By Jonathan Allen
(Reuters) - The U.S. government put convicted rapist and murderer William LeCroy to death by lethal injection on Tuesday, the sixth execution under the Trump administration this summer after a lengthy hiatus in capital punishment at the federal level.
LeCroy, 50, was pronounced dead at 9:06 p.m. EDT after officials with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons administered him a fatal dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the bureau's execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, the agency said.
The execution came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court denied an 11th-hour petition seeking a stay until LeCroy's principal lawyer, who suffers from a chronic health condition, could travel safely to Terre Haute without fear of contracting COVID-19.
It marked the sixth death sentence the U.S. government has carried out during the past three months, more than the total number of federal executions carried out under all of President Donald Trump's White House predecessors combined going back to 1963.
Another execution was planned for Thursday, when Christopher Vialva, a convicted murderer, is set to become the first Black man to face the federal death penalty under Trump.
The Trump administration ended an informal 17-year-hiatus in federal executions in July, after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, from a three-drug combination it last used in 2003.
The new protocol revived long-running legal challenges to lethal injections. Last month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in not seeking a doctor's prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.
But an appeals court held that the violation did not in itself amount to "irreparable harm" and allowed federal executions to proceed. Several state governments also use pentobarbital injections in executions.
Asked moments before his execution whether he had any final words, LeCroy replied that his spiritual adviser, Sister Barbara Battista, "is about to receive in the Postal Service my last statement."
LeCroy was found guilty and sentenced to death in Georgia in 2004 for the carjacking, rape and stabbing death of Joann Tiesler, a 30-year-old nurse, after breaking into her home. He was caught two days later in Tiesler's vehicle at the U.S.-Canadian border with notes scribbled on the back of a torn map, according to prosecutors.
"Please, please, please forgive me Joanne," read one note by LeCroy, who misspelled the victim's name. "You were an angel and I killed you. Now I have to live with that and I can never go home. I am a vagabond and doomed to hell."
In a statement released following LeCroy's execution, the victim's father, Tom Tiesler, expressed gratitude to the Trump administration "for having the courage to reinstate the death penalty."
"Justice was finally served," he wrote in the statement. "William LeCroy died a peaceful death, in stark contrast to the horror he imposed on my daughter, Joann."
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Leslie Adler, Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)