A man who raped and murdered his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter has been put to death in Ohio, the state’s first execution in three and a half years.
Ronald Phillips, 43, was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Wednesday.
Phillips, whose death had been postponed six times, was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of Sheila Marie Evans, who was only 3 years old when her mother’s boyfriend attacked her in January 1993.
The little girl was taken to an Akron hospital after her mother found her on her bed and not breathing.
She was rushed into surgery, where doctors found she suffered from severe injuries to her abdomen and her intestine. She died later that evening from severe blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
An autopsy the following day revealed more than 125 bruises that showed Sheila Marie had been beaten on the head, face, lower torso, arms, legs and genitalia.
Phillips, who was 19 at the time, told police he beat the girl after she didn’t respond to his calls for breakfast, a parole board document obtained by The Associated Press said.
He also admitted to raping her that day and two previous times, the document said.
Before a three-drug formula commonly used to carry out executions was administered, Phillips apologized for his crimes for the first time, according to Sheila Marie’s family, The AP reported.
“Sheila Marie did not deserve what I did to her,” he said. “I’m sorry you had to live so long with my actions.”
Phillips was pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m.
Before his death, Phillips spent time praying, kneeling and reading the Bible, a prison department spokesperson told The AP.
He was allowed to meet with his brother before his execution, and became emotional while visiting with a spiritual advisor and a friend.
Phillips committed an “unspeakable crime” against Sheila Marie, but at the time of his death, he “did not in any way resemble that trouble and broken teen,” his attorney said in a statement obtained by NBC News.
“He had grown to be a good man, who was thoughtful, caring, compassionate, remorseful, and reflective,” the statement continued. “He tried every day to atone for his shameful role in Sheila's death... Ron's case suggests we should thoughtfully reconsider our laws that permit the harshest punishment for those who committed their crimes as teenagers, especially the irrevocable punishment of death."
Phillips became a minister in prison and had saved unleavened bread from his last meal of pizza and cheesecake to be used as communion before his execution, according to reports.
But the victim’s family appeared to be unmoved by Phillips’ recent behavior.
“It was too easy,” Renee Mundell, the half-sister of Sheila Marie, told reporters after his execution.
"Finally, after 24 and a half years, she can rest in peace,” Sheila Marie’s aunt, Donna Hudson, said.
Sheila Marie’s mother, Fae Evans, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. She died of cancer in 2008.
The death penalty had been on hold in Ohio since 2014, when murderer Dennis McGuire struggled to breathe and snorted during his execution that was administered with an untested combination of drugs. His death took 26 minutes, far longer than usual.
Phillips’ execution was the 15th in the U.S. this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.