FLORENCE, AZ — Clarence Dixon, sentenced to death for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, was executed Wednesday, marking the first Arizona execution since 2014.
The 66-year-old was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at Florence prison at 10 a.m. on May 11, 2022. He was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. The process took just over 10 minutes, according to witness reports.
His last statement included, "I do and will always proclaim innocence. Now let's do this s***."
A media witness says Dixon didn’t make eye contact with anybody, staring at the ceiling the entire time.
At one point, medical professionals had trouble getting the IV into Dixon's left arm but were ultimately successful in putting them in his left arm and groin area.
Something that was new for this execution was that witnesses were able to see the IVs going in. They were also able to see the drug being administered and pushed through the lines.
Some witnesses say Dixon grimaced when the IV was going in and that it took roughly three minutes after the drug went in before his mouth fell open and he appeared to stop breathing.
Witnesses say this execution went "as planned" and Dixon "went to sleep almost immediately" once the drugs were injected. The Department of Corrections reportedly used a drug called "pentobarbital" during this execution, which is different than the drug used in a 2014 execution that many say was "botched."
Dixon also reportedly said, "maybe I'll see you on the other side, Deana. I don't know you and I don't remember you," and "I know you're seeing this, Deana. You know I didn't kill you."
Dixon’s last meal was Kentucky Fried Chicken, a half-pint of strawberry ice cream, and a bottle of water, according to documents provided to media on Wednesday.
In 2008, DNA evidence linked Dixon to Bowdoin's murder case. Dixon was already serving a life sentence in the Arizona State Prison System for a different sexual assault in 1986.
In the years leading up to Dixon's scheduled execution, his team made multiple attempts to have his life spared. Dixon’s legal team made a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to stay his execution, but it was denied.
#BREAKING - We can confirm Clarence Dixon's legal team has made a last minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution, which is scheduled for 10AM. His attorneys continue to assert that he suffers from severe mental illness @abc15 https://t.co/tfzJW4HwcJ— Nick Ciletti (@NickCiletti) May 11, 2022
In total, there were upwards of two dozen witnesses to the execution Wednesday, but exactly who was not immediately clear. Witnesses can include members of media, law enforcement, and family members of the victim, as well as those invited by the person being executed.
Protesters and people against the death penalty also gathered outside of the prison as Dixon was executed.
Leslie James, Bowdoin's sister, was in attendance Wednesday, just days after losing her husband. She said, through tears, there is a "1 in 17 octillion (27 zeros)" chance that Bowdoin's killer was anyone but Dixon. "There was never, ever any doubt that this inmate murdered my sister."
"She was kind and hardworking," James said of her sister. "She was multilingual... wrote amazing poetry... and she was the one who was supposed to have an exciting career, get married, and produce grandkids for my mom, but it didn't work out that way for her. We should have been able to grow old together."
"The (justice) process is final," James said of Dixon's execution. She also said she didn't know it would take so long to get justice.
James expressed relief after the drawn-out process. She says she will be leaning on her career, her friends, her dogs, and remaining family in the days to come.
"All my mom ever wanted was that people would remember Deana. Please remember Deana Lynne Bowdoin."
Leslie James, Deana Bowdoin’s sister, released the following statement ahead of Dixon’s execution:
“Deana was a beautiful person, inside and out. She was only 21 and in her last semester at ASU when she was violently taken from my family. The last forty-four plus years of reliving Deana’s brutal murder as well as enduring the trial and appellate litigation has been nothing short of horrific for our family. As victims, the Arizona Constitution guarantees a prompt and final conclusion of this matter. Our parents wanted nothing more than to ultimately see justice for Deana. Unfortunately, they both passed away before punishment could be imposed.
Not one day goes by that I don’t think of Deana AND wait and wish for justice. I will never stop thinking of Deana, but I look forward to resolution of Dixon’s criminal matter through the imposition of punishment. Deana’s brutal murder, the 23 years of wondering who was responsible, and the 21 years of our involvement in the criminal justice process has been a long road that none of us asked for and none of us deserved.
I am also hoping for peace and justice for Dixon’s many other victims.
Nothing about this case or my experience in the criminal justice system has been prompt. However, I am forever grateful for the work of the Tempe Police Department as well as the many other criminal justice professionals involved in this case. I am also grateful for the many efforts of Governor Ducey as well as Attorney General Brnovich and his staff for their commitment to justice and for taking measures to bring an end to this arduous process.
I ask that you respect my privacy during this time.”