Mississippi seeks execution date for 2000 killing of teen

Thomas Edwin Lowden Jr. has been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to murder, rape and other crimes in the death of a 16-year-old waitress.

JACKSON, Mississippi — The Mississippi attorney general’s office has asked the state to set a date for the execution of a former U.S. Marine Corps recruit convicted of the 2000 rape and murder of a 16-year-old waitress.

Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, has been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to murder, rape and four counts of sexual assault.

The last execution in Mississippi was in November.

Lowden kidnapped Lisa Marie Gray, who was trapped on the side of a road in Itawamba County in northern Mississippi, according to documents filed by the attorney general with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday. Court records say Lowden spent four hours repeatedly raping and sexually beating Gray before suffocating and strangling her.

Gray disappeared on June 22, 2000, on her way home as a waitress at a family restaurant in the Dorsey community. She was last seen driving out of the restaurant parking lot, prosecutors said. A few hours later, relatives found her car with her purse still inside and the hazard lights flashing.

Her body was found in Lowden’s van the next day, according to court documents.

In 1982, Lowden joined the Marine Corps immediately after graduating from high school in Itawamba County. He served in Operation Desert Storm and entered recruiting school in 1998. Later that year, Lowden began running the Marine Corps’ recruiting office in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The attorney general’s office wrote that at the sentencing hearing after Lowden’s guilty plea, he did not cross-examine state witnesses, object to the exhibits presented by prosecutors, or provide any evidence to help his own case.

Lowden made several unsuccessful appeals against his conviction.

In 2015, he joined four other Mississippi death row inmates in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol. If thiopental or pentobarbital were not available, the state amended the protocol to allow midazolam use.

A federal district judge issued an injunction barring the state from using compound pentobarbital or midazolam, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ruling. The case has returned to the District Court and has not yet been resolved.

Continued challenges to the lethal injection protocol “will not stand in the way of Lowden’s execution,” the state attorney general’s office wrote Tuesday.

Merida Coxwell, one of the attorneys representing Lowden in the federal lawsuit, declined Tuesday to comment on the attorney general’s request for an enforcement date because he has not read the document. Stacey Ferraro, another attorney in the federal lawsuit, did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Last November’s execution was Mississippi’s first in nine years. David Neil Cox, who was given a lethal injection, has admitted killing his estranged wife and sexually assaulting her young daughter when her mother died in 2012.

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