In 1990, Donald Eugene Moeller raped and murdered a 9-year-old girl. Yesterday, he paid for his crime after a delay of two decades.
In the UK at the moment, the big crime story is still Jimmy Savile. Whatever is finally proven against the flamboyant disc jockey and TV presenter, Donald Moeller is a salutary reminder that there are far worse people in the world. The good news is that they are sometimes brought to book, even if they manage to cheat the hangman for twenty years.
No, South Dakota doesn't hang convicted murderers, indeed it rarely executes them at all. Although Moeller is the second person executed this month, he is only the fourth since 1913.
Earlier this year, it was ruled that Moeller should be executed in the week October 28-November 3.
As with all capital cases in the United States, Moeller's conviction and sentence was subjected to careful scrutiny. As with many, like that of Troy Davis, it was examined not only carefully but minutely, and has even been cited as case law.
On the evening of May 8, 1990, 9 year old Rebecca O'Connell left her home at Sioux Falls, South Dakota to visit the local candy store. When she failed to return, her mother and stepfather reported her missing. Her body was found by two men the following morning in or near woodland in Lincoln County. The cause of death was a severed jugular vein. In addition to murdering her, her abductor had raped and sodomised her, and had stabbed her repeatedly in other parts of her body.
Moeller soon came under suspicion because he had a history of sexual violence that was sufficiently similar to warrant scrutiny, if only to eliminate him as a suspect. In January 1973 he had kidnapped a young woman named Carolyn Beshaw locally. If she hadn't exhibited extraordinary courage she could well have been his first murder victim. Subsequently he had groomed a 13 year old boy for sex and had also menaced a young mother.
If nothing else, these offences beg the question why was Moeller at liberty when Becky O'Connell was murdered?
There was also forensic evidence against Moeller, which although challenged, appears to have been reliable. At any rate, no jurist of reason can argue that he did not receive due process.
Last night he received a lethal injection at 10.01pm and was pronounced dead 23 minutes later.