South Dakota executes man for murder of girl



Sioux Falls (US): A South Dakota inmate was executed for the 1990 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl who disappeared after leaving her home to buy sugar at a nearby store so she could make lemonade.

Donald Moeller, 60, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, marking South Dakota's second execution this month in an unusual surge for a state that has carried out just two other death sentences since 1913.

When asked if he had any last words, Moeller replied, "No sir," and then said, "They're my fan club?"

Moeller then was administered a lethal injection at 10:01 pm. He took about eight heavy breaths before the breathing stopped and Moeller turned slightly pink.

Moeller's eyes remained open, and his skin turned ashen, then purple. The coroner checked for vital signs, and Moeller was pronounced dead at 10:24 pm.

Moeller kidnapped Becky O'Connell from a Sioux Falls convenience store, where she'd gone to buy sugar to make lemonade at home. He drove her to a secluded area near the Big Sioux River, then raped and stabbed the girl. Her naked body was found the next day; investigators said her throat had been slashed.

Becky's mother, Tina Curl, has been steadfast in her wish to watch Moeller die, even raising funds to cover the expenses to make the 2,250-kilometer trip from her home in New York state to Sioux Falls for the execution.

After the execution, she showed pictures of Becky at 9 followed by a framed artist's rending of what she would have looked like at 32.

Her husband, Dave Curl, said Moeller will never hurt another child.

"We despise that so-called man," he said. "The death of Donald Moeller is not going to give us closure."

Moeller initially was convicted in 1992, but the state Supreme Court overturned it, ruling that improper evidence was used at trial. He was again convicted and sentenced to die in 1997. The state Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, and Moeller lost appeals on both the state and federal levels.

Though he fought his conviction and sentence for years, Moeller in July said he was ready to accept death as the consequence of his actions. He admitted for the first time in court that he killed the girl.

"I killed. I deserve to be killed," he said.

But even as Moeller insisted he was ready to die, several motions were filed on his behalf to stop the execution despite his protests.

PTI