Nearly three decades have passed since the mutilation and murder of 31-year-old Danette Elg of Blackfoot. Her body was found July 21, 1984.
At 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Richard Albert Leavitt died for her murder.
Was justice served? a reporter asked former Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Moss. He had successfully argued that Leavitt was guilty of murder during Leavitt’s 1985 trial.
“Yes,” Moss said in answer to that question during a press conference following the execution. “Do you want more? Yes, I think justice was served.”
Moss said he was not in the execution chamber, but said he received a hug from Elg’s sister, JaLyn Mathie, after she had witnessed the execution with Elg's Richard Bross.
J. Scott Andrew, the current Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney, said the various court proceedings were "a huge rollercoaster" for Elg's family.
"Tomorrow they don't have to wonder" about Leavitt's possible next legal move which kept him alive for 27 years after a Bingham County jury convicted him of the murder.
Andrew has been involved with the case for the past dozen years. He has reviewed the evidence and prepared for the possibility of a judge's order for a re-trial or a re-sentencing during that time.
"It has been a thorn in my side," Andrew said after he witnessed Leavitt's execution on behalf of the people of Bingham County.
"I know it's a huge sense of relief for Danette's family," he said. "Her sister was clearly the most relieved to have it done."
Now, Andrew said, his next step will be to return Danette Elg's personal effects which have been kept separate from other evidence.
Throughout the 28 years since Elg's death, Leavitt has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. He did so again on Sunday when he spoke to a television reporter from Boise by telephone.
When a reporter at Tuesday's press conference asked Moss if the fact that Leavitt never admitted to the crime weighed on him at all, Moss replied, “that doesn’t weigh anything with me.
“This case, over the years, has been looked at under a magnifying glass,” Moss said. “A trial was held. Twelve jurors heard the evidence for two weeks …”
Leavitt had visitors until about 9 p.m. on Monday. He met with his attorneys in his cell on Tuesday before his escort team arrived to take him to the death chamber.
“Mr. Leavitt received several sedatives throughout the night,” noted Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Correction during his initial briefing on Tuesday morning.
When he arrived in the death chamber, Randy Blades, warden of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution, read the death warrant which 7th District Judge Jon Shindurling signed in mid-May. At 10:08 a.m. members of the medical team inserted IVs into Leavitt’s arms, beginning administration of the lethal drug. Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg pronounced Leavitt dead 17 minutes later.
Four members of the media witnessed the execution as surrogates for the public.
“Everything seemed to go very smoothly,” said Ruth Brown of the Idaho Falls Post-Register.
“I’ve never experienced this kind of quiet,” said Scott Logan of KBOI-TV of the atmosphere in the death chamber. “I was struck by the military precision of his escort team.”
John Funk of the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa added, “I was struck by the antiseptic smell, like a dentist’s office.”
Rebecca Boone of the Associated Press noted, “Mr. Leavitt did not make a final statement.”
So the case which dominated the front page of the Morning News for a couple of months in 1984 and 1985 finally came to an end.