Inmate executed for the sexual assault and murder of boss’ wife

Thirty-five-year-old Larry Matthew Puckett (pictured) was executed Tuesday night for the sexual battery and murder of Rhonda Hatten Griffis in 1995.

By Monica Land

PARCHMAN – Prison officials said Death Row inmate Larry Matthew Puckett went to his death Tuesday night still claiming he was innocent of the crimes against him. Puckett, 35, was condemned to death for the 1995 sexual assault and brutal beating death of his boss’ wife, Rhonda Hatten Griffis.

Christopher Epps, Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), said Puckett was somber throughout the day Tuesday telling him “there’s more to the story” referring to Griffis’ death 17 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t agree – as they denied Puckett’s petition and application for a stay of execution and Mississippi’s governor Phil Bryant, also declined to intervene.

Puckett was the second inmate to be executed this year and he was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m.

Prosecutors said that on Oct. 14, 1995, Griffis' mother heard a scream coming from her daughter's house next door and found Puckett inside the mobile home holding a club. Puckett allegedly went after the mother with the club, but Griffis' husband had just arrived and Puckett fled after a struggle, court records said.

The husband found his wife’s bloody and battered body in the living room when he went to get a gun. She was wearing a shirt but the only clothing on her lower body was around her left foot. Her injuries included trauma and gashes on her head, back, chest and neck. She was also bleeding from her genital area.

Rhonda Hatten Griffis was 28-years-old.

The husband allegedly recognized Puckett because Puckett had worked for him in the past.

Puckett, who was about 18 at the time, was captured two days later. Investigators said he confessed to being at the Griffis' home to burglarize it, but he claimed Griffis' husband killed her.

Court documents said that Puckett told authorities he and Griffis had a previous sexual relationship and his only intention that day was to burglarize the house to find money to pay his truck note. He said when he saw Griffis’ car outside, she let him in and they talked and later began kissing.

Puckett claims that when Griffis heard her mother coming, Griffis picked up her clothes and ran into the bedroom. When her husband, David came in, Puckett said David went into a jealous rage and beat Griffis to death.

Puckett’s claims were all disputed by Griffis’ mother’s testimony during trial.

A jury found Puckett guilty and he was sentenced to death on Aug. 5, 1996.

MDOC officials said in preparation for his execution, Puckett was moved from Unit 29 to Unit 17 Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday, March 20, the morning of his execution, Puckett ate grits, 2 boiled eggs, 1 biscuit, coffee and two cartons of milk.

His visitors included his mother, two brothers, father, stepmother and his uncle, and he made two collect phone calls to two female friends.

For lunch Puckett was served and ate meatballs and gravy, turnip greens, cookies and tea. For his last meal, Puckett requested Macadamia nut pancakes, maple syrup, butter, shrimp and grits, ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, a bag of Werther’s Originals caramel candy and an A&W Root Beer.

Puckett declined a sedative, but requested a shower after his last meal.

His family and attorneys did not witness his execution, but the sheriff’s from Sunflower, Lamar and Forrest counties did as well as the parents of Puckett’s victim, Rhonda Hatten Griffis.

Griffis had two sons at the time of her death, ages 5 and 7.

Puckett requested this his remains be released to his mother and the Glenwood Funeral Home in Vicksburg.