STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Waiting to die: Wesley Ira Purkey execution

Wesley Purkey was sentenced to death for the violent rape and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long, of Kansas City, Missouri. Purkey dismembered the girl’s body before burning it and dumping the remains in a septic pond.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 1:30 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Welsey Ira Purkey used his final moments to apologize to his victim’s family. Purkey was executed by lethal injection 16 hours after his scheduled death. Like the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee before him, a back-and-forth legal battle kept the family of Jennifer Long and media witnesses waiting hours for the execution to proceed.

Wesley Purkey was sentenced to death for the violent rape and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long, of Kansas City, Missouri. Purkey dismembered the girl’s body before burning it and dumping the remains in a septic pond.

LINK | SUPREME COURT HAS CLEARED THE WAY FOR WESLEY PURKEY'S FEDERAL EXECUTION

I served as a media witness to Purkey’s execution. I was one of seven members of the press to document his final moments of life strapped to the gurney in the federal prison execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana. Purkey’s is the second of three executions in a week. I also witnessed the first federal execution in 17 years; the death of Daniel Lewis Lee.

LINK | WAITING TO DIE: DANIEL LEWIS LEE EXECUTION

The Department of Justice scheduled Purkey’s execution for Wednesday, July 15th at 4 p.m. Late Wednesday morning, media witnesses were informed the execution would be delayed to 7 p.m. Purkey’s death would not be recorded until the following morning at 8:19 a.m. after another night of delays and legal battles that would reach the Supreme Court.

Unlike the lead up to Lee’s execution, media witnesses would not be released as the legal battle played out. Instead, we would sit at our designated table in the prison Media Center until 2:45 a.m. That’s when we were told to board vans to the execution chamber. We would then sit in those vans outside the chamber for four hours.

From the back of the van, I could see another van parked closer to the chamber. The family of Jennifer Long was inside. We would all wait and watch the sun come up from the back of the federal prison complex.

Shortly before 8 in the morning, everyone was escorted out of the white vans and into the execution chamber. Media witnesses were the last inside at 7:53 a.m.

There are two windows between the media room and the green-tiled chamber where federal death row inmates are strapped to the gurney. The curtain raised at 7:55 a.m. and the execution was cleared to proceed a minute later after the marshal in the room notified the gallery there were no legal impediments to the execution.

Purkey was then given the opportunity to speak.

“I deeply regret the pain and suffering I’ve caused Jennifer’s family. I’m deeply, deeply sorry.”

He also apologized to his daughter and family before saying, “This sanitized murder really does serve no purpose whatsoever.”

Purkey was strapped to the gurney. A blue-green sheet covered his body up to his neck. Both arms were outstretched with intravenous lines in each hand. The line in his left hand entered his skin surrounded by a tattoo. The pink of his cheeks would fade away over the following minutes.

Purkey rested his head and looked at the ceiling. He blinked several times. Eventually, his mouth would open slightly. I could see the top row of his teeth for the rest of the execution.

His breathing appeared heavy for a time, but would eventually weaken and slow. By 8:06 a.m., he no longer seemed to be moving. I waited for the announcement death had occurred.

Purkey’s spiritual advisor stood in the corner of the execution chamber. The man was in full personal protective equipment including a face mask, face shield, gloves and gown. He held his hands together in front of him with his fingers toward the ceiling.

Wesley Ira Purkey died at 8:19 a.m. The curtain to the media gallery closed and we were escorted to the vans and back to the Media Center. That’s where we waited for Jennifer Long’s family who had accepted an offer to make a statement to the press.

The teen’s father, step-mother and friend stood at a podium wearing pale blue t-shirts with Jennifer’s face printed on the front.

Father, William Long first addressed the press saying the execution was “a long time coming.”

He described Jennifer as a beautiful girl “who would do anything for anybody.”

The family also talked about the legal delays in the years leading up to the execution, as well as the grueling wait outside the chamber.

Step-mother, Olivia Long said, “All of these appeals, some of them he put through several times. And, then we sat in a van for four hours this morning while he did a bunch more appeals, some of them he had already done. We just shouldn’t have had to wait this long.”

I asked the family what they thought of Purkey’s apology.

William said, “I didn’t give a shit.”

“It didn’t mean much to us,” Olivia added.

“I hope he rots in hell,” William said, “I really do.”

LINK | 'HE NEEDED TO TAKE HIS LAST BREATH, HE TOOK MY DAUGHTER’S LAST BREATH...' VICTIM'S FAMILY SAYS THEY WAITED TOO LONG FOR PURKEY'S EXECUTION

The family also noted Purkey’s mental state. His attorneys had argued Purkey was suffering from dementia and could not understand why he was being executed. Olivia Long pointed out that Purkey remembered Jennifer in his apology.

“So apparently he wasn’t mentally diminished. That was just another thing he was trying to throw out there to get out of it.”

William long said about the execution, “Long wait, long wait. Something you think about every day.”

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 89°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 85°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 86°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 78°
Casey
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 84°
Brazil
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 89°
Marshall
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 89°
Partly cloudy and calm
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 196699

Reported Deaths: 7846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1119484928
Lake12741446
DuPage12312520
Kane9803305
Will9315344
St. Clair4028161
Winnebago3784131
McHenry3218114
Madison263476
Kankakee178768
Rock Island175636
Champaign168619
Peoria163035
Kendall137923
Unassigned1358209
Sangamon127433
DeKalb93830
LaSalle78324
Boone76623
Jackson72219
McLean65515
Macon64123
Tazewell5918
Adams5425
Coles48720
Randolph4707
Clinton41117
Ogle4115
Williamson4096
Whiteside35917
Stephenson3306
Grundy3265
Union32423
Monroe31813
Knox3031
Jefferson29019
Morgan2686
Iroquois26511
Henry2481
Vermilion2362
Cass23111
Bureau2153
Franklin1910
Warren1910
Perry1841
Macoupin1813
Lee1731
Montgomery1697
Effingham1621
Marion1610
Woodford1523
McDonough14615
Christian1434
Saline1322
Jo Daviess1271
Douglas1222
Logan1220
Livingston1162
Jersey1152
Pulaski941
Clark832
Shelby801
Mercer764
Moultrie740
Johnson690
White690
Fayette673
Washington670
Piatt630
Bond623
Hancock621
Wayne621
Carroll594
Jasper597
Greene580
Cumberland573
Menard560
Mason530
Gallatin512
Lawrence500
Ford492
Massac400
Alexander370
Wabash350
Fulton340
De Witt330
Crawford290
Edgar290
Hamilton290
Marshall270
Clay230
Pike230
Scott210
Richland200
Edwards180
Hardin180
Schuyler180
Brown140
Henderson130
Putnam130
Calhoun100
Pope90
Stark70
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 74992

Reported Deaths: 3044
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15963725
Lake7632275
Elkhart488385
Allen3937163
St. Joseph354682
Hamilton2803104
Vanderburgh199713
Hendricks1901108
Cass17969
Johnson1767118
Porter133839
Clark124447
Tippecanoe122111
Madison98765
LaPorte92130
Howard90565
Kosciusko86212
Bartholomew80147
Floyd79146
Marshall79022
Monroe75930
Delaware73852
Dubois70012
Noble68429
Boone68346
Hancock67038
Vigo66810
Jackson5885
Warrick58630
LaGrange55910
Shelby55827
Grant52830
Dearborn50828
Morgan48334
Clinton4403
Henry38520
Wayne37710
White37210
Montgomery35421
Lawrence35027
Harrison34123
Decatur33832
Putnam2908
Miami2742
Daviess27320
Scott26810
Greene25134
Jasper2452
Franklin24314
DeKalb2354
Gibson2284
Jennings22612
Steuben2113
Ripley2087
Carroll1932
Fayette1907
Perry18612
Starke1787
Posey1770
Orange17324
Wells1712
Wabash1703
Fulton1692
Jefferson1652
Knox1590
Whitley1546
Tipton14311
Washington1421
Spencer1363
Sullivan1341
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1234
Newton11810
Adams1022
Jay920
Owen911
Pulaski831
Rush804
Brown741
Fountain742
Blackford652
Ohio655
Benton620
Pike560
Vermillion550
Parke521
Switzerland520
Crawford450
Martin450
Union410
Warren231
Unassigned0206