A man who raped and killed a 13-year-old Tempe girl in 1984, then took part in her search and attended her funeral was executed by lethal injection Wednesday with a drug that has never been used before in the state.
Donald Edward Beaty, 56, died at the state prison in Florence after spending well over two decades on Arizona’s death row.
His last words were of remorse to Christy’s family and love to his own.
“I just want to say to the Fornoff family, I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Beaty said as his voice cracked and his eyes teared up. “God’ll let you see her again.”
Beaty then turned to his brother and said: “Freddy, I love you. I kept my promise.”
He then thanked everyone for being there, and mouthed “I’m sorry” again to the Fornoff family and “I love you” again to his brother.
Beaty was pronounced dead at 7:38 p.m., 11 minutes after he took a big yawn and appeared to fall asleep.
Afterward, Christy’s tearful family hugged and comforted one another before speaking to the media. Christy’s mother, Carol Fornoff, said they were there for closure, to pray for Beaty’s soul and to represent Christy.
Her father, Roger Fornoff said: “We’re relieved that he did say that he was sorry to us.”
The Arizona Department of Corrections replaced the controversial execution drug sodium thiopental with pentobarbital as part of the three-drug method to execute Beaty.
Beaty was executed after federal and state courts refused several attempts to stop the sentence from being carried out. His lawyers argued that the drug replacement announced late Tuesday rushed the proceedings, putting Beaty at risk of being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. The state said the drug swap was a minor change permitted under Arizona’s execution protocol.
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a stay late Wednesday and refused to consider a new appeal on Beaty’s behalf.
Beaty ate his last meal around 7 p.m. Tuesday. He ate a shredded beef chimichanga, a double cheeseburger, French fries, rocky road ice cream and diet Pepsi.
On May 9, 1984, Beaty kidnapped Christy Ann Fornoff from the Tempe apartment complex where he worked as a custodian while she was making collections for her newspaper route with her mother, police said. He took her to his own apartment, where he raped and suffocated Christy as her mother searched for her.
Court records show that Beaty even pretended to help look for the girl, knocking on apartment doors with her father before he dumped her body behind a garbage bin two days later. Beaty also attended the girl’s funeral, shaking her father’s hand, as police gathered evidence before arresting him about two weeks after the killing.
Police found that blood, semen and hair on the girl’s body was consistent with Beaty’s, and that hair in Beaty’s apartment was consistent with Christy’s.
While in prison, Beaty told a psychologist that he did not mean to kill Christy but had accidentally suffocated her when he put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, according to court records.
Christy’s parents, Roger and Carol Fornoff, wrote the judge in the case in 1985 asking for the death penalty.
“We have lost part of ourselves,” they wrote. “We will never see our little girl graduate from school, get married, have children. Her potential will never be fulfilled here on earth.”
They wrote that the crime robbed the family of its freedom, saying they could no longer take walks at night alone without fear and that their children and grandchildren no longer trusted others.
In April, one of Beaty’s cousins wrote to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency that Beaty was one of the nicest people he has ever known.
“I think he has paid his dues and does not deserve to die,” wrote Donna Turner.
Since 1993, the state had used sodium thiopental with two other drugs to execute 23 death row inmates. The most recent, Eric John King, was executed March 29 for killing two men in a 1989 Phoenix convenience store robbery.
At least 10 states have switched to pentobarbital or are considering a switch as part of their three-drug methods because of a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, a sedative that states used for more than three decades until its only U.S. manufacturer stopped making it in 2009 and then dropped plans to resume production earlier this year.
Both sodium thiopental and pentobarbital are fast-acting barbiturates that in massive intravenous doses will quickly stop a person’s breathing and cause death in 10 to 15 minutes.
Arizona and other states turned to England to obtain doses of sodium thiopental not approved for medical use by the FDA, and death row inmates in Arizona, California and Tennessee sued over the imported drugs.
Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani said the state switched to pentobarbital for Beaty’s execution because the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked the state not to use sodium thiopental. The state was told it didn’t file a form needed to import the drug, Cattani said.
Beaty’s lawyers said the timing of the switch denied him a chance to have experts consider whether the new drug would be properly administered and avoid having another drug inflict severe pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Cattani said that the switch was permitted under the state’s execution protocol and that there was no evidence that the new drug wouldn’t be properly mixed and administered by the medical team assigned to help conduct the execution.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal handwritten by Beaty in March challenging the death penalty, saying it violates his constitutional rights to religious freedom and to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
“The creator teaches that every life is a precious gift of God,” Beaty wrote.
The justices on Wednesday refused to consider two petitions filed by Beaty’s lawyers, including one arguing that he had ineffective attorneys early in his case.
Beaty’s attorneys say that his trial lawyer never presented evidence that Beaty endured severe physical and sexual abuse as a child. They also argue that Beaty’s post-conviction attorney never argued that the trial lawyer was ineffective or presented evidence of the abuse.
Prosecutors said courts had ample opportunity to review Beaty’s conviction and sentence and that arguments about his abuse have no merit.
Defense attorney Sarah Stone wrote that Beaty’s abuse and claims of mental problems “are not offered as excuses for this offense, but rather are meant to place Christy Ann Fornoff’s murder in a context.”
“While there was a degree of intent involved in the sexual offense, because of Donald’s brain damage, his victimization as a child, and psychiatric problems never treated, the murder was likely an act of impulse resulting from his inability to problem-solve and deal with unforeseen circumstances,” Stone wrote.
Davenport reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Carmen Castro in Florence and Jesse Holland in Washington contributed to this report.