This Oct. 20, 2011, file photo shows the execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum… (Jessie L. Bonner / Associated…)
POCATELLO, Idaho--Richard Leavitt became the second inmate on Idaho’s death row to be executed in the last seven months, dying by lethal injection Tuesday for the 1984 stabbing and mutilation of a young woman who had reported him prowling around her house the day before she was killed.
Leavitt, a 53-year-old former auto mechanic, insisted to the end he was not guilty of the crime. The horrific brutality of the killing continues to haunt the town of Blackfoot, Idaho, where Danette Elg, 31, a shy but popular employee of Idaho National Laboratory, was found dead in the bedroom of the home where she lived alone.
Police found her blood-caked body on her collapsed water bed with an inch of foul water on the floor. Her genitals and anus had been cut out of her body, and she had been stabbed repeatedly in the heart and lungs.
“The men and women of the Department of Correction who are involved in this process have been preparing for this day since the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoadesin November,” department director Brent Reinke told reporters, referring to the execution that was Idaho’s first in 17 years.
“They are dedicated public servants who must carry out a difficult assignment by meeting the highest standards of professionalism, respect and dignity for all involved. They take no joy in this duty,” he said.
Leavitt, who had initially reported Elg missing, contended that he had not carried out the murder, and took a polygraph test to help back up his claims, though such tests are not admissible in Idaho.
“I'm about to be executed for a crime I did not commit,” he told a reporter for KBOI television in a telephone interview last week. “I did not kill. I was not there. I did not mutilate,” he said.
But evidence against Leavitt at his trial was substantial. According to a recent reprise of the case by the Idaho Statesman, Leavitt’s ex-wife said she had once caught her husband repeatedly inserting a knife into the genitals of a doe he had killed while hunting. Blood matching Leavitt’s was found on a piece of Elg’s clothing, though he said it got there when he had a bloody nose during a previous visit to her house.
He was treated for a cut to his hand after the attack that he said was caused by a fan, but medical experts said the wound was not consistent with a fan mishap.
Elg herself had called police only a day before her death, reporting a prowler trying to break into her home. She said she thought it was Leavitt.
Leavitt spent much of the night with his attorneys and requested sedatives several times, according to state prison officials, but made no final statement. “I would say that his mood was one of resolve,” Reinke said. Leavitt was pronounced dead at a state correctional facility near Boise at 10:25 a.m.
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