The state of Mississippi is set to execute Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. on Wednesday, December 14 for the 2000 kidnap, rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. The Associated Press reports on a judge’s ruling allowing the state to move forward with Loden’s execution despite his pending lawsuit challenging the state’s three-drug protocol. As detailed in a 2013 federal District Court decision denying Loden’s claims on habeas corpus; on the evening of June 22, 2020 witnesses saw Lodin flirting with sixteen-year-old Leesa Marie Gray while she was working in her family’s restaurant in Dorsey, Mississippi. At about 10:30 PM Lodin spotted Ms. Gray’s car on the side of a rural road with a flat tire. Initially, he offered to help her, but eventually forced her into this van and drove to his grandmother’s remote farm. “Over the course of the next few hours, he raped her numerous times and battered her sexually, videotaping portions of the abuse, before suffocating and strangling her to death inside of the van. He then pushed her nude, bound body under a fold-out seat in his van, went inside his grandmother’s house, and fell asleep.”
Based on interviews with witnesses at the restaurant, police visited the farmhouse. Incriminating evidence found in the farmhouse led to a countywide search for Loden. He was arrested two days later and Ms. Gray’s body was found in Loden’s van. Police also found a video camera with footage of the rape and torture of Ms. Gray. After a mental health examination by several doctors found Loden competent to stand trial, and in the face of overwhelming evidence, Loden pled guilty to all charges seventeen days before his trial. Following his conviction and death sentence Loden’s attorneys filed multiple claims of trial error, incompetence of his trial attorney and his alleged mental health problems in an effort to overturn his sentence. Every court that reviewed these claims rejected them.
It is unfortunate that it has taken twenty-one years complete the review of such a gruesome crime.