Shiles told witnesses that he kissed Irick and touched him.
Moments later, after the blinds lifted and Irick made his statement, the administration of a combination of powerful and deadly drugs commenced.
Family members of Paula watched in a separate room off the execution chamber that was visible to other witnesses, including the media witnesses. One man leaned up close to the glass and bit his nail. A woman had her face pressed almost to the window.
First the executioner injected Irick with midazolam, a drug intended to render Irick unconscious.
After Riverbend Warden Tony Mays determined Irick was unconscious, the executioner injected vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, drugs intended to stop Irick's lungs and heart.
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