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.