Sheriffs McGee & Rigel set to witness execution Tuesday - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Sheriffs McGee & Rigel set to witness execution Tuesday

Mississippi is set to execute two death row inmates this week, one of those men is Larry Mathew Puckett, 35. Puckett was convicted in 1995 for sexually assaulting and murdering a Forrest County woman. Two local Sheriff's vividly remember the case and reflect upon her death.

It happened in 1995, 17 years ago. Rhonda Griffis, 28, a mother of two, was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in her home by her husbands former employee.

Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said, "There are certain crime scenes that just stand out in your mind and this is one of them. It was a very brutal crime scene."

Larry Mathew Puckett, then 18, was arrested two days later, then convicted and sentenced to death.

Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee recalls Puckett being detached from the incident." He didn't talk about it, and he didn't mind being in jail. The case was put together without him giving any kind of confession."

According to court records, and then Crime Scene Investigator Danny Rigel, the victims mother, heard a scream and a thud coming from her daughters house next door. She ran over and found Puckett inside holding a sledge hammer handle. Puckett then went after her, and struggled with the husband who had just come home.

Rigel says, "I believe Rhonda was their only daughter, only child and it was very traumatic for them, as can be expected. That's not something you get over during your lifetime. They are still very emotional when you talk to them."

McGee said, "That had to be horrific for the mother to go into the trailer and witness what had gone on."

Those emotions returned to the surface last week when her daughter's killer asked the Supreme Court to block his March 20 execution. Puckett's lawyers claim prosecutors kept African Americans off of the jury, and his former lawyers never challenged his conviction on those grounds.

"It is not uncommon for one thing," said McGee, "I don't see how it was prejudiced to him since he is white, the victim was white, everybody involved was white. I don't see how that was prejudiced at all, having an all white jury."

I am not an attorney," said Rigel, "But I don't really know how that would play into anything. There was no minorities on either side of the incident and the courts have ruled."

If Puckett's petition fails, McGee, Rigel and the victim's parents will witness his death by lethal injection on Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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