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2 picked to inject, execute Parsons
Victim's kin plan to watch the execution

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 31 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

UTAH STATE PRISON -- Two people have been selected to administer the lethal IV that will be used in the October execution of Joseph Mitchell Parsons.

Prison officials are continuing to prepare for the state-ordered lethal injection of Parsons, who has dropped his appeals and says he no longer wants to live on death row.Both executioners will be given syringes to carry out the execution, but only one will have sodium pentothal, pavulon and potassium chloride, the chemical mixture that will cause Parsons' death. The procedure is designed that way so neither executioner will know who administered the lethal dose.

The American Medical Association rules prohibit physicians from participating in an execution. The rules force the prison to to turn to paramedics or nurses, said Jack Ford, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, which does not identify executioners.

Parsons, 35, was sentenced to die for the stabbing death 12 years ago -- Aug. 31, 1987 -- of Richard Ernest, a 30-year-old

California man who was traveling through Utah on his way to Colorado.

Ernest, from Loma Linda, offered a hitchhiking Parsons a ride near Barstow, Calif., unaware the man had walked away from a halfway house in Nevada, where he had been paroled for armed robbery.

At a rest stop near Parowan in Iron County, Parsons stabbed Ernest at least 18 times and took off with his car and credit cards.

Police caught up with him after he used the credit card to charge merchandise at a discount store.

On the anniversary of Ernest's death, the two women closest to the murder victim say Parsons' execution next month will help to close a painful chapter in their lives.

"For 12 years he has been able to talk to his family, see his family, and all I have are two dozen photos of my brother because we were together for a short time," Jana Salais, Ernest's sister, said Tuesday.

Salais said both she and her brother were abandoned by their mother, and it took 15 years to find each other.

"My mother left him on the doctor's desk on the day I was born," Salais said.

Salais, who continues to live in San Antonio where her brother was from, said she plans to watch Parsons die.

"I think my brother would have been there if it had been me," Salais said. "With his death, his family will know how I have felt. I feel empathy for them, but it is still justice. There is a large part of me that will celebrate his passing because it is justice after all this time."

Salais, who spoke through her tears, said she is not excited at the coming execution but resolved that it will bring closure and bring peace to her brother.

"It is something I have to do. Once he is executed, I will know it is over. My brother can be at peace, and I can get on with my life."

Salais said she wrote Parsons a letter, which was to be delivered to the death row inmate at the discretion of the warden.

In the letter, Salais said she asked Parsons a lot of questions, but she is unsure if she will ever get answers.

"I asked him, 'What happened in your life to make you do what you did? Have you made peace with God? Do you feel remorse?' "

Ernest's widow also has questions.

Beverley Thurston said she plans to watch the execution and wants to hear Parsons' last words.

"There is no question I want to be there. I want to see him go in, and I want to see him come out. I really want to hear his last words, too. I am hoping his last words answer some questions."

She, too, started to cry.

"And today is very hard day. It is 12 years ago today that it happened. You would think it would get easier after 12 years, but it doesn't."

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