Wilcher finally executed after 24 years

Published 2:53 pm Thursday, October 19, 2006

The families of the women Bobby Glen Wilcher stabbed to death nearly a quarter century ago said Wednesday’s execution was “long overdue.”

Joe Rigby, the nephew of Katie Belle Moore, said Wilcher’s death brought relief and closure. Rigby was the coroner who worked the brutal crime scene at the time of his aunt’s death. He was one of the family members who witnessed Wilcher’s death by lethal injection at the sprawling penitentiary at Parchman.

“The families of Katie Moore and Odell Noblin are relieved this day has finally come,” Rigby said. “We feel that the execution of Bobby Wilcher is long overdue. For everyone involved, we hope this will bring closure.”

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The families got no confession, no apology and no expression of remorse from the inmate who spent 24 years on death row.

Asked if he had final words, Wilcher said: “I have none.”

Wilcher’s death at 6:42 p.m. came two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene as it did on his first execution date in July.

A sedated Wilcher took two deep breaths Wednesday and then closed his eyes. He had been given Valium before the needle with lethal chemicals was put in his arm. Dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, the 5-foot 10-inch, 315-pound inmate stared at the ceiling. He did not look in the direction of either viewing room — one that held the families of his victims and the other his attorney, Cliff Johnson, who had visited with Wilcher most of the day.

Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps described Wilcher as in a “quiet mood” throughout the day before being strapped to the death chamber gurney.

“Despite the needless delay caused by the U.S. Supreme Court, justice has finally been rendered for these horrible crimes,” Gov. Haley Barbour said in a statement. “The real tragedy in this case is that justice was delayed for more than two decades.”

Wilcher had spent his final hours visiting with his attorney, a spiritual adviser and one friend.

“The cause of justice has championed over wrong,” Epps said after the execution.

Wilcher’s last meal of shrimp, onion rings, garlic bread, sodas and strawberry milkshakes was moved up to 12:40 p.m. to allow him to spend more time with his visitors, Epps said.

Wilcher was sentenced to death for killing Moore and Velma Odell Noblin in Scott County. After meeting them at a Forest bar, Wilcher persuaded the women to drive him home and diverted them down a deserted road. Their blood-soaked bodies were found sprawled along the muddy banks of the dirt road. Authorities said each woman had been stabbed and slashed more than 20 times.

Wilcher’s case has gone through two trials, two re-sentencing hearings and countless appeals.

He came within minutes of death on July 11 before the Supreme Court ordered a stay. But, the court declined without comment to hear the case on Oct. 2, and his attorney began pushing the case back through the lower courts.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate on Saturday declined to stop the execution.

Wilcher in May had asked Wingate to stop his appeals and go forward with the execution. Wingate granted the request but about a month later Wilcher asked that his appeals be reinstated. Wingate declined, saying he would not allow his court to be held “hostage” by a death row inmate.

Wilcher appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court on Tuesday refused to stop the execution. On Wednesday, Johnson asked the U.S. Supreme Court to again intervene. The court declined.

Epps said Wilcher did not request that any of his family members witness the death. His father is deceased and his mother is imprisoned at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County for drug possession, Epps said.

Wilcher’s witnesses for the execution included his attorney and a paralegal.

Barbour denied Wilcher clemency before the first scheduled execution. After the July execution was halted, Barbour said in a statement that the “only injustice here is that 24 years have already passed since this murderer earned the death penalty.”

Mississippi’s most recent execution before this was in December, when John B. Nixon Sr. died by lethal injection for the 1985 contract killing of Virginia Tucker of Brandon.