Donnie Johnson, the Memphis man convicted of brutally murdering his wife in 1984, is dead.
The Tennessee Department of Correction announced Johnson was executed Thursday night by lethal injection at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville and pronounced dead at 7:37 p.m.
Witnesses to the execution provided their accounts in a live news conference outside Riverbend.
Witnesses said Johnson asked for forgiveness before saying 'I commend my life into your hands. Thy will be done. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.' He then sang two hymns as the execution proceeded and officials administered the drugs. Witnesses said his voice then trailed off, and eventually he slowly began to make raspy sounds like snoring before he stopped breathing.
Observers said the last words they could faintly hear from him were 'no more dying here.'
Johnson's execution comes more than three decades after he was convicted of murdering his wife, Connie Johnson, by stuffing a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat, suffocating her just weeks before Christmas.
Eight years into his sentence, the convicted murderer was running a gospel radio show from his cell.
During his time of death row, Johnson claims he had changed. WBIR talked to him in 1992 about his salvation and his sentence.
He told listeners in his show that he wasn't afraid to die.
"Death is just a sleep. When I awake when Christ returns I'll go to heaven,” he said to reporter Chuck Denney.
He said he wanted to spread his Christianity to others, both inside and outside the prison.
He asked Gov. Bill Lee to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole, based on the fact that he's now a Christian and not the "monster" he once was. His victim's daughter, who he adopted, asked the governor for mercy.
But the governor refused to intervene this week.
Johnson had run out of options. He was served his last meal on Thursday. He requested nothing special, just the same food that the other prisoners would receive.
He wrote letters to his family and his victim's family, asking for forgiveness.
Tennessee has five more executions scheduled for this year and next:
- Stephen Michael West, convicted of the murder of Wanda Romines and the murder and rape of Sheila Romines in Union County in 1986, is set to be executed on Aug. 15.
- Charles Walton Wright, Oct. 10, 2019, convicted of the murders of Gerald Mitchell and Douglas Alexander in Davidson County in 1984.
- Lee Hall, aka Leroy Hall Jr., Dec. 5, 2019, convicted of the murder of Traci Crozier in Hamilton County in 1991.
- Nicholas Todd Sutton, Feb. 20, 2020, convicted of the murder of Carl Estep in 1985 in Morgan County. He was earlier convicted of the murder of his grandmother.
- Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman, formerly known as James Lee Jones, April 9, 2020, convicted of the murder of Patrick Daniels in 1986 in Davidson County.