US woman Teresa Lewis executed for family murders

Teresa Lewis Teresa Lewis died by lethal injection in Jarratt, Virginia

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A 41-year-old woman who conspired to murder her husband and stepson has been executed in the US state of Virginia.

Teresa Lewis was the first woman to be put to death in the US for five years and in Virginia since 1912.

Lewis, who had learning difficulties, used sex and cash to persuade hitmen to kill her family in 2002.

The US Supreme Court and Virginia's governor refused to stop her execution, which took place at 2100 (0100 GMT) at Greensville Correctional Center.

Last meal

Lewis spent her last hours with her spiritual adviser and family members at the prison in the city of Jarratt.

She requested a final meal of two breasts of fried chicken, sweet peas with butter, a slice of either German cake or apple pie, and a Dr Pepper soft drink, prison spokesman Larry Traylor said.

As she was escorted into the death chamber, Lewis appeared tearful, her jaw clenched, Associated Press reported.

Shortly before her execution, Lewis asked if her stepdaughter Kathy Clifton, daughter of her murdered husband Julian Lewis, was there.

Ms Clifton was in a witness room separated from the execution chamber by a two-way mirror.

"I want Kathy to know that I love her and I'm very sorry," Lewis said.

Those were her final words. The time of her death was given as 2113 (0113 GMT).

"Miss Lewis did make a last statement" prison official Larry Traylor says

Clemency plea

On 30 October 2002, Lewis left the door to her family home in the Virginia city of Danville unlocked for gunmen Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller.

Lewis's husband Julian, 51, and stepson, Charles Lewis, 25, were later found dead from shotgun blasts.

Lawyers for Lewis filed a petition for clemency on 25 August 2010, but the US Supreme Court refused to intervene. Two of three women in the nine-judge court voted to halt the execution.

Lewis, who has an IQ of 72, claimed that she did not possess the intelligence to have planned the killings, and that new defence evidence allegedly proved one of the gunmen manipulated her.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said medical and psychological reports provided no compelling reason to grant clemency to Lewis, noting she had admitted her role in the killings.

Stepdaughter Kathy Clifton: "Just because you didn't pull the trigger doesn't make you not guilty"

"After numerous evaluations, no medical professional has concluded that Teresa Lewis meets the medical or statutory definition of mentally retarded," Mr McDonnell said after he rejected the clemency plea.

Lewis was motivated to hire the gunmen by the desire to inherit her husband's assets and her stepson's life insurance. She paid for the weapons and ammunition used in the murders.

Shallenberger and Fuller were both sentenced to life in prison. Shallenberger committed suicide in 2006.

Virginia carries out the second highest number of executions of any state in the US.

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