Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying
BONNE TERRE, Missouri (AP) — Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday who was convicted of killing a farming couple in 1993.
William Rousan, 57, was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. He was declared dead at 12:10 a.m., Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O’Connell said.
The execution took place at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, which is just a few miles from the farm where the killings took place.
Prosecutors say Rousan, his teenage son Brent Rousan and William’s brother Robert Rousan murdered Charlie and Grace Lewis on Sept. 21, 1993 as part of a plot to steal two of the couple’s cows. Brent Rousan is serving life in prison without parole. Robert Rousan served seven years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Gov. Jay Nixon declined William Rousan’s clemency request Tuesday evening, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. In a statement explaining his decision, Nixon said he thought Rousan’s sentence was appropriate for his alleged role as the mastermind behind the “cold-blooded plot” that led to the couple’s slayings.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Rousan’s request to delay his execution.
Efforts to spare Rousan’s life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts — concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.
Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded execution drugs purchased from unnamed pharmacies. Courts so far have allowed most executions to move forward. However, on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the executions of two death row inmates who challenged the secrecy surrounding the process of procuring execution drugs.
Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another Missouri inmate, Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for execution on May 21. Only Texas, with seven executions, has executed more inmates than Missouri’s four so far in 2014.
Rousan was sentenced to death for the killing of 62-year-old Grace Lewis, of rural St. Francois County, in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison in the death of her 67-year-old husband, Charles. The killings were part of a plot to steal cattle from the Lewis farm near Bonne Terre.
Rousan also lived in the same area of St. Francois County, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis. On Sept. 21, 1993, Rousan, his 16-year-old son and his brother concocted a plan to kill the couple and steal their cattle. Authorities said at trial that William Rousan was the ringleader.
The men drove by the farm, and William Rousan pointed out the cattle to steal. They parked about two miles away and hiked through the woods to the farm. They watched as the couple returned home. Charles Lewis began cutting the lawn with a riding mower while his wife spoke to the couple’s daughter on the phone.
Brent Rousan ambushed Charles Lewis, shooting him six times. Grace Lewis told her daughter on the phone she heard gunfire and stepped outside to check on the commotion. Brent Rousan shot her several times. She managed to go back into the home, but William Rousan followed her, placed a garment bag over her head and carried her outside.
He turned to his son and said, “Finish her off.” Brent Rousan fired a single shot into the side of her head.
The men placed the bodies in a tarp and put them near a shed. Later that night, they returned, along with another Rousan brother, loaded the bodies in the Lewis’ pickup truck, and took two cows, a VCR, jewelry, a saddle and other items.
For almost exactly a year, they got away with the crime. The couple seemingly had vanished without a trace.
In September 1994 investigators received two tips — Rousan’s brother-in-law, Bruce Williams, called police to implicate Rousan in the couple’s killings and a VCR sold to a pawn shop by a sister of William and Robert Rousan had been stolen from the Lewises. They were the breaks police had been waiting for.
The bodies were found buried in a shallow grave covered with concrete and a pile of horse manure on the farm where William Rousan was living at the time. After a four-day manhunt, Rousan was arrested while hiding in a barn on Sept. 20, 1994. He was caught with a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle and a knife.
Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was released from prison in 2001, Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen said.