FLORENCE -- Twenty-three years and five days after young Jennifer Wilson's body was found on Sheep Hill, her killer was put to death.
In his last words, he made no mention of the crime for which he was put to death.
Richard L. "Ricky" Bible, 49, of Flagstaff, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 11:11 a.m. Thursday at the Arizona Department of Corrections Central Unit.
"Today needed to happen," said Jennifer's father, Rich, after the execution.
Jennifer's family and more than 40 others witnessed Bible's last minutes. The small, blue room had three rows for witnesses to stand. Fans moved air through the area that faced a two-way glass window that stretched the length of the room. The fans made the only sound as the witnesses, who included more than a dozen criminal justice and law enforcement officials from Flagstaff and Coconino County involved in the case, filed in.
Bible's two attorneys were his only witnesses; his family was not present.
Charles Ryan, director of the prison, said that it was the most people he has seen to witness an execution.
At 11 a.m., the curtains opened. Bible was on his back on a table. His body was covered with a sheet. He looked straight at the ceiling and did not look at the people assembled. The death warrant was read. Bible was asked if he had any last words.
"I want to thank my family and my lawyers," he said. "I love them all and everything's OK. That's it."
Rich, his wife, Nancy, and his children held one another as Bible's breathing quickened, then slowed. A few minutes into the execution, a technician dressed in medical clothing came in and checked Bible's eyes and mouth.
"It is confirmed the inmate is sedated," came a voice from an intercom.
Minutes passed. The witnesses watched.
And then it was over. The curtains closed.
'THE SYSTEM DOES WORK'
Rich, Nancy and family, holding hands, left the crowded little room and into the heat of the day to be escorted away.
The family made statements a short time later.
"We'd like to offer our condolences to the Bible family," Rich said. "We know it must be a hard time for them also."
He thanked the communities of Flagstaff and Yuma for their support and prayers.
"We could not stay intact as a family (without the support)," he said. "We could not have seen this through to fruition."
Rich also thanked the law enforcement and criminal justice officials who helped.
"Twenty-three years has been a very, very long time," he said, later adding. "The system does work."
The system may be slow, cumbersome and frustrating, but it does work, Rich said.
"As a family, we've started the healing process now," he added.
Nancy, flanked by sons Adam and Brian and daughter Michele, said, "Justice is served today."
The anguish felt on June 6, 1988, went far beyond them as a family and into the communities of Flagstaff and Yuma.
"We want to thank everybody for their support and prayers," she said.
After Bible's death, Coconino County Attorney David Rozema said, "This case is about Jennifer Marie Wilson, who would have been 32 years old today but for the heinous crimes committed by her killer."
Camille Bibles, prosecutor at the 1990 trial, said, "Ultimately, what I hope is the community, the family and Jennifer Wilson herself can finally rest in peace."
FOUR EGGS WITH CHEESE
Bible was moved the night before from the Browning Unit, where death row is, to the Eyman Housing Unit 9, where the executions take place.
As his last meal, he had breakfast -- four eggs with cheese, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, peanut butter and jelly, and chocolate milk.
Among the witnesses present was the Flagstaff Police Department case detective, Bill Trimble, who held a pink ribbon during the execution in remembrance of Jennifer. Fred Newton, chief prosecutor at trial and retired judge, was present. Former prosecutor and state senator John Verkamp was present. Eight-term Coconino County Sheriff Joe Richards, now retired, was also present. Even the jury foreman at Bible's trial, Jeff Schweitzer, was present.
Also among the witnesses were:
-- Retired Sheriff's office detective Michael Rice
-- Flagstaff Police Department Chief Brent Cooper
-- Sheriff's office Chief Deputy Jim Driscoll
-- Retired FPD sergeant Gerry Blair
-- Retired FPD detective Louis Garcia
Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or email@example.com