LUCASVILLE, OHIO - Ronald Phillips was executed inside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Wednesday morning, marking the state's first execution in over three years.
Phillips died before witnesses on behalf of his family, his victim's family and the media, including WKYC's Monica Robins, at 10:43 a.m. There were no complications.
Media witness Alan Johnson said Phillips appeared calm and "normal" as he died. But Phillips' defense attorneys claim the rapid administration of one of the drugs may have covered up any potential signs of struggle during his death. They also urged the state to reconsider its laws on capital punishment, given Phillips' age (19) at the time of the crime.
Executions in Ohio took a hiatus following the controversial botched execution of Dennis McGuire in 2014. McGuire was given a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. It is believed midazolam prolonged McGuire's death, which lasted 26 minutes as witnesses say he choked and his stomach heaved. However, there was no proof that McGuire felt any pain as he died.
Three and a half years and eight delays later, the state and U.S. Supreme Court ruled the use of midazolam is constitutional. Phillips was given a trio of drugs, including midazolam.
Phillips was convicted for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's daughter, 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans in Akron.
Phillips' first execution date was scheduled for Nov. 14, 2013. That was delayed due to Phillips' request to donate his organs.
McGuire's botched execution further halted Phillips' death eight times until June, when a U.S. appeals court lifted an injunction against executions in Ohio.
Phillips ate a final special meal of a pizza with bell pepper and mushroom, strawberry cheesecake, unleavened bread, grape juice and Pepsi on Tuesday night. He refused breakfast Wednesday morning, but used the unleavened bread and juice to take communion around 8:39 a.m.
Prison officials say Phillips spent Tuesday night praying and reading from his Bible. He fell asleep around 11:46 p.m. and awoke around 5:56 a.m. Wednesday. Officials say he became emotional during visits with a friend and his spiritual advisors in the hours prior to his death. He also met with his brother, William, in the hour before his death.
Phillips underwent three vein assessments beginning at 12:48 p.m. Tuesday and ending at 9:03 a.m. Wednesday. His veins were deemed palpable and accessible during all three examinations.
Prison officials say there were approximately 16 protesters outside the facility about a half hour before the execution.
Phillips' final statement was: "To the Evans family, I'm sorry you had to live so long with my evil actions. All those years, I prayed you'd forgive me and find it in your heart to forgive and have mercy on me. Sheila Marie did not deserve what I did to her. I know she is with the Lord and she suffers no more. I'm sorry to each and every one of you that you lived with this pain all those years. To my family, thank you for your support and faithfulness. Glory be to the lamb. Amen. I love you all, God bless you. Thank you."
Sheila Evans' aunt, Donna Hudson, and half sister, Renee Mundell, were in attendance for the execution.
"God forgave him, but I don't think I can," Hudson said.
"This is the first time in 24 years that I've seen any remorse in this man," Mundell added. "...There was nothing until today."
The two said they'll never forget Sheila, but are relieved to finally see closure.
"There's no reason for our family to have to wait 24 years," Mundell said. "We fought and we lived with it for 24 years, and we'll live with it for the rest of our lives."
See what Monica Robins had to say after the execution in the video below:
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