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Mother: Execution brings relief, not closure

Tina Curl held photos of her daughter’s grave Wednes­day after watching the execution of Donald Moeller (right).

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Tina Curl held photos of her daughter’s grave Wednes­day after watching the execution of Donald Moeller (right).

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Tina Curl was so eager to see her 9-year-old daughter’s killer executed Tuesday night that she couldn’t even take her seat in the witness room.

‘‘I was right up to the glass,’’ she told the Associated Press after the execution. ‘‘I wanted to see it up close.’’

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Donald Moeller, 60, received a lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls on Tuesday night as punishment for the 1990 kidnap, rape, and killing of Becky O’Connell.

Curl, who said Moeller’s death brought her relief but not closure, had been steadfast in her wish to watch Moeller die, even raising funds to cover her expenses to make the 1,400-mile trip from her home in New York State to Sioux Falls for the execution.

Moeller kidnapped Becky from a Sioux Falls convenience store where she’d gone to buy sugar to make lemonade at home. He drove her to a secluded area near the Big Sioux River, then raped and stabbed her. Becky’s naked body was found the next day; investigators said her throat had been slashed.

After the execution, Curl showed pictures of Becky at age 9 years, followed by a framed drawing of how she might have looked had she lived to age 32.

Curl said she wanted to know details from Moeller about the crime. She had written to him in prison, but he didn’t respond. She was hoping to get that information Tuesday night in Moeller’s final statement.

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But when asked if he had any last words, Moeller replied, ‘‘No sir.’’ Moeller then was administered a lethal injection of pentobarbital and took about eight heavy breaths before his breathing stopped and Moeller turned slightly pink.

Moeller’s eyes remained open as his skin turned ashen, then purple. The coroner then checked for vital signs, and Moeller was pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m.

Governor Dennis Daugaard said he hoped the execution would bring some peace to Becky’s family, and he commended Warden Doug Weber and his staff for their professionalism in planning this state’s second execution in less than a month.

‘‘I take no pleasure in his death, but there are those who are so vile that executions are warranted,’’ Daugaard said in a statement.

Moeller initially was convicted in 1992, but the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that improper evidence was used at trial. He was again convicted and sentenced to die in 1997. The state Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, and Moeller lost appeals at the state and federal levels.

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