Victim’s family on Arkansas execution: ‘Ready for it to be done’

Posted at 7:22 AM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 07:22:03-04

Darla Jones said she can’t imagine what it will be like to watch the man who killed her mother as he is executed by lethal injection on Monday.

She believes that after Jack Harold Jones is put to death, a feeling of anticipation among her family members may likely give way to a mixture of relief and sadness over a loved one lost.

Jack Harold Jones — no relation to Darla Jones — was convicted of rape and murder in 1996 for the death of Mary Phillips, 34, a year earlier in Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Darla Jones and her family members plan to witness the execution, one of two deaths by injection scheduled in Arkansas on Monday.

Jones’ pending death will bring closure for the family of Mary Phillips. They have trudged to clemency hearings over the years, crying and pleading for Arkansas to carry out the execution.

They had hoped their mother’s killer would have been put death by now, Darla Jones said.

“We couldn’t move on and have that closure because they wouldn’t let us,” Jones, 38 of Little Rock, Arkansas, said Sunday. “It’s like they trapped us … thinking about it and going to clemency hearings, and telling them one more time ‘Yes, we still want you to finish this.’ ”

Stays granted in some cases

On June 6, 1995, Jack Harold Jones raped and killed Phillips in an accounting office in Bald Knob, where she worked as a bookkeeper. He also beat her 11-year-old daughter, Lacey, and left her for dead.

Lacey regained consciousness as police photographers — who thought she was dead — took pictures of the crime scene. Now Lacey Seal, she is 32 years old.

Jack Harold Jones was among eight inmates Arkansas had planned to execute over 11 days starting on April 17, saying its lethal-injection drugs would expire at the end of the month. Four of the men have received stays for various reasons.

On Thursday, Arkansas executed the first of the eight men, convicted murderer Ledell Lee, 51. He remained silent in the moments leading up to his execution, a media witness said.

Lee was pronounced dead 12 minutes after officials administered the injection. It was Arkansas’ first execution since 2005.

Attorneys for the eight death row inmates had attempted to block the executions on several grounds, including arguing that midazolam, the drug used to make inmates unconscious before two more drugs paralyze and kill them, does not effectively prevent a painful death.

The second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the inmate. And the third, potassium chloride, causes cardiac arrest and stops the heart.

The lawyers also challenged the state’s decision to carry out the eight executions in the 11-day time frame, which is unprecedented, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Marcel Wayne Williams is the second inmate scheduled to be executed on Monday.

Williams was convicted of capital murder in 1997 for the death of Stacy Errickson, a mother of two. On November 20, 1994, Williams forced Errickson into her car at gunpoint at a gas station in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He made her withdraw money at several ATMs, transactions captured on several security cameras.

Errickson’s body was found two weeks later.

Errickson’s mother and twin brother could not be reached on Sunday.

‘Now the whole world cares’

Darla Jones said her mother was a petite, Christian woman, who married her high school sweetheart. Jones recalled dropping her younger sister Lacey off at the accounting office and heading to a friend’s house for a birthday party on the day her mother was killed.

She said she kissed her mom and told her she loved her.

After her mother’s death, Jones said she became “a makeshift mom, cleaning house, doing dinners,” and taking her two younger siblings to events.

She has attended three clemency hearings since 2007, including one scheduled for this month. Jones said her family has “suffered more than it’s worth.”

“Our wounds have healed, but … they’re making a circus out of it,” said Jones, a real estate agent who also works in sales.

She added: “My mother was such a perfect, great person, that I could see her saying something like: ‘Don’t even bother. I’m in heaven.’ ”

The media attention, buzz on social media, opinions of experts and anti-death penalty protests have been overwhelming, Jones said.

“We were in a small town and I didn’t feel like it involved anyone else but us because it was my mom,” she said. “Now the whole world cares.”

She makes an effort to talk about her mother in the present tense with strangers and those she doesn’t know well.

“It’s not a one-answer solution. I have to go on and on,” she said.

She would rather people forget about this part of her life because “it doesn’t define who we are,” she said.

‘Ready for it be done’

On Monday, her brother, Jesse Phillips, 36, her father and two other family members plan to watch the scheduled execution in a viewing area of the chambers of the Cummins Unit prison in Grady, Arkansas.

Jones, Seal and other family members will be in a nearby building on the property watching the execution on closed-circuit television, Jones said.

Seal declined to be interviewed.

“She’s ready for it to be done,” said her husband, Darrin Seal, 36, of Piggott, Arkansas. “It’s going to bring some closure to the entire family.”

Jones said she’s unsure how much of the execution she will watch. She will look at the screen “to physically see him there, just so I’ll know that it’s real,” she said.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the entire thing. I don’t think that’s a visual I can handle as a mother … as a young adult that has a lot of life to live,” she said.

But she knows holidays with family members will feel different after the execution.

“From now on, it’ll be just positive things, just the regular, good old stories,” Jones said.