Daniel Lewis Lee. Picture: Supplied
Daniel Lewis Lee. Picture: Supplied

US executes ‘white supremacist’ despite pleas of victims’ family

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

The US has executed the first federal inmate in almost two decades just hours after the Supreme Court cleared the way - despite the family of his murder victims calling for him not to be killed.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died by lethal injection at a federal prison in Indiana.

Self-described white supremacist Lee was found guilty in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

"I didn't do it," Lee said just moments before he was executed.

Two of Daniel Lewis Lee's victims, Sarah Powell (left), just 8, and her mother Nancy Mueller. Picture: Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative
Two of Daniel Lewis Lee's victims, Sarah Powell (left), just 8, and her mother Nancy Mueller. Picture: Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative

"I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I'm not a murderer... You're killing an innocent man."

His execution came over the objection of the victims' family, who argued they would be put at high risk of catching COVID-19 if they had to travel to attend the execution. But Nancy Mueller's mother also said killing Lee would do nothing to "honour my daughter".

In a heartbreaking six-minute video, Earlene Branch Peterson, the mother of Nancy and grandmother of Sarah said: "I can't see how executing Daniel Lee will honour my daughter in any way.

 

Earlene Branch Peterson, whose daughter Nancy and granddaughter Sarah were murdered by Daniel Lewis Lee, who was executed in a prison in Indiana in July 2020. Picture: Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative.
Earlene Branch Peterson, whose daughter Nancy and granddaughter Sarah were murdered by Daniel Lewis Lee, who was executed in a prison in Indiana in July 2020. Picture: Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative.

"In fact, it's kinda like it dirties her name. Because she wouldn't want it and I don't want it."

 

 

Federal executions are rare and the government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 - most recently in 2003 when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.

Lee had a pulse oximeter on a finger of his left hand and his arms were in black restraints. The IV tubes were coming through a metal panel in the wall.

He breathed heavily before the drug was injected and moved his legs and feet. As the drug was being administered, he raised his head to look around. In a few moments, his chest was no longer moving.

 

The reputed ringleader in the crime was Chevie Kehoe, who received a life sentence.

Kehoe, of Colville, Washington, recruited Lee in 1995 to join his white supremacist organisation, known as the Aryan Peoples' Republic.

Two years later, they were arrested for the killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, in Tilly, Arkansas, about 120km northwest of Little Rock.

Lee and Kehoe dressed in police raid clothing and lay in wait for Mueller in his home the night of the murders, according to court documents.

When the Muellers returned home, Lee and Kehoe overpowered and incapacitated Mueller and his wife.

They then interrogated the couple's young daughter, Sarah, about where they could find cash, guns, and munitions.

Daniel Lewis Lee and Chevie Kehoe. Picture: Supplied
Daniel Lewis Lee and Chevie Kehoe. Picture: Supplied

The home invaders found and took roughly $A75,000 in cash, guns and ammunition.

After robbing and torturing the victims with a stun gun, prosecutors said Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois Bayou.

The bodies of the three victims were found five months after they went missing.

On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offences, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death.

 

Lee was in the execution chamber with two men who the Bureau of Prisons would only identify as "senior BOP officials", a US Marshal and his spiritual adviser, who a Bureau of Prisons spokesman described as an "Appalachian pagan minister".

They did not wear masks and Lee was also not wearing a mask.

US Attorney-General William Barr said the Justice Department has a duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts, including the death penalty, and to bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened.

But relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 strongly opposed that idea and long argued that Lee deserved a sentence of life in prison.

 

They wanted to be present to counter any contention that the execution was being done on their behalf but argued they would be put at high risk for COVID-19 if they attended.

"For us it is a matter of being there and saying, 'This is not being done in our name; we do not want this'," relative Monica Veillette said.

The relatives noted that Lee's co-defendant and the reputed ringleader, Chevie Kehoe, received a life sentence. Nancy Mueller's mother said she believed the one-eyed Lee was sentenced to death because of his appearance, while Kehoe looked more like "a businessman".

 

 

Originally published as US executes 'white supremacist' despite pleas of victims' family



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