Mississippi could have its second and third executions this year in March.
Attorney General Jim Hood on Tuesday requested back-to-back execution dates for two murderers after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review their cases.
Hood asked the state Supreme Court that Larry Matthew Puckett and William Gerald Mitchell, who each raped and murdered a woman, be put to death March 21 and 22, respectively.
The law requires the death sentences to be carried out within 30 days of the Supreme Court’s denial of the death-row inmates’ petitions.
The victims’ families in both cases had been notified of the developments, Hood said in a news release.
“They are at the top of our prayer list as this process moves forward,” he said.
The state has known since last year that Puckett, Mitchell and Edwin Hart Turner were running out of time.
Turner, 38, was executed on Feb. 8 at the state Penitentiary at Parchman for shooting to death two people on Dec. 12, 1995.
Neither Puckett’s attorney, Sheryl Bey, nor Mitchell’s, Kenneth Coghlan, was available for comment at press time.
Hood said at a news conference Tuesday that he expected both convicts’ attorneys to make last-minute appeals for stays of execution.
Puckett, 38, was sentenced to death in 1996 in Forrest County for the sexual battery and murder of the wife of his former employer, David Griffis, who had fired him.
Rhonda Griffis was beaten to death with an ax handle in her mobile home.
Nancy Hatten, Rhonda Griffis’ mother, lived in a mobile home next to her daughter. After hearing a scream, Hatten rushed to the home and found Puckett inside.
“She was our only daughter, and she was well loved,” Hatten said. “We miss her deeply, and nothing will ever take that hurt away or that emptiness.
“It’s always going to be there,” she said.
Mitchell, 61, was sentenced to death in 1998 in Harrison County Circuit Court for the murder of Patty Milliken, whom he killed while on parole for a previous murder.
On Nov. 21, 1995, Mitchell had been seen visiting Milliken several times at the Biloxi Majik Mart, where she worked. Toward the end of her shift, she stepped outside with Mitchell to smoke a cigarette, leaving her personal items behind. She never returned.
Her body was found under a bridge the next morning. She had been raped, strangled, beaten, mutilated and crushed by a car.
Milliken’s blood and hair were found on and under Mitchell’s car.
At the time of the murder, he was out serving parole on a life sentence for the 1974 murder of Irene Edwards, also in Harrison County.
Then a student at Mississippi Valley State University, Mitchell went home for the weekend, and while there, on February 22, 1974, he stabbed Edwards to death using two butcher knives.