Executed March 1, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Virginia
15th murderer executed in U.S. in 2001 W / M / 29 - 31 W / M / 24
698th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Virginia in 2001
82nd murderer executed in Virginia since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Thomas Wayne Akers
Wesley Brant Smith
Akers and accomplice Timothy Martin were riding in Smith's car, stopped near field to urinate. Akers put belt around Smith's neck, drug him from car and choked him. Akers and Martin then took turns beating him with aluminum ball bat. Dumped body and bat near creek. Arrested 4 days later in possession of Smith's wallet near Canadian border. Full confession in letters to prosecutor, claimed to have killed him for threatening Martin. Pled guilty and instructed attorneys not to introduce mitigation. Told Judge to give him death penalty and waived all appeals. Martin received life sentence.
15th murderer executed in U.S. in 2001
W / M / 29 - 31
W / M / 24
Akers v. Commonwealth, 535 SE2d 674 (Va. 2000).
Akers ex rel. Lee v. Angelone, 2001 WL 420371.
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death PenaltyThomas Wayne Akers pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to death for his role in the beating death of 24-year-old Wesley Brant Smith. Evidence indicated that Akers's co-defendant, Timothy Dwayne Martin, sought revenge against Smith because he believed that Smith had incriminated him in an unrelated traffic offense. After killing Smith, the two took Smith's car and fled to Canada. They were apprehended in upstate New York near the Canadian border.
Akers sought the death penalty from the beginning. He refused to speak to his attorneys for two months and, while in pre-trial detention, gave detailed descriptions of the murder to fellow jail inmates. He also wrote threatening letters to the judge and Commonwealth's Attorney. It has been speculated that Akers preferred the death penalty to serving life without parole in a super maximum security prisons such as the Red Onion and Wallens Ridge facilities, both of which have been criticized as inhumane by human rights groups.
Akers's attorneys were prepared to present in mitigation some 2,000 pages of affidavits and other documents to show Akers suffered a "chaotic, insecure childhood." Akers's mother sobbed aloud when he was sentenced to death.
Virginia Governor Gilmore Press Releases
(03-07-2001) On December 18, 1998, Thomas Wayne Akers and his cousin, Timothy Martin, robbed and brutally murdered 24-year-old Wesley Smith. Akers choked Wesley Smith with a belt and repeatedly bludgeoned him with an aluminum baseball bat on the side of a road. Akers then dragged Smith's body to a nearby creek where, after more beatings, he left him to die. The beating fractured Wesley Smith's skull in several places.
"Akers was arrested and confessed to the crime. He pleaded guilty and was convicted of capital murder and robbery. In a letter to the judge, Akers stated he had no remorse or sympathy for killing Wesley Smith and that he would kill again. Akers also had committed 32 assaults against other prisoners and correctional officers while in prison. Based on the record, the judge sentenced Akers to death. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld Akers' death sentence.
"Upon a thorough review of the Petition for Clemency, the court decisions regarding this case, and the circumstances of this matter, I decline to intervene."
Convicted murderer Thomas Wayne Akers says he would rather die than spend the rest of his life confined in prison. Akers has instructed his attorneys to say nothing in his defense. Akers, 31, has spent a decade in the prison system. Convicted in 1988 for statutory burglary, he remained behind bars until August 1998. The Department of Corrections says he was placed in isolated confinement many times. Released on parole Aug. 13, 1998, he was free just 4 months. Akers was back in jail Dec. 31 on capital murder and robbery charges in the beating death of Wesley Brant Smith, 24, of Roanoke.
Smith was found beaten beyond recognition Dec. 19, 1998 in a Franklin County field. Three pools of blood saturated the ground on the shoulder of the road, where the beating began, and "a clear drag mark which was saturated with blood that went down the hill toward a creek." Following the trail of blood, police discovered Smith’s body, which was covered with blood and bore the unmistakable signs of a savage beating including "several wounds to the back of his head, deep cuts, hair knocked off his head, a lot of blood on his shirt and his coat, and a large pool of blood under his face". Searching further, Jamison found an aluminum baseball bat "lying in the creek partially submerged" twelve to fifteen feet from Smith’s body. Subsequent laboratory testing established that Smith’s blood was on the bat. Forensic examination of Smith’s body revealed that he had been struck a minimum of three times in the head "and probably a great deal more than three" times. As a result, Smith suffered several fractures to his skull causing a subdural hematoma. The blows were not instantly fatal, and it would have taken "minutes to hours, at least," before Smith died. In addition to the lethal wounds inflicted to his head, Smith suffered numerous defensive wounds to his hands and arms. He also had been struck several times on his back, and his neck was bruised in a manner consistent with an attempted strangulation by ligature. The ligature marks were consistent with the size and shape of a belt subsequently discovered in Smith’s car.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Department interviewed Smith’s mother, his sister, and George Slusser, a family friend. The investigators determined that on the evening of December 18, 1998, Slusser had visited Smith at his apartment in Roanoke. At approximately 8:00 p.m., Akers and Timothy Martin, Akers’ cousin, arrived at Smith’s apartment. Martin and Smith had been acquainted for some time and Martin had recently introduced Smith to Akers. Akers and Martin told Smith that they had set him up for a "blind date." The four men left the apartment and drove in Smith’s car a short distance away to drop Slusser off at the home of his girlfriend. Akers, Martin, and Smith were seen together later that evening at a Roanoke nightclub. After it was discovered that Smith had been murdered, that Smith’s apartment had been ransacked, and that several items of value were missing from the apartment, arrest warrants were issued for Akers and Martin for the murder and robbery of Smith, along with a bulletin for law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for Smith’s car, which had vanity plates reading "WESMODE." On December 22, 1998, an officer with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police in northern New York observed Smith’s car in an area of the Mohawk reservation near the Canadian border known for smuggling activity and illegal alien entry. Upon learning that the vehicle and its occupants were wanted in Virginia, tribal police stopped the car and took Akers and Martin into custody. Akers subsequently attempted to flee from a room at the police station and when he was subdued he told the tribal police officers, "It’s a good day to die." When he was arrested, Akers had Smith’s wallet. A search of Smith’s car revealed numerous items from Smith’s apartment, the belt used as a ligature, and a pair of black boots covered with Smith’s blood. The boots were subsequently identified as belonging to Akers.
Thereafter, Akers talked openly with other prisoners about Smith’s murder. Akers stated that he, Martin, and Smith had stopped at the field to urinate. Akers took the belt and placed it around Smith’s neck, using it to drag Smith away from the car. Akers then held Smith down on the ground and choked him with the belt. Akers and Martin then took turns beating Smith with the baseball bat, which they had found in Smith’s car. Smith resisted and begged the two men to stop. Akers and Martin then dragged Smith to the creek where they beat him again and abandoned him, throwing the baseball bat into the creek. Akers subsequently admitted to the killing in letters sent to the prosecutor. In one letter, Akers admitted that it "was my full intent to kill and rob Wesley Smith after I got acquainted with him," and that he had taken approximately two hundred dollars from Smith’s wallet. In another letter, Akers admitted beating Smith to death before returning to Smith’s apartment to have "a decent meal and change into [Smith’s] clothes and [take] a pleasurable trip to New York." Akers further stated that he left his boots "all blood covered for the Commonwealth" and "I have no sympathy or remorse for beating Mr. Smith to death," Akers wrote on April 27. In the same letter: "Death is just a game to me," and "I will escape someday and execute justice again." Akers vowed to kill Hapgood and Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander if he were not sentenced to death. "I don't believe the judges have the heart to sentence me to death," Akers wrote. Even more damning than the threats were the details the letters provided about the murder that only the murderer himself or an eyewitness could know. Until Akers mailed those letters, his lawyers said, they could have mounted a strong defense. Akers later told the probation officer preparing his pre-sentence report that he planned to kill Smith because Martin had told him that Smith "was going to get 20 other people to assault Martin."
Akers was executed on International Death Penalty Abolition Day, March 1, 2001.
The Lamp of Hope (Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
March 1, 2001 VIRGINIA - A Virginia man sentenced to die for beating another man to death with a baseball bat in 1998 was executed by lethal injection on Thursday amid protests the execution amounted to state-assisted suicide. Thomas Wayne Akers, 31, who pleaded guilty to killing 24-year-old Wesley Smith during a robbery in Roanoke, in southwest Virginia, told a judge more than 10 years ago while in prison on an unrelated charge that he wanted to die in the electric chair.
Akers was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m. (Eastern time) Friday at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia, about 55 miles (88 km) south of the state capital, Richmond. Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, paraphrased Akers' final statement that was almost inaudible to the witnesses. Traylor said Akers thanked Jesus Christ for coming into his life. He said Akers expressed sorrow and "a lot of remorse" and said he hoped the victims could forgive him, "but if they couldn't, he knew the Lord had." There were about 60 protesters -- many more than normal -- in a field just outside the prison. Death penalty opponents protested the Virginia execution and another scheduled to be carried out in Oklahoma on Thursday, which is International Death Penalty Abolition Day. That marks the day in 1847 that Michigan became the 1st English-speaking territory in the world to ban executions. "The fact that these 2 executions are scheduled to take place on International Death Penalty Abolition Day is symbolic of the contempt that the U.S. has for international opinion when it comes to justice and moral decency on the question of the death penalty," said Ajamu Baraka, acting director of Amnesty International USA's program to end executions.
Akers and an accomplice, Timothy Dwayne Martin, beat Smith to death with an aluminum baseball bat during a robbery in December 1998. Akers was driving the victim's car and had his wallet in his possession when the 2 men were captured in New York, near the Canadian border. Martin later pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
As Akers was awaiting execution, prison officials were investigating the death of a fellow inmate on Virginia's death row in the Sussex State Prison. Convicted murderer David Overton, 21, collapsed in his cell at about 2 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Thursday and was later pronounced dead. Relatives said Overton, who had been on death row since November 1999, had become despondent and suicidal in recent days. Prison officials said the cause of death was under investigation. Overton was sentenced to die for a 1999 robbery and murder of a paraplegic stabbed to death in his bed.
Akers becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 82nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Virginia trails only Texas (243) in the amount of executions in the modern era. Akers also becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death in the USA this year and the 698th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
03-02-2001 - "State Executes Akers for 1998 Murder." by Marsha Herbst.
JARRATT, Va. (Associated Press) Thomas Wayne Akers finally said he was sorry. Strapped to a gurney in the death chamber on Thursday night, Akers expressed remorse for his crimes moments before the state executed him for beating a Roanoke man to death with a baseball bat in 1998. Akers also asked the family of Wesley B. Smith to forgive him, and expressed love for his family. ``I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for coming into my life,'' he said. ``I love all of my family with all of my heart.'' The lethal chemicals began flowing into Akers' heavily tattooed arm just minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a stay and Gov. Jim Gilmore declined to intervene. Akers, 34, was pronounced dead at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:18 p.m.
In a statement denying the clemency request, Gilmore noted that Akers demonstrated no remorse or sympathy for the crime, to which he confessed, and promised in a letter to the trial judge that he would kill again. But the condemned man's spiritual advisor, Pastor Larry Lykens of Roanoke, said Akers was remorseful. Lykens also said that Akers asked him on Monday to contact the victim's father to ask forgiveness, and that the forgiveness was granted. A corrections spokesman said some members of Smith's family witnessed the execution, but he declined to identify them. Lykens joined Akers for his last meal. ``He said he didn't want to eat it alone,'' Lykens said. The pastor sat at a table outside Akers' cell, and the two shared a meal of pizza, french fries and banana pudding. Akers was calm, Lykens said. ``He's wanted this day for a long time,'' he said. Lykens accompanied Akers into the death chamber, said a brief prayer over him, and told him that he loved him and that he would see him again in the afterlife. ``He said 'I love you and I'll meet you there,''' Lykens said.
Earlier Thursday, a federal judge in Roanoke denied a stay of execution. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson rejected defense attorney Robert Lee's claim that Akers was mentally ill. Wilson said in his ruling that Akers' crime was ``extraordinarily vile and cruel,'' and he cited Akers' future dangerousness. The Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday also rejected a petition to stop the execution, ruling the arguments were an insufficient basis for a competency hearing. Akers did not support his lawyers' last-minute efforts to save his life.
Smith was killed after Akers and his cousin, Timmy Martin, took him out on the town for what Smith believed was a blind date. Instead, the men took Smith to rural area in Franklin County where they choked him with a belt and beat him beyond recognition. Akers was driving Smith's car and had Smith's wallet when he was captured in New York near the Canadian border on Dec. 22, 1998. Akers pleaded guilty to capital murder and robbery on Aug. 25, 1999, and told Circuit Judge William Alexander that if he didn't get the death penalty, he would kill again and it would be Alexander's fault. In the appeal, defense lawyers stated that Akers had tried to kill himself several times and suffered from major depression and a dysfunction of his central nervous system. Martin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Akers was the first person put to death in Virginia in 2001 and the 82nd since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Only Texas has executed more.
02-27-2001 - "Killer to be Executed Thursday Would die on Death Penalty Abolition Day," by Frank Green.
If all goes as scheduled, Virginia will mark International Death Penalty Abolition Day Thursday with the execution of a man who wants to die. Two families, his own and his victim's, believe he should get his wish. His lawyers do not. Thomas Wayne Akers is set for execution by injection at 9 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center for the Dec. 18, 1998, capital murder of Wesley Smith in Franklin County. Smith, 24, of Roanoke, was robbed and beaten to death with an aluminum baseball bat. Akers, 31, and his partner in the slaying, Timothy Dwayne Martin, were caught in New York state near the Canadian border. Akers had Smith's wallet. Martin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life. Akers pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to death - a wish he'd harbored since at least 1987 when he was imprisoned on other charges and wrote a judge that he wanted to die in the electric chair.
He still wants to be executed but his lawyers are fighting - against his wishes - to save his life. "I think the lawyers should butt out," said Marilyn Meador, Smith's mother. "I know him dying is not going to bring my son back but if that's what he wants, let him have it," she said. Meador said, "I feel sorry for his mom because she'll lose her son just like I lost my son but in a different way. I know it's hard on a mom, losing a son." Smith was a machinist for a steel company in Salem. He had been living with his sister, Zshawn Morris, until a week before his death, when he moved into his own apartment. "He was a good boy," Morris said. "I didn't believe in the death penalty until all this happened," Morris said. But "he killed my brother and it was a brutal murder," she said. She said the last time she saw her brother was the night he moved out of her house. Morris' daughter, Katie, was 2 at the time. "He bent down, and I'll never forget this as long as I live, he said, 'Katie, just because Uncle Wes is leaving and moving out on my own doesn't mean I don't love you. I'm not going away forever.' . . . "I'll never get over this." she said. "We were very close. . . . The only family I have left is my mother."
The Rev. Larry W. Lykens, pastor of The Family Worship Center in Roanoke, recently visited Akers on death row. In an e-mail to The Times-Dispatch, he said, "I found Tommy to be very sharp, I was totally amazed at his understanding of the Scripture, in fact his ability to quote the Scripture was amazing." "I am the pastor who will be with him during his execution," he wrote. Lykens disagreed with Akers' lawyers, Robert Lee and Marie Donnelly of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center. They believe that Akers, who is retarded and is said to be mentally ill, is not competent. An appeal and request for a stay of execution are pending before the Virginia Supreme Court. Lykens said, "I personally feel that Miss Donnelly and her association have their own agenda." He said, "I also am the pastor of Tommy's mother and grandmother as well. All that these folk want is for Tommy to be granted his wishes and be allowed to die on March 1."
According to Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, March 1 is International Death Penalty Abolition Day, marking the anniversary of the date in 1847 in which the state of Michigan officially became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish capital punishment. It still does not have the death penalty. At 8:15 p.m., Virginia People of Faith for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will hold a vigil in the field outside the Greensville Correctional Center. Kathleen Kenney, of the Office of Justice and Peace of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, said she finds this execution especially abhorrent because "essentially, we're allowing state-assisted suicide." The Rev. Stephen Ford, a Baptist prison chaplain, will speak at the vigil. He has been a chaplain to death row inmates in Virginia and has accompanied several inmates to the death chamber. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least one other inmate, Robert Clayton, of Oklahoma, is scheduled to be executed Thursday. If executed, Akers will be the 82nd inmate put to death in Virginia since capital punishment was allowed to resume in 1976. It will be the first execution in the state this year.