April 23, 2014

Victims’ son: ‘no real satisfaction’ from execution of William Rousan (VIDEO)

The state of Missouri has carried out the execution of William Rousan, who was convicted of the murders of Grace and Charles Lewis in 1993.

Following his execution early Wednesday morning, one of the Lewises’ children, Michael, read the following statement to the media:

“I draw no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan’s incarceration or execution, for neither can replace or restore the moments lost with my parents or give my sons back the grandparents they never got to know. Nor can it fully heal the broken hearts and lives of our family, or his family who my heart also goes out to.

“I hope that Mr. Rousan made peace with Jesus, for that is what Charles and Grace Lewis would want, for sure.

As for the death penalty, I think the delay from sentencing to finalization is too long. I have never thought of it as revenge or justice served in terms of an “eye for eye” so to speak. Nor do I see it as a big deterrent to would be criminals. But I still believe it is a humane and permanent prevention of further criminal activities by the convicted inmate.”

Lewis declined to take questions from the media. He was joined at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre by his wife, two sisters and a brother-in-law, none of whom spoke to the media.

State executes convicted killer William Rousan

The state has carried out the execution of 57-year-old William Rousan, who was convicted of the 1993 murders of a rural southeast Missouri couple in 1993. He died by lethal injection at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center at Bonne Terre, not far from where he committed the murders for which he was condemned.

William Rousan (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

William Rousan (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

A lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered at approximately 12:01.  When the curtain to the execution chamber was pulled back, Rousan was speaking continuously and looked at two people in the chamber where witnesses there for him sat.  Some witnesses thought he told them, “I love you.”  Less than a minute later he took two deep breaths and then stopped moving.  He was officially pronounced dead at 12:10. 

Rousan was sentenced to death for the murder of 62-year-old Grace Lewis and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband, 67-year-old Charles Lewis. Rousan, his then-16-year-old son Brent and his brother Robert carried out the murders as part of a plot to steal cattle from the couple.

Rousan in his final statement said, “My trials and transgressions have been many. But thanks be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I have a new home in his heavenly kingdom. May forgiveness and peace be found for all in our Lord Jesus Christ. In our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Rousan was visited during the day by three siblings and one brother’s spouse, a ministerial volunteer and a man identified as a friend of Rousan’s. Five members of the victim’s family witnessed the execution.

See a video statement from one of the Lewises’ sons following Rousan’s execution

Rousan’s execution proceeded after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay his execution. His attorneys argued that secrecy regarding Missouri’s supply of pentobarbital could allow the use of a drug that would cause him undue suffering during his execution. Governor Jay Nixon (D) later denied a request for clemency for Rousan.

Rousan’s is the sixth execution carried out in as many months in Missouri. Russell Bucklew is scheduled to be executed May 21 for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders.

Case history

On September 21, 1993, William, Brent and Robert Rousan discussed killing the Lewises on the way to the couple’s farm and agreed that “if it had to be done it had to be done.” They parked about 2 miles from the farm, pointing out the cattle they would steal as they drove past.

William and Brent Rousan argued about who would carry a .22 caliber rifle as they hiked through the woods toward the Lewis’ farm. The son said he was “man enough to do whatever needed to be done,” and his father eventually gave him the gun. He warned Brent that if they were caught they would “fry.” The three hid behind a fallen tree and waited for the couple.

As Charles Lewis was mowing the lawn he was fatally shot by Brent Rousan. Grace told her daughter on the phone she heard the gunshots and hung up to investigate. When she went outside she was shot by Brent Rousan but ran back inside the home. William Rousan followed her, put a garment bag over the upper part of her body and carried her back outside. He told Brent to “finish her off,” and the boy fired one shot into the side of her head killing her.

The Rousans took two cows, a VCR, jewelry, soda, two gas cans and a saddle. They buried Mr. and Mrs. Lewis later that night in a shallow grave and covered it with cement and manure.

The tree escaped capture for nearly a year before the VCR was sold to a pawn shop, leading police to the Rousans.

Robert Rousan testified against his brother and pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He has since been released from prison. Brent Rousan is serving a life sentence.


Attorney General issues statement on execution of William Rousan

Attorney General Chris Koster has released a statement regarding the execution Wednesday morning of William Rousan for the 1993 murder of Grace Lewis.

Koster writes, “William Rousan displayed an appalling indifference to human life in the murders of Charles and Grace Lewis. He showed his true character by ordering his 16-year-old son to kill Mrs. Lewis, all so they could steal two cows, soda, a VCR, and some jewelry. Tonight he paid the price the jury recommended nearly 18 years ago. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Charles and Grace Lewis.”

Nixon to discuss actions on proposed tax cut in stops today

Governor Jay Nixon (D) will make a series of stops in the state today to discuss what he will do with a proposed income tax cut sent to him last week by the state legislature.

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

Nixon’s office issued releases saying he will “discuss his actions on Senate Bill 509,” but it doesn’t say what those actions will be or whether he will execute them today.

Nixon is expected to veto the bill that he has called a “reckless fiscal experiment,” and has said looks much like HB 253 that he vetoed last year. He says the legislation would take $620-million annually from public education and other state programs.

Republicans say the bill’s tax cuts would only be triggered in a year after net general revenue increases by at least $150-million.

The proposal would reduce the top personal income tax rate of 6-percent to 5.5-percent by 1/10 of a percent annually beginning in 2017 if state general revenue continues growth. The bill would also phase in a 25-percent individual income tax deduction for business income.

Republican legislative leaders say if Nixon vetoes the bill they will attempt to override it before the end of the session May 16.

Nixon will discuss his intentions this morning at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, this afternoon at Missouri State University in Springfield and at his office in the State Capitol, and this evening he will discuss “the impact of Senate Bill 509 on public education” at the Columbia Public School District.

Tours resume today and work continues at historic state prison

Tours of Missouri’s 178-year-old state penitentiary resume today as work continues to save its oldest buildings.

Crews are seen working on the roof of A-Hall, which dates back to 1868 and is the oldest building still standing at the Missouri State Penitentiary.  (Photo courtesy, Missouri Office of Administration)

Crews are seen working on the roof of A-Hall or Housing Unit 4, which dates back to 1868 and is the oldest building still standing at the Missouri State Penitentiary. (Photo courtesy, Missouri Office of Administration)

The state and the City of Jefferson are splitting up to $2-million of the cost of mold remediation and roof repair in four buildings at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. Buildings dating as far back as 1868 had been going without major maintenance since the prison was decommissioned in 2004.

Mark Schreiber spent 42 years working for the Department of Corrections, much of it inside “the Walls,” where he developed a passion for its history. He has advocated for years to see those buildings saved and credits the state for setting this in motion.

“It’s very pleasing to see the progress that’s been made,” says Schreiber. “It’s the difference between night and day already, and to see that we’re moving forward and getting something done with the roofs, seeing that they’re doing something with the condition of the interiors of the buildings and how they’re sealing them and preserving them, it’s just really great.”

Crews are putting roofs on and remediating mold in three cell blocks that once held inmates like Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, James Earl Ray and Sonny Liston, and the gas chamber where 39 men and 1 woman were executed between 1938 and 1989.

Tours of the prison were suspended in September due to concerns about mold in some of those buildings. Director of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors’ Bureau Diane Gillespie says she’s excited to see those tours resume, though for the first couple of months of the tour season the route will be “modified.”

Three of the four buildings that are being worked on are seen in this wide shot: Housing Unit 3 or McClung Hall at left, the four-story Housing Unit 4 or A-Hall to the right and Housing Unit 1 behind A-Hall.  (Photo courtesy, Missouri Office of Administration)

Three of the four buildings that are being worked on are seen in this wide shot: Housing Unit 3 or McClung Hall at left, the four-story Housing Unit 4 or A-Hall to the right and Housing Unit 1 behind A-Hall. (Photo courtesy, Missouri Office of Administration)

“We will not have access to all four of the buildings,” explains Gillespie. “Currently Housing Unit 3 is going to need some additional work so that is going to take a little bit longer, but we will have access to Housing Unit 1 and Housing Unit 4 along with the gas chamber.”

She tells Missourinet the full tours and a full offering will open up after July 1.

“We’re filling up actually for August, September and October for the ghost tours,” Gillespie tells Missourinet. “At that time we’ll have full access to all four of the buildings, and actually we’ll be able to have maybe a little bit more access to some of the buildings than what we’ve had in the past.”

Schreiber, always the historian, notes there is a significant difference between the people working on those buildings now and those that would have worked on them during much of the prison’s use.

“Instead of the contractors that we have now it would have been inmates … offenders, which would have been called convicts back then,” says Schreiber. “We know that from even back in the 1920s when the roof burned off of A-Hall … we’ve got photographs that show the inmates putting the roof back on.”

See our earlier story on the agreement regarding use of the historic prison