Death row inmate Ledell Lee executed by lethal injection

Ledell Lee was sentenced to death in 1995 after being convicted of killing 26-year-old Debra Reese. (Photo courtesy: Arkansas Department of Corrections)

Death row inmate Ledell Lee was executed by way of lethal injection just before midnight Thursday.

The lethal injection drugs were administered at 11:44 p.m. and a coroner pronounced Lee dead at 11:56 p.m.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections says he did not make a final statement. Media witnesses report Lee was asked twice to make a statement and declined both times.

Lee was sentenced to death in 1995 after being convicted of killing 26-year-old Debra Reese by beating her with a tire iron and strangling her inside her Jacksonville home.

DNA from Reese's case also linked Lee to four other cases of women raped and beaten, all in Jacksonville's Sunnyside neighborhood.

His death marks Arkansas' first execution since 2005, when Eric Nance was executed after being found guilty of killing an 18-year-old Malvern woman.

Governor spokesperson J.R. Davis talked with Governor Asa Hutchinson following the execution and says the governor reported being somber while feeling he gave Reese's family closure.

The Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman says Lee took communion instead of having a last meal.

Lee's execution was delayed several times Thursday night as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court considered stays of execution Lee issued.

As the state of Arkansas awaited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, anti-death penalty protesters held a candlelight vigil outside of the governor's mansion.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued the following statement following Lee's execution:

“Tonight the lawful sentence of a jury which has been upheld by the courts through decades of challenges has been carried out. The family of the late Debra Reese, who was brutally murdered with a tire thumper after being targeted because she was home alone, has waited more than 24 years to see justice done. I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family.”

Lee was one of two inmates set to be executed Thursday night.

The Arkansas Supreme Court denied the attorney general's motion to reconsider its stay on Johnson's execution. Rutledge said she would not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday.

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