Tennessee carried out its first execution in nearly a decade Thursday night.
59-year-old Billy Ray Irick was put to death by lethal injection for the 1985 rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer, a girl he was babysitting in Knoxville.
Irick received a three-drug injection at a maximum-security prison in Nashville and was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m., authorities said.
Before the lethal chemicals began flowing, Irick was asked if he had anything to say. Irick at first appeared to sigh and say “no.” But then he said, “I just want to say I’m really sorry and that, that’s it.”
It was the first execution in Tennessee since December 2009, when inmate Cecil Johnson received a lethal injection for the 1980 killings of three people during a Nashville convenience store robbery.
The Tennessean newspaper reported death penalty opponents gathered around Tennessee in several churches and outside the prison before the execution. About 50 protesters were outside the prison, while others who support the death penalty also showed up as authorities kept the two groups apart.