The daughters of a man Missouri plans to execute Tuesday for killing his girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter want his life spared, even though one of them was there the night of the murders.
Richard Strong brutally stabbed and slashed 23-year-old Eva Washington and her 2-year-old daughter, Zandrea Thomas, to death after an argument in October of 2000. When police arrived they found the couple’s 3-month-old daughter sitting on a bed next to a pool of blood and a knife.
That daughter, Alyshia Strong, is now 14, and she is asking Governor Jay Nixon (D) to stop her father from being executed Tuesday evening. She knows some people might find that hard to understand.
“My dad is the only parent I have,” Strong told Missourinet. “I live with my grandma and she’s an amazing … she’s been amazing raising me … but my dad is my dad.”
Alyshia’s half-sister Lauren Strong, 18 and also Richard Strong’s daughter, says in spite of his having been in prison most of their lives, he has been active as their father.
“In any way he could possibly have been a part of my life, he was,” Lauren said.
The two young ladies have presented Nixon with a request for clemency for Strong. Neither daughter denies his crime or attempts to excuse it, but both say he would be punished enough if he spent the rest of his life in prison and say it would only punish them to execute him.
Lauren Strong was four at the time of the murders. She says she likes to think she knows who he is now, “or on some level, the reasons why he did what he did, and I’m not going to make any excuses. It was horrible. But it’s not for anybody else to, without sounding cliché, play God.
“There is nothing good that would come out of his execution. Absolutely not one thing I can think of that’s good. But there are a hundred bad things I can think of,” Lauren added.
In the clemency request Alyshia writes that she never asked him about the night of the murders until his execution date was set by the Missouri Supreme Court in April. She told Missourinet she put it off because she wanted to protect his feelings.
“But, if my father was going to die, I needed to know everything. I needed closure. I needed to know what happened because I didn’t want him to leave and me not be able to find out,” she said.
According to her statement in the request, he told her Washington had been abused as a child, had Multiple Personality Disorder, and said his relationship with Washington was volatile.
“He didn’t mean to hurt anybody and he’s very sorry,” she told Missourinet. “I’m at peace now but I would rather him live than to die for something that [he] didn’t mean to happen.”
She said in her statement she still isn’t ready to ask why he spared her on the night of the murders, and hopes he won’t be executed so some day, she can.
Strong’s mother, Joyce Knox, is Alyshia’s legal guardian. She says Richard Strong calls Alyshia two or three times a week.
“I know they talk about important things – the same kinds of things a father would talk to his daughter about if he were living at home with her,” she writes in her statement in the clemency request. “Even though he is in prison, Richard is a very good father – he always has been.”
“At one time Richard was going to church with me, and by me being a minister he thought that he could go to Heaven off of mama’s coattails, but I know now that Richard has truly found God in his life,” Knox told Missourinet. “And he’s helped a lot of other people that are in prison with him to find God and he’s changed so much.”
She added tearfully, “I don’t want to see him die.”
Nixon has heard from the families, attorneys, and friends of some of the other men that have been executed in Missouri since late 2013 that those men had found religion and were positive influences on those with them in prison, as well as claims regarding some of those men’s competency to be executed – one of the claims raised now by Strong’s attorneys in seeking to keep him from being executed. Nixon has also been told that some of those men were abused as children, as has been said of Strong. None of those arguments has dissuaded Nixon from allowing any given to proceed.
Strong’s attorneys are seeking to block his execution on several other fronts, as well, including arguing that the jury was not properly instructed in how it had to consider the factors that prosecutors raised as arguments that he should receive the death penalty.
If those efforts ultimately fail, Strong will die by lethal injection at the state prison at Bonne Terre between Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 5:59 p.m. His would be the fourth execution carried out in Missouri this year and the 16th since Missouri resumed conducting executions on a regular basis, and began scheduling one per month in November, 2013.
Attempts to reach the family of Eva Washington and Zandrea Thomas for this story have been unsuccessful.