Missouri executes man despite clemency plea from daughter - KCTV5

Missouri executes man despite clemency plea from daughter

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Richard Strong, 48, was executed June 9, 2015 Richard Strong, 48, was executed June 9, 2015
JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Alyshia Strong was effectively left an orphan 14 years ago when her father killed her mother and half-sister during a violent argument in a St. Louis County apartment. Still, the girl urged Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to spare his life.

Richard Strong, 48, executed Tuesday night after Nixon denied the clemency request. His final meal was fried chicken, cheeseburger and doughnuts.

Eva Washington and her 2-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Zandrea Thomas, were found stabbed to death on Oct. 23, 2000, in her apartment in St. Ann. A large butcher knife was on a bed next to a pool of blood. Alyshia, then just 3 months old, also was on the bed but unharmed.

Alyshia, now 14, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that she has forgiven her father. They visited frequently at the prison in Potosi. She said her father played an important role in counseling her.

"He's always been with me," she said. "He's the only surviving parent I have, and I struggle in life. To see my father live would help me."

The man's clemency petition was rejected by Nixon and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeals, including one that he shouldn't be executed because he suffers from severe depression.

Strong is remorseful for the crime, his attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said before the execution. She said that both he and Washington suffered from mental illness and frequently argued.

"It wasn't a healthy relationship," Herndon said. "He just snapped."

Alyshia Strong went to live with Strong's mother after the killings, a woman Alyshia now refers to as "Mama," the clemency petition said.

Alyshia said in the petition that she asked the governor to spare her father because she thinks "it is wrong for me to have another loss. I understand that my father needs to face consequences and to pay for what he did, but I do not think it is right for me to lose my father as part of the punishment."

She recalled in the petition when she told Strong about a fight she was involved in. He was disappointed to learn of the fight and "also told me that he thought I could find other ways of dealing with my problems — ways that did not include fighting," Alyshia wrote.

"My father told me that I should stay clear of the drama at school, and stay focused on the books, not the people. I listened to my father's advice, and I can honestly say that I had less drama in my school year than I would have if I had not listened to my father."

Nixon issued the following statement after refusing to stop the execution.

After a final briefing from my counsel and a comprehensive review by my office, I have denied the petition for clemency from convicted murderer Richard Strong. Each request is considered and decided on its own merit and set of facts, and this is a process and a power of the Governor I do not take lightly.

The murders of Eva Washington and her two-year-old daughter, Zandrea Thomas, were very brutal, with each of the victims being stabbed multiple times. The jury found that these murders warranted the death penalty, and my denial of clemency upholds the jury's decision.

I ask that the people of Missouri remember victims Eva Washington and Zandrea Thomas, and keep them and their families in their thoughts and prayers.

The execution was the fourth in Missouri this year and the 16th since November 2013. Only Texas, with eight, has had more. Missouri and Texas tied for the most executions in the U.S. last year with 10 each.

Petrina Thomas, the victim's aunt, issued the following statement after the execution:

On behalf of the Thomas family, we would like to thank the state of Missouri for finally providing our family with closure of the horrific death of my niece and her mom.

For 14 years, we have impatiently waited for this day to come. It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree; the wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone. The reality is we will grieve forever.

We will not get over the loss of our loved ones, and we will learn to live with it. We will heal, and we will rebuild around the loss that we have suffered. We will never be the same again.

He had a chance to watch his daughter grow up and laugh and smile with her. We never got a chance to see her first day of school, graduations, or watch her go on prom. My brother will never get a chance to walk his daughter down the aisle for her wedding day. Human life has dignity at any age. Nothing can justify the shedding of innocent blood or the taking of lives.

You must take 100 percent responsibility for your choices and your actions, and pay with your own life. Revelation 21:4 reads: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

We are at peace now and so glad that it is finally over. Thank you.

Strong's final words were: "Jehovah-jireh, you're my provider. Your grace is sufficient for me. Forgive me for my sin. Abba-Abba, take my soul in your hands."

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