South Dakota executes convicted killer

Elijah Page
Elijah Page was executed by lethal injection at a South Dakota prison shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Courtesy Rapid City Journal

South Dakota correction officials say the execution of Elijah Page was done by the book, and a bit like clockwork.

Page spent his final day in a holding cell near the execution chamber. He had several visitors including family members and friends. Around 6 p.m., Page ate his last meal. He requested steak, Jalapeno poppers, onion rings, a salad and ice cream.

Death penalty opponents
As the sun set, about 100 death penalty protestors gathered outside the penitentiary. They held signs, sang and prayed as the 10 p.m. execution neared.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

At 9:40, guards removed Page from his holding cell and transferred him to the table. He wore a prison-issued orange jumpsuit and white socks. Guards restrained Page with a leather strap across his chest and around each arm and leg. An I-V was inserted into each arm.

Department of Corrections spokesman Michael Windner describes what happened next.

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"Warden Doug Weber asked inmate Elijah Page, 'Do you have any last words?' Elijah Page said 'No.' Warden Weber said, 'Do I understand you to say you have no last words?' Inmate Page said, "Yes, no last words.' With that, injections began at 10:02 p.m. And were finished at 10:04 p.m.," said Windner.

An EMT pronounced Elijah Page dead at 10:11 p.m. Associated Press reporter Carson Walker, a witness, described how Page died.

Supporters of the death penalty
There were about a half dozen supporters of the death penalty at the penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

"It was just a matter of seconds. We didn't hear anything, we didn't see anything. The warden stood there and really showed no emotion," said Walker. "The next thing we heard were several gasps, it was almost like a snoring, and his chest heaved a couple of times."

By 10 p.m. about 70 protestors gathered outside the penitentiary. The group formed a circle and sang Amazing Grace. People were invited to say what they wanted. But it quickly turned into a debate with a handful of people who support the death penalty.

"Only God can give life and only God can take it away," said a death penalty opponent.

"Why did he take a life? What if that was your son?" supporters responded.

Victim's mother
Dottie Poage, mother of Page's victim, Chester Poage. She's holding a newspaper clipping of her son's winning baseball team. She came to the execution with a scrapbook filled with her son's pictures.
MPR Photo/Cara Hetland

Elijah Page pled guilty to the brutal murder of Chester Allen Poage. Two other men were involved in the crime. One was sentenced to life in prison, the other is on death row.

After Page's execution, several witnesses spoke to the press. Attorney General Larry Long commended the prison staff for the way they handled the execution.

Sheriff Richard Mowell, who investigated the case, said it's his job to protect families from people like Elijah Page.

"Never, in my 35 years of law enforcement experience, have I seen such violent torturous death as that of Chester Allen Poage," said Mowell. "I can assure you, after witnessing what I witnessed tonight, that not only did Elijah Page have a much quieter, quicker and apparently to me, painless death, but I can assure you he will never do this again."

South Dakota's execution chamber
South Dakota's execution chamber.
Courtesy South Dakota Department of Corrections

The victim's mother, Dottie Poage, also witnessed the execution. She described her son as someone who wanted friends, and made a bad choice in befriending Elijah Page.

"He stepped out of those boundaries, and considered someone a friend who took his life and he paid the ultimate price," said Poage. "Elijah Page had the ultimate penalty for his ultimate crime. And for that I am proud of the state, the attorney general, the governor, everyone at the penitentiary for a job well done. I am proud to be an American."

The Minnehaha County coroner will examine Elijah Page's body, following standard policy for any inmate who dies in custody. Officials have not said if a family member will claim the body for a private burial, or if Page will be buried in an unmarked grave at the county cemetery.

There men remain on South Dakota's death row. Donald Moeller was convicted for the 1990 rape and murder of a 9-year-old Sioux Falls girl. Charles Rhines was convicted for the 1992 stabbing death of a Rapid City doughnut shop worker. And Briley Piper is on death row for his role in the murder of Chester Allen Poage.