An Oklahoma man convicted of killing his wife with help from a relative of his mistress to collect insurance money was put to death by injection Thursday.
Timothy Shaun Stemple shook his head no when asked if he had any last words, as members of his family and his wife's sat separately from each other watching the condemned man through glass.
The 46-year-old Stemple gasped for about 20 seconds, his eyes opened and he groaned. He then laid still with closed eyes and his face turned pale. He was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m.
His family had asked the governor to stay the execution so that medical testimony disputing his accomplice's account of the 1996 attack on Trisha Stemple could be heard in court. Stemple's mother, his 21-year-old daughter and his sisters held each other by their hands and arms as he was being put to death. One of his sisters held his crying daughter's face close to hers.
Afterward, Trisha Stemple's sister, Deborah Ruddick-Bird, said the day was not about Timothy Stemple. She said it was "about justice, finality and closure for my gorgeous sister, Trisha, and my family."
"Today we put a period at the end of the chapter that held us captive for far too long," Ruddick-Bird told reporters. "Today we breathe again. Today we move forward and move on."
Trisha Stemple, 30, was beaten with a plastic-covered baseball bat and run over by a pickup truck Oct. 24, 1996, along a Tulsa highway. Her husband maintained his innocence throughout the trial and appeals process. And at a clemency hearing last month, he declined to address Pardon and Parole Board members.
The board denied his plea for clemency.
"The state of Oklahoma murdered an innocent man today," his mother, Lia Stemple, told The Associated Press by phone after the execution. "I don't want vengeance but I want the truth to be known so this doesn't happen to another family. My son was a noble man."
The New York-based Innocence Project also urged Gov. Mary Fallin to stay the execution and called for additional DNA testing to be done. Human blood was found on the plastic that was on the bat, but it was too deteriorated to determine whose it was, prosecutors said. His family hoped advances in DNA testing could help exonerate him.
Stemple's execution at the state prison in McAlester is the first of three scheduled over the next two months in Oklahoma. Last month, Department of Corrections officials said the state has four doses left of the lethal injection drug pentobarbital, an anesthetic that manufacturers have objected to selling for use in executions.
It was among the drugs used to execute Stemple.
Stemple's accomplice, Terry Hunt, told the AP during a prison interview Sunday that he was disappointed Stemple didn't confess when given the opportunity at the clemency hearing. "I'm not innocent and Shaun is not innocent," said Hunt, who's in prison in Hominy serving a life sentence.
Hunt is the cousin of Dani Wood, who was having an affair with Timothy Stemple. Hunt's testimony that the crime was brutal, with Trisha Stemple being conscious during much of the attack, was a factor that helped prosecutors secure the death penalty for Stemple.
Hunt struck the woman with a bat twice and her husband hit her in the back of the head about 20 to 30 times, according to Hunt's testimony. Hunt said Stemple tried to drive over his wife's head with the pickup truck. Hunt tried to place a wheel on her chest. Following the initial attack, she managed to drag herself onto grass along the highway after they drove away.
In his testimony, Hunt said they returned and struck her with the truck, traveling about 60 mph.
A forensic expert consulted by Timothy Stemple's family said the wife's injuries were consistent with being hit by a vehicle and run over but that there's no evidence she was beaten.
The medical examiner first thought she died after being hit by a car, but there was "no primary point of impact below the knees as is usual in the typical auto-pedestrian collision," according to prosecutors' report in the case.