McALESTER (AP) – A Muldrow man who converted to Buddhism while in prison repeated a Buddhist mantra as he was executed Thursday for the 1996 shooting death of a fisherman along the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma.
Donald Ray Wackerly, 41, received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary and was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m.
Two Buddhist monks and some of Wackerly’s attorneys also chanted the six-syllable mantra of ultimate compassion, “om mani padme hum,” as the lethal combination of drugs was administered.
As the execution began, Wackerly acknowledged his attorneys and winked at a relative before he started chanting. Less than a minute after the drugs started to flow, the heavyset Wackerly exhaled powerfully and became quiet. He was pronounced dead six minutes later.
Wackerly had filed a motion Tuesday seeking to have his spiritual adviser inside the death chamber with him during the execution. A federal judge dismissed that case Wednesday after an agreement was reached with prison officials to allow the monk to perform several rituals on Wackerly’s corpse.
“As I understand Buddhist tradition, the good feeling and good spirit in the heart and mind at the time of death is related to their belief of a good reincarnation,” said Micheal Salem, one of Wackerly’s attorneys.
Wackerly was convicted in the shooting death of 51-year-old Pan Sayakhoummane (sy-ak-hoo-MAHN’-ee) during a robbery in Sequoyah County. Three of Sayakhoummane’s relatives witnessed the execution, but declined to speak to reporters.
Court records show Wackerly and his then-wife, Michelle, who lived in nearby Muldrow, drove to the Arkansas River on Sept. 7, 1996, allegedly so that Wackerly could find someone to rob, court documents show.
The pair came upon Sayakhoummane, a Laos native from Fort Smith, Ark., who had been fishing along the Arkansas River. The 51-year-old was shot between seven and nine times with a .22-caliber rifle in the head, back, chest, arm, wrist and hand. His body was found the next day in his partly submerged pickup near Lock and Dam 14, about 15 miles from Fort Smith.
Wackerly was arrested about three months later after his estranged wife, who claimed to be a witness, went to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and described the events surrounding the victim’s murder and the theft of his tackle box and other items that were later pawned.
Michelle Wackerly was granted immunity from prosecution and testified against Wackerly at his murder trial.
During a clemency hearing last month, Wackerly said his ex-wife gave him the tackle box and other items taken from the victim and claimed they came from her brother, who hoped to settle a debt with Wackerly. He said she gave authorities a statement implicating him after he became abusive with her.
Wackerly has maintained his innocence.
“I did not kill him. ... I did not shoot Mr. Sayakhoummane,” Wackerly told board members during the hearing.
Two of Wackerly’s sisters, Donna Lomax and Dianna Davis, released a statement after the execution offering condolences to the Sayakhoummane family.
“Donnie loved his family dearly and we certainly love him,” the statement read. “We will miss our brother very much and pray he is in a better place.”
For his last meal, Wackerly had a medium stuffed-crust pizza with mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives and jalapenos; a Dr. Pepper; coconut cream pie and a chocolate shake, prison officials said.