PARCHMAN – A 61-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting a woman and repeatedly running over her body with his car was executed by lethal injection last Thursday at Mississippi‘s state prison in Parchman. William J. Mitchell had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution, but his petition and application was denied.
On July 24, 1998, a jury found Mitchell guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to death by lethal injection. Mitchell had been out of prison on parole for less than a year for a 1975 murder when he was charged with raping and killing 38-year-old Patty Milliken.
Three years earlier, on Nov. 21, 1995, James Hartley saw Mitchell enter the Majik Mart on Popps Ferry Road in Biloxi three separate times to visit Milliken while she was working her shift. Hartley overheard Milliken refer to Mitchell as “Jerry.”
When Milliken’s shift ended that evening around 8 p.m., she and Hartley had yet to document the amount of cash they had placed in the safe when she opened the safe and then telephoned her son that she would be home in 15 minutes.
According to Hartley, Milliken walked out of the store with Mitchell to smoke a cigarette and told him (Hartley) that she would be right back. Ten minutes later, Hartley walked outside to ask Milliken a question, but she was not there. Her belongings were inside the store, and her car was still in the parking lot.
When Milliken still had not returned by 10 p.m., Hartley called the police and when they arrived, he gave them Milliken’s purse and showed them where she had written Mitchell’s phone number.
Police obtained Mitchell’s residential address and when they arrived on the scene, Mitchell ran. He was later spotted at a gas station on U.S. Highway 90 and ran again with police in pursuit.
Mitchell was eventually caught and arrested for traffic violations. His passenger later testified that Mitchell had stated that he (Mitchell) “got that b–th,” referring to Milliken.
Milliken’s body was found the following morning under a bridge. She had been beaten, strangled, sexually assaulted both vaginally and anally, crushed by a car and mutilated.
There was testimony during trial that she was still alive when the car ran over her.
Comparison tests conducted indicated the tire casts from the area matched three of the four tires on Mitchell’s car with regard to tread design and size. Police also found blood and hair on and under Mitchell’s car.
Mitchell was sentenced to death.
On the morning of his execution, at 5:07 a.m., Mitchell was offered and ate potatoes with beef gravy, biscuits, dry cereal, milk and coffee for breakfast.
Mitchell made collect phone calls to his attorneys, a female friend and his daughter. MDOC correctional officers described his mood as “talkative.”
Mitchell declined his lunch, but for his last meal requested “a big plate shrimp and oysters together,” a “big strawberry shake,” a cup of ranch dressing, two fried chicken breasts and a Coke.
Officials said Mitchell “ate very little” of his last meal, declined a shower, but requested a sedative. Still under observation, officers said Mitchell was still “talkative.”
Mitchell requested his family not witness his execution, but members of Milliken’s family were present as were several officers from various law enforcement agencies.
Mitchell was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.
MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps said during a press conference following the execution that the evening signified the close of the William Mitchell case.
“The State of Mississippi – Department of Corrections has carried out a court order issued by the state Supreme Court. The role of the MDOC is to see that the order of the court is carried out with decorum,” said Epps. “Through the course of nearly 17 years, death row inmate William Mitchell was afforded his day in court and in the finality, his conviction was upheld all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. For the second time this week, the cause of justice has been championed.”
“I ask that you join me in prayer for the family of Ms. Patty Milliken. The entire MDOC family hopes you may now embark on the process of healing. Our prayers and thoughts are with you as you continue life’s journey,” Epps said.
Mitchell’s remains were released to his daughter and the Brinson Funeral Home in Cleveland, Miss.