…to the official page for Last Words of the Executed, a book by Robert K. Elder, with a foreword by Studs Terkel.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, has praised the project and called it, “A dangerous book…” This is a nonpolitical work, simply asking, “If these are the most reviled, outcast members of society—why does it remain a cultural value to record what they say?”

This is the history of capital punishment in America, told from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.

Last Words of the Executed author Robert K. Elder was on NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” recently. Fast forward to 2:02 to see the exact segment.

Each day, we are posting excerpts from the book, plus outtakes, by date of execution. See below:


This week in 2001

“I am so sorry for what y’all had to go through. I am so sorry for what all of you had to go through. I can’t imagine losing two children. If I was y’all, I would have killed me. You know? I am really so sorry about it, I really am. I got to go sister, I love you. Y’all take care and God bless you. Gracie was beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don’t know what to say. All right, Warden, let’s do it.”

— Dennis Dowthitt, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed March 7, 2001

Auto salesman Dowthitt received a lethal injection for the murders of his son’s sixteen-year-old former girlfriend, Grace Purnhagen, and her sister, nine-year-old Tiffany Purnhagen. Dowthitt’s sixteen-year-old son, Delton, first admitted to the gruesome killings before recanting and revealing that his father had slashed Grace’s throat and sexually assaulted her with a beer bottle and had strangled Tiffany with a rope.

Delton led police to the evidence; he was convicted of murder and sentenced to forty-five years behind bars.


This week in 1993

“I would like to tell young kids who might read this that drinking and hanging with the wrong people will get you where I am sitting right here.”

— Robert Sawyer, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Louisiana.
Executed March 6, 1993

Sawyer was the first person executed by injection in Louisiana, after he and an accomplice were convicted in the murder of a babysitter. She died a couple of months after Sawyer and another man beat, raped, and poured scalding water on her before lighting her on fire. His lawyers claimed he had an IQ of 68. Some sources that he also said, “I’m sorry for any hurt and pain they say I caused. I have no hard feelings toward anyone. I just want my sister, my brother-in-law, my son, all of my family to know that I love them and I’ll be waiting on them in heaven.”


This week in 1886

“What time is it? I wish you’d hurry up. I want to get to hell in time for dinner.”

— John Owens (aka Bill Booth) , convicted of murder, hanging, Wyoming.
Executed March 5, 1886

Owens was convicted for murdering a man who hired him to work on his farm. Owens confessed to the killing but claimed he had done it in self-defense, after the man attacked him.


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