Pork chops, peach cobbler part of last meal for Mississippi death row inmate executed Wednesday

Published 6:15 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Mississippi man who was executed after pleading guilty to the 2000 murder and rape of a 16-year-old waitress requested a last meal that included pork chops, peach cobbler and sweet tea.

Before Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, was executed Wednesday evening, Loden made several last requests including his last meal, which were reported by prison officials in an afternoon press conference before the execution.

Loden’s last meal included two bone-in, fried pork chops, fried okra, a baked sweet potato with butter, Pillsbury Grands biscuits with butter and molasses, peach cobbler with French vanilla ice cream and Lipton sweet tea.

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Soon after, Loden Jr. was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. by Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton.

He’d been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray. She was stranded with a flat tire in June 2000 when Loden forced her into his van.

Gray’s mother, Wanda Farris, attended the execution at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of Jackson’s capital. Mississippi’s most recent execution was in November 2021.

Earlier this month, a federal judge declined to block Loden’s execution amid a pending lawsuit by him and four other Mississippi death row inmates over the state’s use of three drugs for lethal injections, a protocol they allege is inhumane.

During the execution, Loden wore a red prison jumpsuit and was covered by a white sheet. Brown leather straps held him down on a gurney.

Before the injection started, Loden said he was “deeply remorseful.”

“For the past 20 years, I’ve tried to do a good deed every single day to make up for the life I took from this world,” Loden said. “I know these are mere words and cannot erase the damage I did. If today brings you nothing else, I hope you get peace and closure.”

He concluded his last words by saying “I love you” in Japanese, officials said.

Grey had been working as a waitress at her uncle’s restaurant in northeast Mississippi during the summer ahead of her senior year of high school. On June 22, 2000, she left work after dark and got a flat tire.

Loden, a Marine Corps recruiter with relatives in the area, stopped at around 10:45 p.m. and began talking with her about the flat. “Don’t worry. I’m a Marine. We do this kind of stuff,” he said.

Loden told investigators he became angry after Gray allegedly said she would never want to be a Marine, and he ordered her into his van. He spent four hours sexually assaulting her before strangling and suffocating her, he told investigators.

The following afternoon, court records say “Loden was discovered lying by the side of a road with the words ‘I’m sorry’ carved into his chest and apparent self-inflicted lacerations on his wrists.”

Farris described her daughter as a “happy-go-lucky, always smiling” teenager who aspired to become an elementary school teacher.

“She wasn’t perfect, now, mind you,” Farris said. “But she strived to do right.”

Farris declined to speak to reporters following the execution.