State high court schedules execution date for Thomas Edwin Loden

In this May 25, 2022, photo released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections is Thomas...
In this May 25, 2022, photo released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections is Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. The Mississippi attorney general's office is asking the state to set an execution date for Loden, now 58. The former U.S. Marine Corps recruiter was convicted in the 2000 rape and killing of a 16-year-old waitress, and has been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery.(Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 1:53 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has scheduled an execution date for a man convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old waitress in 2000.

Pending a stay, Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr., will be put to death on Wednesday, December 14, at 6 p.m., central standard time, or within 24 hours of that date, the court ruled.

“After due consideration, the court finds that Loden has exhausted all state and federal remedies for the purposes of setting an execution date under Mississippi Code,” Chief Justice Michael Randolph wrote. “Accordingly, the court finds that the state’s motion to set execution date should be granted.”

The ruling comes weeks after the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office asked the high court to set an execution date. Loden, now 58, has been on death row since 2001, after he pleaded guilty to capital murder and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray.

Gray, a teen at the time, disappeared after leaving her family’s northern Itawamba County restaurant. Her body was found the next day in Loden’s van.

That happened on June 22, 2000. Court records found on the Justia Law website state that Loden kidnapped the 16-year-old and “over the next four hours... repeatedly raped and sexually battered Leesa, videotaping portions of the sadistic acts, before murdering her by way of suffocation and manual strangulation.”

He waived his right to a trial by jury in September of the following year.

Loden will be the first person executed in the state since David Neal Cox, who was put to death last November.

Cox was the first person executed in Mississippi since 2012, after he sent a hand-written letter to the Supreme Court saying he wanted to end all of his appeals.

“The Attorney General’s Office has the responsibility of ensuring the faithful performance of the laws of the state, which have culminated in the Supreme Court’s order of this execution,” said AG Chief of Staff Michelle Williams. “Beyond that, out of respect for the families of the victim and the condemned, we will not comment.”

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