ATMORE — The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) successfully carried out the lethal injection execution of convicted double-murderer Jamie Ray Mills Thursday evening after a slew of failed appeals in the weeks preceding his death.

The state successfully delivered Mills' sentence on Thursday evening at Holman Correctional Facility just after 6 p.m., after the Supreme Court denied his petition for a stay of execution earlier that day.

Mills was convicted of capital murder in the 2004 deaths of Floyd Hill, 87, and his wife Vera Hill, 72. The Hills were robbed and beaten to death with a machete, a tire iron and a ball peen hammer.

1819 News was among the five media witnesses permitted to observe the execution.

Mills' final 24 hours were spent visiting or talking on the phone with friends, family members, his attorney, and his spiritual advisor. He accepted his last meal: a seafood platter consisting of three large shrimp, two catfish filets, three oysters, three onion rings, and one stuffed crab.

The gallery was filled with several witnesses, presumably his family and attorney based on Mills' final words. His spiritual advisor was present in the execution room with him. The witnesses watched from the gallery, choking back tears and passing around a tissue box. An unknown number of the victims' family also attended and viewed the process in another viewing room.

The curtain to the gallery opened at 6:07 p.m., revealing Mills strapped to a gurney with the IV line attached to administer the fatal drug protocol. Half of his body was covered in a sheet; the only thing visible was Mills' face and a heavily tattooed arm to which the IV line was attached.

While initially nervously moving his fingers and mouth, Mills delivered his final words with noticeable composure. He thanked his attorney, Charlotte Morrison, and expressed his love for his family.

"I love my family," Mills said. "I love my brother and sister. I couldn't ask for more. Charlotte, you fought hard for me. I love you all. Carry on."

Mills then repeatedly motioned to the gallery, giving a thumbs up, nodding his head, and speaking several phrases unintelligible from the gallery.

At 6:12, Mills' spiritual advisor began to pray over him. Mills seemed to join in the prayer several times, still giving a thumbs up. His thumb shrank down as he appeared to lose consciousness while his advisor continued to pray.

His breathing grew heavy and labored before the corrections officer yelled his name and flicked his eyelid to check consciousness.

Mills appeared to stop breathing at 6:16, and curtains shut on the gallery at 6:19. His official time of death was reported as 6:26 p.m.

ADOC commissioner John Hamm spoke after the execution, reading a statement from the Hills' surviving family.

"In the past 20 years, our family has been seeking justice, and today, justice has been served," the statement read. "However, it took 20 years to do so. Our family believes in the judicial system no matter how long it takes. Our family now can have some closure to this heinous crime that he committed, and our loving grandparents can rest in peace. Let this be a lesson to those that believe justice will not find them. Hopefully, this will prevent others from committing future crimes. God help us all. Thank you." 

Hamm said that officials had no problem establishing an IV line, which was a persistent problem last year after two executions were called off because of complications with the IV.

 Governor Kay Ivey applauded the execution, saying Mills was "undoubtedly guilty."

"Almost 20 years ago, the grandchildren of Floyd and Vera Hill, worried for their grandparents, filed a missing-person report only for police to discover the couple had been brutally and horrendously beaten to death," Ivey said. "The Hills' lives were taken at the hands of Jamie Mills. The evidence in this case is overwhelming, and Mr. Mills is undoubtedly guilty."

She continued, "Tonight, two decades after he committed these murders, Jamie Mills has paid the price for his heinous crimes. I pray for the victims and their loved ones as they continue to grieve." 

Attorney General Steve Marshall also lauded the execution, joining Ivey in wishing well on the Hills' surviving family.

"Tonight, Jamie Mills was executed by lethal injection after having been convicted by a jury of his peers of the heinous murder of Floyd and Vera Hill of Marion County," Marshall said. "In 2004, Mills brutally attacked the Hills in their backyard shed and left them to die as part of a senseless robbery-murder. I extend my deepest sympathy to the Hill family as they have endured the unimaginable for nearly 20 years as they awaited justice to finally be served."

"The depth of violence experienced by Mr. and Mrs. Hill at the hands of this murderer cannot be understated. Mills used a machete, tire tool, and ball-peen hammer to mercilessly end the lives of two people. His actions were cold and calculated, and his assigned punishment has never been more deserved."

Jamie Mills, his common-law wife, JoAnn Mills, and a local drug dealer, Benjie Howe, were arrested and charged with capital murder in the 2004 deaths of Floyd and Vera Hill.

The murder weapons and a pair of work pants containing the Hills' DNA and bearing Jamie Mills' name were found in the trunk of Jamie Mills' car.

A jury voted 11-1 to impose the death penalty on Jamie Mills. His execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. JoAnn Mills pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. The state dropped the case against Howe.

In the weeks leading to his sentence, Mills made several attempts to stay his execution, often citing his theory that he was framed by Howe for the murders. He also posited a secret deal between the state and JoAnn Mills to secure her testimony against Mills and prevent her from receiving the death penalty as well.

Both U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler and a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Mill's claims were "untimely" and lacked substantive evidence. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision on Thursday afternoon and allowed the execution to continue.

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