TERRE HAUTE, Indiana – On Tuesday, the US government executed a former soldier who said a mania for witchcraft led him to kill a nurse in Georgia who he believed had cast a spell on him.
William Emmett LeCroy, 50, was pronounced dead at 9:06 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection at the same U.S. prison in Terre Hout, Indiana, where five others were executed in 2020 after a 17-year period without federal execution.
Lawyers have asked President Donald Trump in a petition to commute LeCroy’s sentence to life in prison, saying LeCroy’s brother, Georgia̵
The execution began nearly three hours later than planned, as LeCroy’s lawyers eventually made an unsuccessful last-minute offer to persuade the US Supreme Court to issue a stay.
As a curtain rose through glass windows separating witnesses from the death chamber, LeCroy lay chained to a cruciform cart, with an IV in his forearms and arms. He kept his eyes on the ceiling without turning to look at witnesses. Witnesses include Joan Lee Teesler’s father and fiancé, who was raped and stabbed to death by LeCroy 19 years ago, Justice Ministry spokesman Kerry Coupez said in a statement.
LeCroy’s spiritual advisor, Sister Barbara Batista, stood a few feet from the room, her head bowed and reading quietly from a prayer book.
LeCroy had said last week that he did not want to play in what he called a “theater” around his execution and therefore may not make a full statement in the minutes before his death, Batista told the Associated Press earlier on Tuesday.
When a prison officer leaned over him on Tuesday night and carefully removed LeCroy’s mask to ask if he had any last words, LeCroy replied calmly and factually. His last and only words were, “Sister Batista will receive my last statement at the post office.”
LeCroy kept his eyes open when someone out of sight in an adjoining room began giving a lethal injection of pentobarbital. His eyelids became heavy as his middle part began to shrink uncontrollably. After a few more minutes, the color drained from his limbs, his face turned ashen and his lips blue. After about 10 minutes, an employee with a stethoscope entered the camera, felt LeCroy’s wrist for a pulse, and then listened to his heart before officially declaring him dead.
Christopher Vialva’s next execution is scheduled for Thursday. He will be the first African-American in the federal death sentence sentenced to death by a series of federal executions this year.
Critics say the resumption of federal executions by the Justice Department this year is a cynical attempt to help Trump claim the candidate’s fireplace for law and order by election day. Supporters say Trump has long brought justice to the victims and their families.
LeCroy stormed Cherrylog, Georgia, the home of Joan Lee Teesler’s mountain home on October 7, 2001, and waited for her to return from a shopping trip. As she walked through the door, LeCroy hit her with a rifle, tied her up and raped her. He then slit her throat and stabbed her several times in the back.
LeCroy knew Tiesler because she lived near a relative’s home and often waved to her as he passed. He later told investigators that he would begin to believe that she may have been his old babysitter, whom he called Tinkerbell, whom LeCroy claims harassed as a child. After killing Tisler, he realizes that this cannot be true.
Two days after Tiesler’s murder, LeCroy was arrested while driving a Tiesler truck after passing a U.S. checkpoint in Minnesota and heading for Canada.
Authorities found a note LeCroy had written before his arrest asking for forgiveness from Tisler, according to court cases. “You were an angel and I killed you,” it said.
“Today, justice has finally been done. “William Lecroy died a peaceful death in stark contrast to the horror he inflicted on my daughter John,” said the victim’s father, Tom Teessler.
“I do not know that he has ever shown remorse for his evil actions, his criminal life or the horrible burden he has inflicted on Joan’s relatives,” the statement said.
A few hours before the execution, Batista, waiting near the prison, was holding a bag of caramel chocolate, which she thought was LeCroy’s favorite. In conversations with him in the days before the execution, she said that he had considered his probable death and sounded resigned.
“He said, ‘You know, we weren’t once, and then we were, and then we weren’t,'” she said. “He was reflective. He didn’t look excited.”
LeCroy joined the army at 17, but was soon fired to go to AWOL and later spoke of an interest in witchcraft that began during a previous prison term for burglary, child abuse and other charges.
For days before the murder, he had been thinking about how Tisler was Tinkerbell and that if she was attacked, he would turn the hex she had put on him. After cutting her throat, he went to Tiesler’s computer to look for books on witchcraft, the lawsuit said.
He was convicted in 2004 on federal charges of theft that led to his death, and jurors recommended the death penalty.
LeCroy’s lawyers have tried unsuccessfully to stop the execution, arguing that his trial lawyers did not properly emphasize the evidence of his upbringing and mental health that could have persuaded jurors not to impose the death penalty. Their last-minute appeal to the US Supreme Court was also rejected.
In the previous 56 years, before the Trump administration restarted this year, the federal government executed only three people – all in the early 2000s. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was among them.