Man To Be Executed Wednesday

He will become the second inmate executed in Mississippi in 10 years. Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. pleaded guilty to rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl.

The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman is set to execute Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., 58, for capital murder, rape, and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray.

Following a lawsuit filed by Loden and four Mississippi death row inmates over Mississippi’s lethal injection protocol, a federal judge declined to block Mississippi from carrying out the execution late at night on Dec. 7. Mississippi last executed a prisoner in November 2021.

One of Loden’s attorneys, Mark McDonald, said Wednesday morning that Loden did not plan to seek any further delays.

“Loden does not intend to challenge the decision at this time,” McDonald said.

In the summer prior to her senior year of high school, Gray worked as a waitress at her uncle’s restaurant in northeast Mississippi. On June 22, 2000, she was stranded on a rural road with a flat tire after leaving work after dark.

The Marine Corps recruiter who has relatives in the area encountered Gray on the road around 10:45 p.m. He stopped and spoke with the teenager about the flat tire.

According to Loden, he became angry after Gray allegedly said she “would never want to be a Marine,” so he ordered her into his van. He then sexually abused her for four hours before strangling and suffocating her to death.

According to court records, on June 23, 2000, “Loden was discovered lying by the side of a road with the words ‘I’m sorry’ carved into his chest and apparent self-inflicted lacerations on his wrists.”

When Loden pleaded guilty in September 2001, he told Gray’s friends and family during his sentencing: “I hope you may have some sense of justice when you leave here today.”

Gray’s mother, Wanda Farris, described her as a “happy-go-lucky, always smiling” teenager who strived to become an elementary school teacher.

Farris said, “She wasn’t perfect, but she tried her best.” Farris plans on attending Wednesday’s execution.