Arizona death row inmate who killed 8-year-old girl in 1984 is executed

Arizona death row inmate spent 30 MINUTES advising executioners on how to get needle into his vein before he was put to death: 66-year-old killed girl, 8, in 1984

Frank Atwood, 66, died by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, Arizona on Wednesday after about half an hour strapped to a gurneyHe was convicted in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Hoskinson in 1984Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan denied his attorney’s request for a stay of execution just one hour before it was set to begin Atwood’s attorneys had tried to stay the execution, arguing that Atwood’s degenerative spinal condition would make it excruciatingly painful for him They also questioned whether state officials met a requirement for the lethal injection drug’s expiration date to fall after the execution dateProsecutors say he could alleviate his pain by propping him with a pillow on the gurney, which has a tilting function, and said he can take his pain medicine 

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An Arizona death row inmate spent nearly half an hour strapped to a gurney as executioners struggled to get a needle into his veins before he was put to death on Wednesday for the murder of an 8-year-old girl in 1984.

Jimmy Jenkins, a reporter for Arizona Central, sat in an observation room at the Arizona State Prison in Florence on Wednesday watching a monitor as Frank Atwood, 66, was killed for the kidnapping and murder of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, an 8-year-old girl whose body was found in the Tucson desert months after she disappeared.

In a series of tweets, Jenkins described in vivid detail how Atwood had to instruct his executioners how to get a needle into his veins so he could die by lethal injection.

He wrote that the executioners entered the chamber wearing all black – black shirts, hats, gloves, sunglasses and masks to obscure their face – before two men in blue medical gowns and hair nets pushed in a ‘messy, disorganized cart full of medical supplies.’

At first, Jenkins tweeted, the execution team inserted an IV and catheter into Atwood’s left arm, then wheeled their cart around to the other side and told him they were going to insert another IV into a femoral vein.

‘Why?’ Atwood reportedly asked. ‘They draw blood from my left arm with no problem all the time,’ he told the execution team, as Jenkins said he appeared to be grimacing and in pain.

The executioners did not reply about why they wanted to put another line in his femoral vein, but decided to listen to Atwood, and insert it into his arm as he suggested.

Still, Jenkins reports, they tried and failed to get it set up several times, at which point Atwood reportedly said: ‘I don’t understand, they’ve never had this problem before.’

The team then suggested going in through his groin, Jenkins reports, but Atwood asked them: ‘Could you try the hand? They have been able to go in there before as well.’

Again, Jenkins said, the IV team agreed, with Jenkins writing that they ‘looked at each other and said, “Sure, we’ll give that a try.”‘

That time, Jenkins wrote, it worked – and Atwood was pronounced dead at 10.16am local time. 

Frank Atwood, 66 died by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, Arizona on Wednesday for his murder conviction in the killing of Vicki Hoskinson, 8, in 1984

In a series of tweets, Arizona Central reporter Jimmy Jenkins described the scene as Arizona executioners tried to kill Atwood on Wednesday

Atwood has been on death row in Arizona for over 35 years, as his lawyers repeatedly tried to stay his execution.

He was convicted in 1987 of the kidnapping and murder of Vicki, whose body was found in the Tucson desert seven months after she first disappeared from her house. 

Experts could not determine the cause of death from her remains, but authorities have maintained that Atwood, who was previously convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old boy, had kidnapped Vicki and killed her.

He has long denied the claims until he ultimately lost his final appeal last month.

Atwood’s attorneys then sought desperately to stay his execution through the court system until Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan denied their final request just one hour before the execution was set to begin.

He denied a final meal, saying he was fasting, before ultimately agreeing to a slew of snacks, and as he lay on the gurney with a pillow behind him to support his spine, he wore the black skull cap of his Greek Orthodox religion with a red cross on it and a black cross around his neck.

Atwood’s religious advisor was able to hold him down throughout the process – a first for the state – and authorities claim Atwood did not complain of any pain. 

‘He seemed to accept his fate, he did not apologize in his last words,’ officials said in a following press conference.

They noted the only sound in the witness room was his wife crying.

In the aftermath, Debbie Carlson, Vicki’s mother said: ‘Today marks final justice for our daughter Vicki Lynne. Our family has waited 37 years, eight months and 22 days for this day to come.’

She described her daughter as ‘a vibrant little girl with an infectious laugh and a smile that would melt your heart.

‘Vicki, I want you to be free, little one,’ Carlson said. ‘Rest easy, our precious little girl. May your spirit soar as it continues to live with us, in us and through us forever.’ 

Hoskinson, 8, (pictured) disappeared in 1984 after she rode her bike to a local mailbox to send her aunt a birthday card

Hoskinson disappeared on September 17, 1984 after her mother, Debbie, let her ride her pink bicycle alone for the first time so she could send her aunt a birthday card.

She never returned home that day, and her older sister ultimately found her bike lying on the ground at Pocito Place and Root Lane in the small community of Flowing Wells, outside of Tucson.

‘I knew, I just had that sick pit in my stomach,’ Debbie recounted to ABC 15 recently.

In the aftermath, witnesses said they saw a dark-colored Datsun speed away from the area, and authorities found paint from Atwood’s vehicle scraped on the bicycle.

They were then able to trace his vehicle – which a local teacher recorded the license plate of after she noticed Atwood acting strangely – to Texas, where they were ultimately able to arrest him.

As the investigation continued, investigators learned he had a history of convictions against children – including one a decade earlier for sexually assaulting a 7-year-old boy.

By April, a man walking in desert land of Tucson reported finding a human skull, and authorities were able to confirm it was Hoskinson’s body. 

Still, Atwood denied the charges against him – stating at his trial, ‘I’m telling you from my heart, I’m innocent of this crime.’

He lost his appeal of the conviction last month. 

Hoskinson’s pink bike was discovered on the side of the road in her small town after she went to send the birthday card

It was the first time her mother, Debbie, let her 8-year-old daughter ride her bike alone

The bike had been discovered by Hoskinson’s older sister – at which point Debbie said she knew something terrible had happened to her young daughter

Authorities say paint chips from Atwood’s dark-colored Datsun had rubbed off on the bike – and they were able to track the car to Texas, where he was arrested

Atwood’s attorneys have since argued in court documents that his degenerative spinal condition would make it excruciatingly painful for him to be strapped on his back to a gurney, where prisoners lie as they receive lethal injections.

But they also argued that a death by gas chamber – the state’s other option for executions – would result in a tortuous amount of pain because the state’s protocols call for the use of cyanide gas.

They claimed that the protocol using hydrogen cyanide gas – which was used in some past U.S. executions and by Nazis to kill 865,000 Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone – is unconstitutional and would produce agonizing levels of pain in executions.

Instead, they requested instead that Atwood be killed in a gas chamber using nitrogen gas, arguing that it would be produce a less painful death.

But prosecutors said he can alleviate his pain by propping himself up with a pillow on the gurney – which has a tilting function – and said he can continue to take his pain medications. 

In the end, a three-judge panel denied the motion for an alternative execution method in part because ‘accommodations for Atwood’s degenerative spinal disease preclude a finding that their lethal injection protocol creates a substantial risk of severe pain,’ according to Arizona Central.

They also found that Atwood lacked standing to challenge the state’s protocols for lethal gas.

Still, Atwood’s team tried to take his case to both the Arizona and United States Supreme Court in a last-ditch attempt to prevent his death.

They told the United States Supreme Court in court filings that the aggravating factor that made his crime eligible for the death penalty was invalidly applied, though judges have denied that argument in the past.

And on Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan once again denied the request just about one hour before the execution was set to begin. 

If a last-ditch effort to stay his execution fails, Atwood would die of lethal injection at the Arizona State Prison in Florence (pictured) at 10am local time

Atwood’s attorneys have been able to secure some provisions for the inmate, though, with the Arizona Department of Corrections agreeing to have his spiritual adviser, Father Paisos, by his side as he is executed.

Under the Department of Corrections protocols, spiritual advisors can speak with a prisoner in the death chamber from another room via microphone, but cannot be in the same room with the inmate.

Atwood’s attorneys, though, claimed the protocols violated his First Amendment rights, and Paisos will now be able to accompany Atwood into the chamber room and lay his hands on him, saying an audible prayer – though he must be silent during ‘critical points’ of the execution process. 

Paisos has testified before the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency in May that he was certain Atwood experienced ‘a complete transformation of life’ when he converted to Greek Orthodoxy while incarcerated.

He claimed that the authenticity of Atwood’s faith was to a degree he had not seen in hundreds of others, and said Atwood ‘unfailingly followed my instructions,’ and kept to a daily routine of prayer, according to Arizona Central.

And prior to his scheduled execution on Wednesday, religious advisers were able to visit him and perform a ceremony known as tonsure – which involves cutting a lock of his hair to make him a monk.

Atwood is now the second Arizona prisoner to be put to death in less that one month following the execution of Clarence Dixon (pictured)

Atwood is now the second Arizona prisoner to be put to death in less than a month after the execution of Clarence Dixon last month ended Arizona’s halting of the death penalty – which was blamed on the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs and criticism that a 2014 execution in the state was botched.

Dixon was executed on May 11 for his murder conviction in the 1978 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.

His execution was criticized by death penalty experts because it took officials about 30 minutes to insert an IV into his body to deliver the lethal drug and 10 minutes after that to die.

They said executions should take seven to 10 minutes from the beginning of the IV insertion process until the moment the prisoner is declared dead.

The execution team first tried and failed to insert an IV into Dixon’s left arm before they were able to connect it in his right arm. They then made an incision in his groin area for another IV line.

Dixon´s execution was the first to be carried out in the state since the July 2014 execution of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over nearly two hours.

Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped before he died. His attorney said the execution had been botched.

Death penalty opponents worry that Arizona will now start executing a steady stream of prisoners who have languished on death row, but no further executions have been scheduled so far in Arizona, which has 112 prisoners on death row, including Atwood. 

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