(This story was originally published May 18, 1995)
Jackson — Vince Stewart looked tired and sad, his eyes reddened, minutes after his niece’s killer was executed Wednesday.
“Today just brings to a close part of our family’s hurt and pain. We can begin healing,” Stewart said shortly after Darrell Gene Devier was put to death.
Devier, 39, was declared dead at 1:28 p.m. Wednesday, nearly 16 years after he raped and murdered Mary Frances Stoner, an Adairsville sixth-grader. She was kidnapped Nov. 29, 1979, moments after she stepped off the school bus at the end of the dirt road leading to her family's rural home.
Devier, who admitted killing the girl, was the 20th person to die in Georgia’s electric chair since 1983 and the second in less than six weeks.
His execution was the third in the nation this week, following executions in Louisiana and Illinois. Since capital punishment was resumed in the United States in 1976, 281 people have been executed. Georgia ranks fifth in the number of executions.
Devier was scheduled to die Monday, but the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution. The court lifted the stay shortly before noon Wednesday.
Witnesses said Devier walked voluntarily into the death chamber and did not resist as he was strapped into the chair. Ninety minutes earlier, he had a last meal of two bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and two cartons of milk. Devier had no last statement but agreed to a prayer, according to witnesses. “I’ll take all I can get when it comes to that,” Devier said.
Seven minutes later, he was dead. Death penalty proponents outside the prison, holding up enlarged photographs of the slain girl, cheered when they heard a radio broadcast of the execution.
Death penalty opponents were nearby, their heads bowed and holding hands. “This is murder,” said Bernard DeCook.
Mary and Roy Stoner, their 17-year-old daughter and four other relatives awaited news of the execution in the office of the warden of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center at Jackson. The Stoners had with them a portrait of their daughter bending over to lace her pink ballet slippers.
“It’s been way too long,” said Ginger Brown, Mary Frances’ first cousin, who was with the demonstrators.