Honken recites poem ahead of his execution at Terre Haute's federal facility

The third federal execution of the week has happened in Terre Haute. Dustin Honken died by lethal injection at 4:36 p.m. on Friday.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 1:33 PM
Updated: Jul 17, 2020 8:05 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI/AP) - The third federal execution of the week has happened in Terre Haute.

Dustin Honken died by lethal injection at 4:36 p.m. on Friday. 

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

----

WESLEY PURKEY'S EXECUTION 

DANIEL LEE'S EXECUTION

Before the execution, Honken recited the poem "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's execution was much more straight forward and didn't have several legal battles delaying it, like the first two earlier this week.

Dustin Honken, 52, was sentenced to death for killing government informants and children in his effort to thwart his drug trafficking prosecution in 1993.

Honken is set to die by a lethal injection of the powerful sedative pentobarbital at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he’s been on death row since 2005. His lawyers are making last-minute pleas for a reprieve, but their chances of success seem remote after the Supreme Court reversed lower-court orders that sought to block the executions of two other men this week.

Over recent days, prison authorities permitted Honken to make his last calls to family and friends, according to Sister Betty Donoghue, a Catholic nun whom he called Wednesday.

On death row, Honken befriended Daniel Lewis Lee — the first man executed this week — and knew Lee’s execution was called off one hour, then was back on another hour, Donoghue said.

Posted by Dominic Miranda on Friday, July 17, 2020

“He was very upset with the way Danny died,” said Donoghue, who visited Honken regularly over the past decade.

Yet Donoghue, of the Sisters of Providence just outside Terre Haute, said she was startled at how calm Honken sounded over the phone.

“He was at peace. I was totally amazed,” she said. “He believed he would go to heaven. He is ready to meet his maker.”

At his sentencing in 2005, Honken denied killing anybody, but Donoghue said she never heard him say that he was innocent.

Honken’s mother, brother and college-age daughter visited him in prison in recent days, she said.

Lee was executed Tuesday morning and Wesley Ira Purkey was put to death two days later, each after hours of legal wrangling that the high court ended with 5-4 votes to allow the executions to take place.

Lee was convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. He maintained his innocence to the end, saying just before he died: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer. You’re killing an innocent man.”

Purkey was executed for kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Jennifer Long in Kansas City, Missouri, before dismembering, burning and dumping her body in a septic pond. In his final words, the inmate expressed regret for killing Jennifer and said of his execution: “This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever. Thank you.”

A federal judge had ordered an eleventh-hour delay in both executions, citing the prospect that the inmates would suffer severe pain from the execution drug. The judge also would have allowed Purkey’s lawyers to pursue claims that he was suffering from dementia and was unable to understand why he was being executed.

The Supreme Court removed those obstacles, noting Tuesday that Texas and other states have used pentobarbital “without incident” in more than 100 executions. The court didn’t comment in rejecting the delay relating to claims of Purkey’s dementia.

Honken’s execution would be the 10th carried out in the U.S. in 2020, including three in Texas, which executes more inmates than any other state. Last year, 22 prisoners were executed, the fifth straight year that fewer than 30 people were put to death in the U.S. — far lower than the 65 executions that were carried out in 2003, the last time a federal inmate was executed.

Honken grew up in Iowa but moved with a friend to Arizona to try to get rich by cooking meth, which he learned to do after studying chemistry in college. They distributed their product through two dealers based in Iowa.

One of those dealers was Greg Nicholson, who began cooperating with investigators in 1993 after coming under suspicion. Honken was arrested and indicted for conspiring to manufacture meth after Nicholson secretly recorded Honken and testified before a grand jury.

Honken informed the court that he would plead guilty. But days before his July 1993 plea hearing, he and his girlfriend, Angela Johnson, went searching for Nicholson.

They found him at the home where he lived with his girlfriend, Lori Duncan, and her daughters, 10-year-old Kandi and 6-year-old Amber. The four were kidnapped, shot to death and buried. Their bodies weren’t found for seven years. Honken also killed his other dealer, 32-year-old Terry DeGeus, whose body was found a few miles away from Honken’s other victims.

Honken was convicted of the Iowa killings in 2004 in a trial that featured extraordinary security measures, including an anonymous jury. Honken was bolted to the floor of the courtroom and wore a stun belt under his clothing to prevent escape attempts.

The jury recommended a death sentence, and U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett, who said he generally opposes the death penalty, agreed.

“I am not going to lose any sleep if he is executed,” said Bennett, who has since retired from the bench. “Normally I would, but the evidence was so overwhelming.”

Statement from the family of Terry DeGues

"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."

Statement from the family of Lori, Kandace, and Amber Duncan

"27-years ago two beautiful girls and their mother was taken from us by a violent criminal and his girlfriend.

For 27 years we grieved for them while their killers lived on.

Today the little girls, Kandace and Amber, would be 37 and 33. They never had the chance to grown up and share in the joys and sorrows of life. Their mother never got to see them having a first dance, first date or walk down the aisle at their wedding. There was no family reunions. No visits to grandparents house, no overnight at cousins. Their lives were snuffed out.

However their killer has lived years since then with a bed and meals provided for him.

Today we gather to witness the execution of Dustin Honken their murderer. It is a day we thought would never come.

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.

We regret that so many members of our family has passed on and were never able to see this day.

The Family of Lori, Kandace & Amber Duncan"

The following is a statement from attorney Shawn Nolan on the execution of his client Dustin Honken:

“Dustin Honken was redeemed. He recognized and repented for the crimes he had committed, and spent his time in prison atoning for them. With Father Mark, Sister Betty, Cardinal Tobin and other religious mentors, Dustin worked every day at the Catholic faith that was at the center of his life. During his time in prison, he cared for everyone he came into contact with: guards, counselors, medical staff, his fellow inmates and his legal team. Over the years he grew incredibly close to his family, becoming a true father, son, brother and friend. There was no reason for the government to kill him, in haste or at all. In any case, they failed. The Dustin Honken they wanted to kill is long gone. The man they killed today was a human being, who could have spent the rest of his days helping others and further redeeming himself. May he rest in peace.”

-Shawn Nolan, attorney for Dustin Honken and Chief, Capital Habeas Unit,
Community Federal Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
-July 17, 2020

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