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Latest execution date set for Thomas Creech, Idaho’s longest-serving death row prisoner

Thomas Creech, 73, Idaho’s longest-serving death row prisoner.  (HO)
By Kevin Fixler The Idaho Statesman

The day after the state’s parole board denied a reduced sentence to life in prison for Thomas Creech, Idaho’s longest-serving death row prisoner, a date next month was set for his execution.

Judge Jason D. Scott of Idaho’s 4th Judicial District in Ada County signed a new death warrant Tuesday morning for Creech, scheduling his execution for Feb. 28. Idaho Department of Correction officials previously said they already have the difficult-to-obtain drugs on hand necessary to carry out a lethal injection.

If Creech’s execution moves forward as scheduled, it would mark the state’s first in more than 11 years. Idaho’s last execution took place in June 2012, also by lethal injection.

Creech, 73, was convicted of five murders, including three in Idaho, and has been incarcerated for nearly 50 years. He received his standing death sentence after pleading guilty to murdering fellow prisoner David Dale Jensen in May 1981.

The latest death warrant is the 12th for Creech. His most recent one before that, also issued by Scott in October, was rescinded after the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole agreed to provide Creech a hearing to consider his request that his sentence be reduced to life in prison.

The parole board issued its decision Monday, voting 3-3 on the issue of granting Creech clemency, which acts as a denial. The board’s seventh member recused himself from Creech’s clemency hearing for a reason not disclosed to the public.

Gov. Brad Little has the final say on clemency petitions. After the parole board’s ruling, Little said in a statement that he had a duty to carry out all lawful criminal sentences, and had “zero intention” of delaying an execution for Creech.

“Thomas Creech is a convicted serial killer responsible for acts of extreme violence,” Little said. “His lawful and just sentence must be carried out as ordered by the court. Justice has been delayed long enough.”

Creech’s attorney with the State Appellate Public Defender’s Office, Ian Thomson, declined to comment and directed the Idaho Statesman to his client’s attorneys with the Federal Defender Services of Idaho. The Federal Defender Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Statesman also requested comment from the Idaho attorney general’s office and the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office. The Department of Correction did not immediately respond to confirm Creech had been served the death warrant.

Creech has two appeals scheduled for oral arguments next week before the Idaho Supreme Court. He also has at least one active appeal in federal court concerning the lethal injection drugs the state acquired in October.

There are no active stays of execution in place for Creech regarding his two Supreme Court appeals, and no motions to stay have been filed as of Tuesday afternoon, Nate Poppino, spokesperson for the Idaho Judicial Branch, told the Statesman.

Creech has avoided execution 11 times since his initial murder convictions for killing two men in Valley County in November 1974. That death sentence was later dropped to life in prison after a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Creech at points, including under oath, claimed to have killed as many as 42 people. Later, he lowered the total number of people he killed or at least participated in their murder to 26.

Creech also was recently named the suspect in the nearly 50-year-old cold case murder of Daniel A. Walker Jr., 21, in San Bernardino County, California, in October 1974. The Ada County Prosecutor’s Office acknowledged Monday that one of its investigators was “instrumental” in providing the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office with the evidence to name Creech the suspected killer.