William Rousan Missouri Execution

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William Rousan was executed by the State of Missouri for the murder of a couple. According to court documents William Rousan, his brother and his son would murder Charles and Grace Lewis in order to steal their cattle and other possessions. William Rousan would be arrested a year later, convicted and sentenced to death. William Rousan would be executed by lethal injection on April 24, 2014

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It was a systematic and aseptic death minutes after midnight this morning for the man convicted of masterminding the violent and senseless murders of a rural Bonne Terre couple more than 20 years ago.

Missouri corrections officials carried out the court-mandated execution of William Rousan, age 57, just after midnight, for his part in the killing of 67-year-old Charles and 62-year-old Grace Lewis on Sept. 21, 1993. Rousan had been in prison since Dec. 20, 1996, received in the Missouri Department of Corrections the day after being sentenced to death for murder in the first degree.

As is typical, William Rousan exhausted all appeals as time of his pending death approached. In the weeks leading up to the execution the case was again put before the Missouri Supreme Court for consideration. The state’s high court denied the motion to recall the mandate, and the execution was set for 12:01 a.m. on April 23.

Family members of both Rousan and Charles and Grace Lewis witnessed the execution, along with six state witnesses. Afterward Michael Lewis, the couple’s son, made a brief statement to members of the media.

“I draw no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan’s incarceration or execution, for neither can replace or restore the moments lost with my parents or give my sons back their grandparents they never got to know,” Michael Lewis began. “Nor can it fully heal the broken hearts and lives of our family, or his family who my heart also goes out to.

“I hope that Mr. Rousan made peace with Jesus, for that is what Charles and Grace Lewis would want, for sure.”

In his final hours Tuesday, William Rousan met with his family members and several ministers he had met over the years. 

Rousan offered a final statement giving indication he had indeed made peace about his situation.

“My trials and transgressions have been many,” Rousan said. “But thanks be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I have a new home in his heavenly kingdom. May forgiveness and peace be found for all in our Lord Jesus Christ. In our Lord Jesus Christ.”

His last meal was a bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, a piece of pecan pie and a soft drink. He refused the sedative offered by prison staff in the hours just prior to the execution.

Whatever else William Rousan said to his family, the family of his victims or his maker wasn’t clear. Shortly before midnight the curtains on the state’s execution chamber at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center outside Bonne Terre were slid open by prison staff.

Rousan was located near the center of the room lying on a bed and covered with a white sheet up to his neck. Any restraints were not visible from the three viewing rooms – the first directly ahead of him containing members of the victims’ family, the second on his left and occupied by only two family members and a minister, and the third room on his right occupied by witnesses for the state.

He had his head raised and was looking around as the curtains were opened. He turned to the left and mouthed a few words to his family members. A prison spokesperson later said it appeared that he was saying “I love you.”

A prison staff member had noted that the order had been given to proceed with the execution.

After acknowledging his own family members, Rousan looked down and past the length of his body to the viewing room containing family members of Charles and Grace Lewis. He talked rapidly toward the window. What he was saying wasn’t audible behind the thick glass windows.

After what appeared to be nearly a minute he stopped talking and turned his head back toward his family. As he mouthed something he gasped for breath and his chest heaved a couple times before he went completely still.

The corrections spokesperson later said the order to proceed with the lethal injection had came at 12:01 a.m. The dosage of Pentobarbital was introduced into the IV and was “all in” by 12:04 a.m.

Five minutes later, at 12:09 a.m. the curtains on the viewing rooms were drawn shut and the execution team checked for vital signs. A minute later, at 12:10 a.m., word came that Rousan was pronounced dead. The curtains were opened once again allowing witnesses to view the body for a couple more minutes.

The events which led to Rousan’s state execution weren’t nearly as sterile and calm, although the murder trial revealed they were planned out. His victims, Charles and Grace, died at the hands of Rousan, his son Brent and brother Robert in a scheme to steal the couple’s cattle … knowing full well that they might murder the couple in the process.

According to court documents, throughout the summer of 1993, William and Robert Rousan talked about rustling cattle. On the morning of Sept. 21, 1993, the brothers met with William’s teenage son, Brent, at a farm in Washington County where William was living with his girlfriend, Mary Lambing. The trio discussed stealing cattle from the Lewises.

As they drove to the farm outside Bonne Terre the three talked about the possibility of having to kill the couple. They drove past the farm and William pointed out the cattle they would be taking. He parked the truck about two miles away from the farm. He got out and pulled a .22 caliber rifle from under the seat.

William and Brent reportedly argued about who would carry the loaded rifle. Brent argued that he was “man enough to do whatever needed to be done” and that he would use the weapon. William allowed his teenage son to take the rifle but warned him that if they got caught they would “fry” for murdering the couple.

Testimony at the trial showed the three would-be thieves and murderers headed off through the woods to the Lewis farm where they stopped and waited behind a fallen tree. Charles and Grace Lewis were gone, but arrived home sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. A short time later Charles started mowing the lawn. The couple’s oldest daughter called at around 4 p.m. and spoke with her mother.

It was reported during the trial that Brent Rousan heard the lawnmower and became eager to take action. He reportedly told the other two that he “didn’t come to wait all day and not do nothing.” His dad, William, told him to wait until he and Robert had secured the house. William headed toward the front door and Robert to the back.

But before the brothers could reach the house Charles apparently spotted Brent and called out to him. The teen responded by opening fire on Charles, hitting him with at least six rounds. It was later testified in court that Charles died as a direct result of those gunshots.

Grace told her daughter she heard gunfire and was going to go see what was happening. The idea of someone shooting in the distance didn’t seem too out of place. The farm was located in a rural area which often played host to hunters and recreational shooters.

As Grace exited the house she was met with several bullets from the rifle Brent was handling. He shot her several times, fracturing both her arms and rendering them useless. Still, she was able to make it back through the door to apparent safety. But William was right behind her. He reportedly grabbed a garment bag from a nearby coat rack and placed the bag over her head and upper body. He picked her up and carried her outside and laid her on the ground. It was testified that William ordered Brent to “finish her off,” which he did with a single shot to the left side of the head from close range.

With the deadly deed completed, the three relatives wrapped the bodies of the couple in a tarp and tied it with a piece of rope. They collected the shell casings from the rifle and cleaned up much of the blood stains. They put the bodies near a shed and left the area.

Sometime later that night the two brothers and Brent, along with another brother, Jerry, returned to the Lewis farm. Statements made during the trials indicated that on the way there Brent bragged about the murders. When they got to the farm they loaded the bodies into the couple’s pickup. They also stole two cows, jewelry, two gas cans, soda, a saddle, and a VCR. Then they headed back to the farm William shared with his girlfriend.

Once back at the Washington County farm they dug a shallow grave near a barn. They placed the bodies, still wrapped in the tarp, into the hole and covered them with concrete. They then covered the concrete with dirt and a pile of manure. Then they burned the rags used to clean up the blood at the murder scene.

The dirty work done, they drank the stolen soda. They would later sell the stolen cattle for $962.63. Robert gave the stolen VCR to his sister and brother-in-law the following day. Some of the jewelry and the rifle used in the murders were buried on a hillside on Lambing farm. The remainder of the jewelry was given over time to Lambing as gifts from William.

The stolen pickup was hid in the woods and later burned. The stolen gas cans were eventually found at the farm where the couple were buried.

The daughter that Grace Lewis was talking to on the phone when she heard gunshots eventually became concerned when she couldn’t reach her mom or dad by phone the following day. The sheriff’s department was called and an investigation was initiated. Investigators suspected foul play but had little evidence and no real leads to speak of.

About eight months after the murders and related thefts the stolen VCR was sold to a pawn broker. Eventually it would be discovered that it was the machine taken from the Lewis home. Then on Sept. 15, 1994, a few days short of a year since the murders, the brother-in-law who had been given the stolen VCR made what he believed was an anonymous call to the police. He told investigators where the person who killed the Lewises lived.

The call was traced back to the relative of the Rousans. When investigators talked to Robert Rousan and obtained additional information they went after William, but he fled.

Then on Sept. 20, 1994, a day short of a year since the murders, William called his brother-in-law and asked for a ride to a barn in Washington County. The police were notified and Rousan was given the ride to the barn. He was arrested there a short time later, and was found to be armed with another .22 caliber rifle.

After being read his Miranda Rights, William made incriminating statements implicating himself in the murders

He told investigators that he first met Charles and Grace Lewis in 1975. He saw them again in 1989 after he escaped from custody in the state of Washington. He later said he hid in the couple’s barn, and when he was discovered by Charles he was fed, clothed, and given $20 cash. A short time later he was caught and returned to prison.

After being released from prison in 1993 William went back to the Lewis farm to reportedly thank them for their kindness and rekindle the friendship. He later said he found the couple in bad health.

William went on to tell several versions of the rest of the story. He claimed Charles had asked him to kill Grace and put her out of her misery, and to kill him because he couldn’t live without her. He would go on to tell investigators he was hired by the couple’s son to kill them in exchange for $50,000. But, he maintained, his true motivation for the murders was “mercy”.

A jury found William Rousan guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. His prior convictions for rape, assault, escape and unlawful possession of a firearm were introduced during the penalty phase of the trial. The fact that the couple were murdered as part of a robbery spree resulted in “aggravating circumstances,” which resulted in the death penalty being imposed

William’s son, Brent, remains incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections serving two life sentences without parole for being the trigger man in the murder and theft scheme. William’s brother would eventually testify on the state’s behalf and serve only seven years for his part in the deadly plot.

William Rousan lived nearly 20 years behind bars in relation to the murders he masterminded. During that time his legal representation repeatedly sought a reversal or overturn of the rulings in his cases.

“As for the death penalty, I think the delay from sentencing to finalization is too long,” Michael Lewis said minutes after Rousan was executed for the murder of his parents. “I have never thought of it as revenge or justice served in terms of an ‘eye for an eye’ so to speak.

“Nor do I see it as a big deterrent to would be criminals. But I still believe it is a humane and permanent prevention of further criminal activities by the convicted inmate.”

Upon receiving word of Rousan’s execution, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers tonight are with the family and friends of Grace and Charles Lewis, as they remember a couple murdered in a brutal and senseless crime.

“William Rousan was convicted of both killings and sentenced to the ultimate punishment provided by Missouri law … that sentence now has been carried out. I ask that Missourians remember the Lewises at this time and join us in keeping their loved ones in their thoughts and prayers.”

This morning’s execution brings the total number of documented executions by the state (since 1938) to 112. That list includes three mandated deaths for kidnapping, six for rape, and 103 for murder.


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