US executes man convicted of raping Texas teenager and burying her alive

Matt Mathers
·4-min read
<p>Death row inmate becomes eighth prisoner to be executed this year</p> (Associated Press)

Death row inmate becomes eighth prisoner to be executed this year

(Associated Press)

A man who kidnapped and raped a teenager before burying her alive has been executed by lethal injection in Indiana.

Orlando Hall, 49, was put to death at a federal prison in Terre Haute, about 76 miles west of Indianapolis, shortly before midnight on Thursday.

In the moments before his execution, Hall said he was "ok" before a prison official read out his convictions.

Delivering his final words, Hall said: "Take care of yourselves. Tell my kids I love them."

He stopped breathing soon after and was pronounced dead by a medical official.

Hall becomes the eighth prisoner to be executed in 2020 following an almost two-decades-long pause.

He was one of five men convicted for the abduction and killing of Lisa Rene in 1994.

Federal court documents said Hall was a marijuana trafficker in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who would sometimes buy his drugs in the Dallas area.

He arrived in Dallas on 24 September 1994, met two men at a car wash and gave them $4,700 with the expectation they would return later with the marijuana. The two men were Rene's brothers.

Instead, the men claimed their car and the money were stolen in a robbery. Hall and accomplices figured out they were lying and were able to track down the address of the brothers' apartment in Arlington, Texas.

When Hall and three other men arrived at the apartment, the brothers weren't there. Lisa Rene was home, alone.

"They're trying to break down my door! Hurry up!" the victim told a 911 dispatcher. A muffled scream was heard seconds later, with a man saying, "Who you on the phone with?" The line then went dead.

Retired Arlington detective John Stanton Sr said the men smashed a sliding glass door to get inside and immediately took off with Rene.

Police arrived within minutes but the men, and Rene, were already gone, said Stanton.

The men drove to a motel in Pine Bluff. Rene was repeatedly sexually assaulted during the drive and at the motel over the next two days.

On 26 September, Hall and two other men drove Rene to Byrd Lake Natural Area in Pine Bluff, her eyes covered by a mask.

They led her to a gravesite they had dug a day earlier. Hall placed a sheet over Rene's head then hit her in the head with a shovel.

When she ran another man and Hall took turns hitting her with the shovel before she was gagged and dragged into the grave, where she was doused in gasoline before dirt was shoveled over her.

A coroner determined that Rene was still alive when she was buried and died of asphyxiation in the grave, where she was found eight days later.

In a statement released by prison officials, the victim's older sister, Pearl Rene, said the execution "marks the end of a very long and painful chapter in our lives."

"My family and I are very relieved that this is over. We have been dealing with this for 26 years and now we're having to relive the tragic nightmare that our beloved Lisa went through," she said.

"Ending this painful process will be a major goal for our family. This is only the end of the legal aftermath. The execution of Orlando Hall will never stop the suffering we continue to endure."

Donna Keogh, 67, first met Hall 16 years ago when she and other volunteers from her Catholic church set up a program to provide Christmas presents for children of inmates at the Terre Haute prison. They corresponded by email until days before his death.

Ms Keogh said Hall had two sons, aged 28 and 27, and 13 grandchildren.

Hall turned his life around in prison, educating himself and becoming an avid reader, Ms Keogh said. She said she couldn't understand the value in executing him.

"My faith tells me that all life is precious and that includes the lives on death row," Ms Keogh said. "I just don't see any purpose."

Before the Trump administration resumed federal executions this year, only three federal inmates had been executed in the previous 56 years.

Two other executions are scheduled for later this year — though a judge on Thursday said one of them could not be carried out before the end of the year — and president-elect Joe Biden has not said if federal executions will continue when he takes office.

Five of the first six federal executions this year involved white men; the other was Navajo.

Critics have argued that executing white inmates first was a political calculation in a nation embroiled in racial bias concerns involving the criminal justice system.

A September report by the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center said black people remain overrepresented on death rows, including federal death row.

The organisation's database shows that 25 of 55 federal death row inmates (46 per cent) are black, while blacks make up only about 13 per cent of the US population.

With Associated Press

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