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Arizona executes man convicted of killing two girls in 1991

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona man convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering two 13-year-old girls then tossing their bodies down an abandoned mineshaft in 1991 was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday.

Richard Dale Stokley, 60, was pronounced dead at 11:12 a.m. MDT in the state prison in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, state officials said. He had no final words.

Stokley was convicted in 1992 of first-degree murder and other related charges in the killings of Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder during an Independence Day festival near Elfrida, about 230 miles from Phoenix.

An accomplice to the killings, Randy Brazeal, confessed to second-degree murder under a plea deal and served 20 years in prison before being released last year, authorities said.

According to court records, Stokley attended the weekend community celebration to work as a stunt man in an Old West re-enactment. The girls camped out at the festival site along with numerous other children from the area.

Stokley and Brazeal kidnapped the girls and took them to a remote area where they raped them. Prosecutors said Stokley, fearing the consequences, determined that both girls should be killed. He strangled one of the girls and Brazeal the other.

The bodies were "stomped upon with great force," with one of the girls bearing the imprint from Stokley's tennis shoe on her chest, shoulder and neck, records show.

Both victims, who were likely unconscious at the time, were stabbed in the right eye with Stokley's knife, records state. Their bodies were dragged and thrown down a water-filled mineshaft.

Brazeal later surrendered to police, and Stokley was arrested. Both men led authorities to the mineshaft where the bodies were hidden.

Stokley was later convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and kidnapping and one count of sexual conduct with a minor. In his last-ditch appeals, he argued that the courts did not consider evidence to mitigate his sentence and argued that Brazeal was more culpable and received a lesser sentence.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Stokley's appeals on Tuesday. He had no other appeals outstanding in any court.

"One can only imagine the terrible pain the families of these victims have endured for more than 21 years since these brutal crimes were committed," Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in a statement.

"My hope is now that the sentence has been carried out, they will find some measure of peace," he added.

Stokley was the sixth person to die by lethal injection in Arizona this year and the 34th since the state reintroduced the death penalty in 1992. Forty-two people have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Stokley requested a last meal of a porterhouse steak, french fries, fried okra, a salad with blue cheese, cheddar cheese, two biscuits, a banana, an apple, a peach, a cream soda and chocolate ice cream, the state's Department of Corrections said.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor, Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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