TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Brandon Bernard, who was 18 when he and four other teenagers abducted, robbed and murdered Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday church service in Killeen, Texas, was executed Thursday night at the Federal Correctional Center in Terre Haute, the ninth inmate to be put to death in 2020.
The time of death was 9:27 p.m.
WTWO’s Dana Winklepleck, who served as a media witness to the execution, reported that Bernard’s final words were, “I’m sorry. That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
He was remorseful, Winklepleck added, saying he asked his family and the victim’s family for forgiveness. His final statement lasted about three minutes.
Bernard was calm, closing his eyes and appearing to pray as the lethal injection was issued. He looked over at the room where his witnesses were and mouthed some words to them.
Georgia Bagley, mother of victim Todd Bagley, said Bernard’s statements of remorse “helps heal my heart.” She said she has forgiven him.
This execution has drawn worldwide attention, with news crews from Australia, the Netherlands and France converging on Terre Haute to cover Bernard’s execution. Bernard’s name also trended on Twitter, hitting No. 10 in the U.S.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian was among those who asked Trump to stop the execution, saying in a series of recent tweets that Bernard’s “role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved.”
The execution was delayed by a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court after the 7th Circuit Court of appeals denied a stay. His attorneys and supporters lobbied to have his sentence reduced to life without parole. Their efforts were based in part on the fact that he was only 18 when he committed his crimes, but neither the courts nor President Trump were swayed.
One of Bernard’s co-defendants, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September. Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, released a statement after that execution, saying, “I believe when someone deliberately takes the life of another, they suffer the consequences for their actions.”
Prosecutors said Vialva, the oldest of the teens at 19, was the ringleader who shot the Bagleys. The teenagers approached the Bagleys in the afternoon on June 21, 1999, and asked them for a lift after they stopped at a convenience store — planning all along to rob the couple. After the Bagleys agreed, Vialva pulled a gun and forced them into the trunk.
The Bagleys, both of whom were in their 20s, spoke through an opening in the back seat and urged their kidnappers to accept Jesus as the teens drove around for hours trying to use the Bagleys’ ATM cards. After pulling to the side of the road, Vialva walked to the back and shot the Bagleys in the head. Bernard then set the car on fire.
Federal executions during a presidential transfer of power are rare, especially during a transition from a death-penalty proponent to a president-elect like Biden opposed to capital punishment. The last time executions occurred in a lame-duck period was during the presidency of Grover Cleveland in the 1890s.
Like Bernard, three of the remaining four inmates set to die before Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration are Black men. The fourth is a white woman who would be the first female inmate executed by the federal government in nearly six decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.