A man has been executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary almost 20 years after orchestrating the brutal assault and robbery of his co-worker at a Tulsa convenience store.
Michael Lee Wilson, 38, was convicted in the killing of Richard Yost, 30, who aspired to one day manage the Quiktrip store. Wilson, who was convicted of first-degree murder, was the third person executed for the February 25, 1995, crime; the fourth defendant is serving a life term.
Prison spokesman Jerry Massie said Wilson’s time of death was 6:06 p.m. Wilson gave brief remarks twice – at first saying, ‘I love everybody,’ then speaking up again after Warden Anita Trammel ordered the execution to begin.
‘I love the world,’ he said. ‘Love my daughters for me. I’m going to miss you always.’
Within 20 seconds of the execution starting, Wilson’s final words were, ‘I feel my whole body burning.’ He showed no physical signs of distress.
Wilson’s sister, Staci Wilson, sang a hymn throughout the execution, including the line, ‘His soul is resting and it’s a blessing.’ When he was pronounced dead, she recited Psalm 23.
After the execution, Wilson’s mother, Patricia Taylor, stood to capture a final look at her son on the gurney as a curtain began to close, blocking her view. Wilson’s fiancee sobbed beside her.
Earlier in the day, he ate his last meal, which consisted of a stuffed-crust pizza with parmesan cheese as a final meal, along with a Cherry Dr Pepper, a pomegranate and cherry mash candy.
Yost’s family denied an interview request but issued a statement noting the third of three executions was behind them.
‘Closure will be not hearing this on the news and reading about it in the paper,’ the family said in a statement issued by Angela Houser-Yost, Yost’s widow. ‘That is my closure – not to relive his death over and over but to remember the good times.’
Before the crime, the men loitered nearly an hour while waiting for customers to leave. Once they were gone, they struck Yost with an aluminum baseball bat 54 times in 131 seconds. They jostled a safe while removing it, but Wilson posed as Yost when a security company called to check an alarm.
And to dampen suspicions among middle-of-the-night customers, Wilson put on Yost’s uniform and worked the cash register as Yost lay dying in a pool of blood, beer and milk behind the cooler doors.
The state Board of Pardon and Parole last month rejected Wilson’s clemency request on a four to one vote. Ahead of the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller told the panel that Wilson knew Yost had to die so he couldn’t identify his robbers.
Police trailed Wilson after he didn’t show up for work later that day and stopped all four men in a car about 14 hours after the crime. They carried multiple rolls of $5 bills and had pairs of Nike Air tennis shoes with the price tags still attached.
Wilson told officers that the four had planned for two weeks to rob and kill Yost, and a week before the killing even Yost knew something was up: He asked a police officer to increase patrols in the area because he believed Wilson and his friends intended to rob him
The assault was captured on the store’s surveillance system – video of Wilson stuffing money in his pockets and audio of the bat striking Yost as he pleaded for mercy.
‘The repeated sounds of the baseball bat striking Mr Yost and Mr Yost’s screams will never leave my mind,’ Tulsa Assistant District Attorney James D. Dunn wrote to the parole board. Dunn was a bailiff during the defendants’ preliminary hearings in 1995.
Yost, 30, had worked at the store three months.
In small talk 14 minutes before the assault began, Wilson asked Yost what kind of future he thought he had with the company. According to a summary of the case by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Yost told Wilson of his desire to manage the store some day.
Wilson, who was 19 at the time of the killing, laughed at Yost’s answer, and then replied, ‘For real?’
Darwin Brown, 32, was executed in January 2009, and Billy Don Alverson, 39, was executed in January 2011. The fourth defendant, Richard Harjo, who was 16 at the time of the crime and is now 35, was sentenced to life in prison.
Wilson will be the 192nd person executed by the state of Oklahoma since statehood; 52 will remain on death row after Wilson’s death. He is the first to be executed in the state in 2014.
SOURCE: The Associated Press