Waiting to die: Dustin Lee Honken execution

News 10's Heather Good served as a media witness for Dustin Honken's execution. This is her first-hand account of how it happened.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 8:02 PM
Updated: Jul 17, 2020 8:04 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Death came much quicker for Dustin Lee Honken. The federal death row inmate was executed on schedule, unlike the two men who came before him. Daniel Lewis Lee and Wesley Ira Purkey both died 16 hours after the scheduled execution due to back-and-forth legal battles that would reach the Supreme Court.

Dustin Honken murdered five people including Lori Duncan and her two daughters Kandace and Amber. Honken was a drug kingpin in Iowa. He shot and killed two men, Greg Nicholson and Terry DeGeus, who planned to testify him, and the family of three.

Who is Dustin Honken?

Offense Date: July 25, 1993

Offense Description: Inmate Honken, shot and killed five people—two men who planned
to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-yearold daughters. On October 14, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of Iowa found inmate Honken guilty of numerous offenses, including five counts
of murder during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced
to death.

Sentencing and Incarceration Information
Sentenced on: October 11, 2005
Sentencing District: Northern District of Iowa

Conviction:

  • Conspiracy to Commit Murder
  • Engaging in the Manufacture & Distribution of Methamphetamine
  • Continuing Criminal Enterprise Murder

Committed: October 13, 2005 to the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Jail Credit: No Jail Credit

Time Served at date of execution: 22 years and 5 months

SOURCE: BOP

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WESLEY PURKEY'S EXECUTION

DANIEL LEE'S EXECUTION

I served as a media witness to Honken’s execution. I was one of seven members of the press to document his final moments.

LINK | WAITING TO DIE: DANIEL LEWIS LEE EXECUTION

The Department of Justice scheduled his execution for Friday, July 17th at 4 p.m. Unlike the two federal executions earlier in the week, Honken’s went on as scheduled inside the execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Media witnesses were escorted into the media area of the chamber at 4:03 p.m. I heard a few brief mumbles behind the windows into the area where Honken was already strapped to the gurney.

The curtain was lifted at 4:05 p.m. and a minute later the marshal notified the gallery there were no legal impediments to the execution.

By 4:36 p.m. he was dead.

Like all death row inmates strapped to the gurney, Honken was given the opportunity to make a final statement. He did not raise his head to address the media witnesses, victim’s families or his own witnesses.

Instead, he looked toward the ceiling and recited a poem called Heaven-Haven.

'I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.'

Honken then proceeded to pray. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” he said, “pray for me. I am a sinner.”

He ended his remarks by saying, “Mary Mother full of God, pray for me.”

Honken was joined in the chamber by a United States marshal, two Bureau of Prisons officials and his spiritual advisor. The priest stood in the corner of the room with a face mask.

Another face mask sat on the gurney behind Honken’s head as if he had been wearing it earlier. A green sheet covered his body up to his neck. He wore a brown shirt.

A fatal dose of pentobarbital ran through intravenous lines that passed from a room holding the medical team through a square hole in the wall. Those lines connected to Honken’s left arm and right hand.

LINK | WAITING TO DIE: WESLEY IRA PURKEY EXECUTION

Honken never looked up. He kept his eyes on the ceiling and blinked as the poison first pumped through his veins. He puffed air out of his mouth a few times. His feet moved slightly.

By 4:09 p.m. his eyes were closed. His breathing got weaker and appeared more as stomach gurgles than actual breaths.

By 4:11 p.m. I no longer saw any movement. His face and hands grew paler and eventually the tips of his fingers and the inside of his lips appeared blue.

I watched the clock and waited for death to be declared.

At 4:35 p.m. a man entered the chamber. He used a stethoscope to listen to Honken’s chest before leaving the room. An announcement was made through a speaker in the chamber saying death occurred at 4:36 p.m.
The families of Honken’s victims were offered the opportunity to address the press. They decline the offer but, instead, released written statements.

The family of Terry DeGeus said:

“The reason for us being present today was not to watch a man die. It was to show love, support, and respect to my daughter’s father, Terry. That we loved him until the end and still do. It was the least we could do.”

The Family of Lori, Kandace and Amber Duncan said in part:
“Finally justice is being done. It will bring a sense of closure but we will continue to live with their loss. However this is a step toward healing of broken hearts and shattered lives.”

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