Loden pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m., coroner states

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 11:58 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than two decades after he snuffed out the life of a 16-year-old waitress in Itawamba County, Thomas Loden Jr. is dead.

Loden was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. by Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton.

In his final few minutes, Loden expressed his remorse for the actions that landed him on death row.

“I’d like a brief moment to express to the Gray family and anyone else I hurt how deeply remorseful I am for everything I did. I know I these are mere words and cannot erase the damage I did.”

“For the last 20 years, I’ve tried to do a good deed every single day to make up for the [life] that I took for this world,” he added. “If nothing else, I hope you get peace and closure.”

His final words were inaudible in the witness room but were said to be “I love you” in Japanese.

“He told us during the tie down process, him being restrained, he was going to express his remorse and say, ‘I love you’ to his loved ones in Japanese,” said Mississippi Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner of Institutions Jeworski Mallett.

Commissioner Burl Cain told the media that the execution went as normal as could be expected.

“There was a normal process, as far as you can call it normal,” Cain said. “He went to sleep. So, he closed his eyes and did what normally people do in the situation. His breath got short, and he passed away.”

“No glitch, no problems. The chemicals did their job,” Cain added.

Loden was executed via lethal injection. A three-drug cocktail was used to put him to sleep and eventually stop his heart.

The 58-year-old inmate was said to be in good spirits in the hours prior to his death.

“He has eaten his last meal. Right now, the chaplain is there. The preacher is with him right now,” Cain said in a briefing prior to the execution. “He was really up in good spirits. He has a full belly because he ate a lot.”

“The okra was good. He liked the okra, liked the pork chops, liked the cobbler, and I doggone believe he ate every bit of it,” Cain said.

Parchman Superintendent Marc McClure spent much of the day with the former Marine Corps recruiter. “He was genuinely concerned about what he had done [and] ready to do what he had do to,” he said. “He was accepting [and] is in good spirits considering what is about to happen.”

Loden has been on death row since 2001 after being convicted in the 2000 rape and murder of Leesa Gray, a 16-year-old waitress who had just left work at her family’s restaurant.

Cain said Gray’s mother, Wanda Farris, was present at the execution. She did not speak at the press briefing afterward.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that he would not block the state from carrying out Loden’s execution even though the inmate is currently suing over Mississippi’s use of the drugs used in lethal injections.

Gray disappeared on June 22, 2000, after leaving her family’s northern Itawamba County restaurant. Her body was found the next day in Loden’s van.

Court records state that Loden kidnapped the teenager 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.”

Mississippi’s most recent execution of David Neal Cox, which occurred in November of 2021, followed a 9-year gap in executions in the state. Since the year 1983, 22 people have been executed in Mississippi.

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