Dennis Thurl Dowthitt

Executed March 7, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Texas

17th murderer executed in U.S. in 2001
700th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
5th murderer executed in Texas in 2001
244th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Dennis Thurl Dowthitt

W / M / 44 - 55

Gracie Purnhagen

W / F / 16

Cut throat with knife
Son's girlfriend

Dowthitt and his 16 year old son son picked up sonís girlfriend and her 9 yr old sister from bowling alley, drove to woods. Father attempted to touch 9 year old in truck while son and girlfriend were outside. 9 yr old became upset, father immediately got out and cut throat of 16 yr old, sexually abused her with beer bottle, then cut her throat again. Dowthitt told son to kill 9 yr old. Son complied and strangled 9 yr old with a rope. Father blamed it all on son until minutes before execution, when he confessed. Son testified and sentenced to 45 years.

Dowthitt v. State, 931 SW2d 244 (Tex. 1996).
Dowthitt v. Johnson, 230 F3d 733 (5th Cir. 2000).

Internet Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Dennis Thurl Dowthitt)

Texas Attorney General

Tuesday, March 6, 2001 - MEDIA ADVISORY - Dowthitt Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Dennis Thurl Dowthitt who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7th:

On October 7, 1992, Dennis Thurl Dowthitt was convicted of murdering 16-year old Gracie Purnhagen in Conroe, Texas, during the course of an aggravated sexual assault. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows: Gracie and Tiffany Purnhagen, ages 16 and nine, respectively, were last seen by their mother on June 13, 1990. The girls had been given money to walk the short distance to a movie theater and go out to eat. Later in the evening, the girls were seen in the company of Dowthitt and his son, Delton, age 16. Another witness recounted seeing Gracie and Tiffany leaving a bowling alley and Gracie indicating that she was being picked up by her boyfriend, Delton. Delton later testified concerning the events that occurred thereafter. Delton had arranged to have Dowthitt drive him to the bowling alley to pick up the girls and take them home. They picked up the girls, and Dowthitt suggested that they stop and drink some beer; he and Dowthitt had picked up a couple of six packs earlier. Gracie agreed, so Dowthitt drove the group to an isolated area and parked.

Gracie and Delton went behind Dowthitt's pickup truck and began kissing, while Dowthitt and Tiffany were at the front. Tiffany then came to the back of the truck looking frightened, said that Dowthitt was trying to scare her, and whispered to her sister. There was some indication that Dowthitt had tried to sexually assault Tiffany. Dowthitt, who was coming to the back of the truck with a knife, said that he had made a mistake and that, "We've got to get rid of them." Delton said "no," but Dowthitt said that it was too late, pushed Gracie to the ground, and cut her throat. Dowthitt ordered Delton twice to "do it." Obeying, Delton strangled Tiffany until she fell to the ground and then got a rope and tied it around her neck. Meanwhile, Dowthitt got Delton's beer bottle off the back of the truck and proceeded to sexually assault Gracie with it. Dowthitt told Delton to join in sexually assaulting Gracie, but he refused. Dowthitt cut Gracie's throat again and gave Delton the knife, telling him to cut Tiffany's throat, but Delton pocketed the knife, carried Tiffany into the woods and then helped Dowthitt carry Gracie. Dowthitt threw the bottle in the back of the truck.

Later that evening, two witnesses together saw Dowthitt at his auto shop in Humble and noticed that his shirt had blood on it. The next day, according to the testimony of Dowthitt's daughter, Darla, before the victim's bodies were discovered, Dowthitt telephoned and repeatedly asked her if she would forgive him for "what he's done." Darla testified that the victims had been good friends of hers. On June 16, 1990, Dowthitt, Delton and other family members left for Louisiana under the guise of visiting Dowthitt's aunt. That evening, the bodies of Gracie and Tiffany were discovered in a wooded area in south Montgomery County. A medical examiner later testified that Tiffany was killed by ligature strangulation, and Gracie was killed by trauma to the neck involving bleeding. Gracie's body showed evidence of sexual assault consistent with the size of a beer bottle and that she had been conscious when the assault occurred.

Dowthitt's aunt later testified that Dowthitt talked to her privately on June 17, 1990, that he was upset and almost crying, and that he told her, "I did it, and I made Delton do it." However, he would not explain what he meant. When Delton was arrested, he initially took the blame for both murders and sought to conceal Dowthitt's involvement. He later explained that Dowthitt had threatened him, as well as his mother and sisters, and that he had believed that, as a juvenile, his punishment would be less severe. Delton pled guilty to the murder of Tiffany Purnhagen and agreed to testify in exchange for a 45-year sentence and the dismissal of the charge of the capital murder of Gracie. Delton's lawyer testified that Delton had told him from the beginning, even before the plea agreement, that Dowthitt was involved. After giving a series of inconsistent statements to police, in which he went from denying to admitting being present at the murder scene, Dowthitt was arrested for the murder of Gracie Purnhagen.

During the punishment phase of Dowthitt's trial, two of his daughters, Donna and Darla, testified regarding Dowthitt's behavior with them. Donna testified that when she was four or five years old, Dowthitt had touched her inappropriately and that when she was 15, Dowthitt touched her again and asked if she remembered what had happened when she was a little girl. When this later event occurred, Donna left immediately and did not continue living with Dowthitt.

Dowthitt's 18-year old daughter, Darla, testified that she went camping with him on the Sunday before the murders. When they were alone, Dowthitt proceeded to threaten her with a knife and sexually assault her. She added that Dowthitt had been raping her since she was 11 and that he had also previously used a bottle and a broomstick on her. Dowthitt had also offered to buy her a car if she would find him a young girlfriend.


October 16, 1991 - Dowthitt was indicted in the 221st District Court of Montgomery County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering more than one person during the same criminal transaction and, in a second count, for murder in the course of committing aggravated sexual assault.

October 7, 1992 - After being tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, the state abandoned the first count of the indictment, and the jury found him guilty of the second count.

October 9, 1992 - Following a separate punishment hearing, the court assessed Dowthitt's punishment at death.

June 26, 1996 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in a published opinion.

October 16, 1996 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied rehearing, and Dowthitt did not petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari from that decision.

August 19, 1997 - Dowthitt filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus, as well as a later supplemental application.

September 16, 1998 - After the state trial court entered detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied, both applications were denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals in an unpublished order.

April 19, 1999 - Dowthitt filed a petition for writ of certiorari from that decision which was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

December 30, 1998 - Dowthitt filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in federal district court after obtaining appointment of counsel and a stay of execution.

January 27, 2000 - After conducting an evidentiary hearing on Dowthitt's claim of actual innocence in which live testimony was heard from Delton, Federal Judge Nancy Atlas found that Delton testified "clearly, unequivocally, and credibly" and issued an 89-page opinion rejecting Dowthitt's claims and denying habeas relief.

October 16, 2000 - The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied permission to appeal in a published opinion.

November 10, 2000 - The Fifth Circuit court denied rehearing.

February 8, 2001 - Dowthitt filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.

March 6, 2001 - The U. S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review.

Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.

Dennis Thurl Dowthitt, 55, was executed by lethal injection on 7 March in Huntsville, Texas for the sexual assault and murder of a 16-year-old girl.

In June 1990, the bodies of two girls were found along a pipeline in a community north of Houston. Grace Purnhagen, 16, had her throat slashed and had been sexually assaulted. Her sister, Tiffany Purnhagen, 9, had been strangled, with a rope found around her neck.

The police received a tip that Delton Dowthitt, 16, Grace's former boyfriend, had told a friend about the crime. Four days after the girls' bodies were discovered, Delton Dowthitt was arrested in Louisiana. He originally confessed to killing both girls. Later, he recanted, saying that he killed Tiffany at the order of his father, Dennis Dowthitt, then 44. He said Dennis actually killed Grace. Delton led police to the place where he said his father had disposed of the knife. Police also found a bloody bottle and rope at Dennis Dowthitt's used car business.

At his trial, Dennis testified that he and his son met the sisters at a bowling alley the night of the killings and drove them to a wooded area nearby. Delton testified that he and "Gracie" were making out in the bed of the pickup while his father sat in the cab with Tiffany. He said that Tiffany suddenly got out and ran to the rear of the truck, terrified, and that he saw his father holding a knife. Saying he had made a mistake, his father told him, "Man, we've got to kill them." He threw Grace to the ground and slashed her throat, then attempted to rape her. He yelled twice at Delton, "do it," meaning he wanted him to kill Tiffany. Delton strangled Tiffany with his hands, then tied a rope around her neck. Delton testified that his father was unable to rape Gracie, so he sexually assaulted her with a beer bottle and ordered him to rape her, but he refused. Dennis then cut her throat again.

Dennis initially said that he knew nothing about the killings, but later admitted to being at the scene of the crime. His fingerprint was found on a beer bottle covered with Grace Purnhagen's blood. Two of Dowthitt's daughters testified how they had been assaulted with objects or molested by their father for years, including one occurrence 4 days before the murders. Nevertheless, Dennis Dowthitt contended that his son committed both murders.

Dowthitt declined requests for interviews during his stay on death row, but his appeals maintained his claim of innocence. On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied his clemency request by an 18-0 vote. The U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeal on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the Court declined a request from Dowthitt's lawyer to review the case again.

After 11 years of denying that he killed Grace Purnhagen, Dennis Dowthitt made an unexpected, emotional confession while laying on the death gurney. Choking back tears, he told the Purnhagen family, "I'm sorry for what you had to go through ... I can't imagine losing 2 children. If I was you all, I would've killed me. I am really sorry. I really am." Looking at the surprised family, he added, "Gracie was beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don't know what to say." His apology finished, he the lethal injection was administered. He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m.

In exchange for testifying against his father, Delton Dowthitt pled guilty to murdering Tiffany Purnhagen and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. In 1996, he was caught attempting to escape and received another 6 years. He becomes eligible for parole in 2002 according to one news report, 2005 according to another.

The Lamp of Hope (Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

March 7 - TEXAS - Sobbing and seeking repentance, a former used car salesman accused of being a sadistic rapist was executed today for sexually abusing and killing a Montgomery County teen almost 11 years ago. "I'm sorry for what you had to go through. I am so sorry what you all had to go through," Dennis Dowthitt, 55, said twice. "I can't imagine losing 2 children. If I was you all I would've killed me. I am really sorry about. I really am." His voice was choked with emotion. Holding back tears, he looked at members of his victim's family and had difficulty speaking, then added, "Gracie was beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don't know what to say." Dowthitt was condemned for raping and fatally slashing and stabbing Grace Purnhagen, 16, in an attack where the girl's 9-year-old sister, Tiffany, also was strangled. His voice shaking and his body quivering against the leather restraints, Dowthitt turned away from witnesses as the injection began and then fell limp. Among the witnesses, his sister sobbed uncontrollably and a friend watching knelt on the floor. He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m. CST, 7 minutes after the lethal dose began.

Dowthitt's son, Delton, 16 at the time of the 1990 murders, testified against his father and under a plea bargain accepted a 45-year prison term for Tiffany Purnhagen's death. He remains imprisoned, with an additional term for escape in 1995, but becomes eligible for parole late next year. On Tuesday, Dowthitt lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, voting 18-0, refused his clemency request Monday. His attorneys again went to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking the justices to review the case even as the inmate requested a final meal. Less than 90 minutes before his scheduled punishment, however, the high court denied a request for a reprieve and refused to reconsider the case. "I'm frustrated the system takes so long," Linda Purnhagen, whose daughters were killed, said. "The kids got no appeal. He was their judge, jury and executioner."

Grace Purnhagen and Delton Dowthitt had been acquaintances. With her younger sister in tow at a bowling alley the evening of June 13, 1990, Grace accepted a ride from the Dowthitts and wound up in a wooded area in south Montgomery County not far from their home in Oak Ridge North. Court documents showed while Grace and Delton Dowthitt talked nearby, Dennis Dowthitt tried to molest the younger girl, who resisted and ran screaming to her sister. Delton Dowthitt testified that when his father told him the girls had to be killed, Delton strangled Tiffany with a rope. Dennis Dowthitt attacked Grace, first unsuccessfully trying to rape her, then cutting her throat and raping her with a beer bottle before stabbing her in the chest. The decomposing bodies of both girls were found 3 days later. Witnesses told of last seeing the girls outside the bowling alley talking with the Dowthitts in a pickup truck.

A psychologist testified the elder Dowthitt, while impotent, was a sadistic rapist who received pleasure by using objects like bottles to cause pain through sex. At the punishment phase of his trial, 2 of his daughters testified how they were assaulted or molested by their father. "If we're going to have the death penalty in Texas, then if it doesn't fit this case, it doesn't fit -- ever," said Barbara Hale, a former Montgomery County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Dowthitt.

Dowthitt, who declined to speak with reporters in the weeks leading up to his execution, acknowledged to police he was at the murder site but blamed the deaths on his son. "They didn't have the information they needed, that's all," he said while being led from the courtroom after a jury in 1992 decided he should be put to death. "I'm not guilty." Linda Purnhagen noted her younger daughter now has been dead longer than she lived and that Dowthitt remained alive over the years. "I don't think that's right," she said.

Dowthitt becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 244th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Dowthitt becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 700th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty

"Killer Admits Guilt in Death Chamber," by James Kimberly. (Houston Chronicle , March 7, 2001)

HUNTSVILLE -- Strapped to the executioner's gurney Wednesday night, Dennis Dowthitt sobbed as he apologized to the family of the 16-year-old girl he sexually assaulted and murdered more than a decade ago. "I am so sorry for what y'all had to go through," he said in a halting voice, eyes squinting back tears. "I can't imagine losing two children. If I was y'all, I would have killed me." Separated from Dowthitt by a double pane of Plexiglas, the victim's mother, Linda Purnhagen, stared intently at the 55-year-old as he spoke. She did not avert her eyes until the lethal dose of drugs was delivered and Dowthitt was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m.

On the night of June 13, 1990, Dowthitt, a used-car salesman from Humble, and his son, Delton, had offered to give Delton's girlfriend, Gracie Purnhagen, and her 9-year-old sister, Tiffany, a ride home from a bowling alley. Instead, he drove them to a remote wooded area off Rayford Road in south Montgomery County where he attempted to molest Tiffany while his son and Gracie were in the back of the truck. Delton said Tiffany bolted from the cab followed by Dennis Dowthitt who told his son he had "messed up," adding, "Man, we've got to kill them." Dowthitt ordered his son to strangle the little girl as he slashed Gracie's throat and then used a beer bottle to sexually assault her before stabbing her in the chest. Delton said he kissed the little girl on the forehead and apologized before strangling her. Delton Dowthitt was not eligible for the death penalty because he was 16 years old when he committed the murder. He testified against his father in exchange for a 45-year prison sentence.

Until Wednesday night, Dowthitt had insisted that Delton committed both murders by himself. Linda Purnhagen was glad to hear Dowthitt take responsibility for the crime. She wanted to believe his words were sincere, but she had doubts. "As he was going to meet God, he finally admitted what he did," she said. Dowthitt's behavior in the execution chamber surprised the Purnhagens. During his 1992 trial, Dowthitt was arrogant, sometimes even profane, to the family, Purnhagen said. Strapped to the gurney Wednesday night, he appeared to search for the family as they were led into the viewing room. When he saw them, Purnhagen said he indicated his remorse by shaking his head. "He looked really sad, scared," she said.

Her husband, Arthur, was surprised by the emotional apology. "I would have bet a million bucks he wouldn't say he's sorry," he said. Dowthitt closed his apology by saying, "Gracie was beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don't know what to say." In a room separated from the , Purnhagens, Dowthitt's sister witnessed the execution with two friends and a spiritual adviser. Dowthitt turned to her and said, "I got to go sister, I love you. Y'all take care and God bless you." He then turned his head toward Huntsville Unit Warden Jim Willett and blurted out, "All right warden, let's do it." Dowthitt's chest heaved with sobs until the drugs took effect, first putting him to sleep, then collapsing his lungs and stopping his heart.

Wednesday was the first time Dowthitt spoke publicly about the crime. He had declined to be interviewed in the week before his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Dowthitt's final appeal about 90 minutes before the execution -- about the time he would have been served his final meal. Dowthitt requested a dozen fried eggs, a loaf of bread, salad dressing, french fries and three cartons of milk. A Department of Criminal Justice official said Dowthitt intended to make sandwiches. The Supreme Court also rejected a Dowthitt appeal on Tuesday. And the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected his request for clemency on Monday.

Dowthitt was the fifth convicted killer executed this year in Texas, where a record 40 executions were carried out last year. Linda Purnhagen said the family will turn its attention to battling Delton Dowthitt's requests for parole. "This particular chapter has ended," she said. "That chapter is just beginning."

Canadian Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty (Dowthitt Homepage)

Amnesty International Execution Alert

Dennis Dowthitt is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 7 March 2001. He was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Gracie Purnhagen.

The bodies of 16-year-old Gracie Purnhagen and her nine-year-old sister Tiffany Purnhagen were found on 16 June 1990 near a pipeline in Montgomery County. The younger girl had been strangled. Her older sister had been sexually assaulted, and her throat had been cut. Dennis Dowthitt's 16-year-old son, Delton Dowthitt, who was dating Gracie Purnhagen at the time, confessed to police that he had killed both girls. He subsequently entered into a plea bargain, pleading guilty to the murder of Tiffany Purnhagen in exchange for a 45-year prison sentence and testimony against his father for the sexual assault and killing of Gracie Purnhagen.

Although Dennis Dowthitt admits giving his son a lift to the place where the girls were murdered, he has steadfastly maintained that he was not present at the actual crime, and that it was his son who killed both girls. Amnesty International is not in a position to assess his guilt or innocence, and opposes his execution in any event. However, the organization is concerned by evidence that would either appear to support Dennis Dowthitt's version of events, or call into question his son's trial testimony. For example, Delton Dowthitt has apparently told others, both before and after his father's trial, that he, Delton, killed both girls. A police report, which the jury did not see, reportedly indicates that Delton Dowthitt had previously raped a girl in the same place where the murders occurred. In addition, Dennis Dowthitt's current lawyers have raised serious questions about the reliability of the forensic test results used by the state to implicate him in the murder.

Dennis Dowthitt, who is now deaf, has suffered from mental illness since he was a teenager. His original trial lawyers did not investigate this issue, or the abuse he suffered as a child, to present in mitigation. One of several mental health experts, who have assessed Dowthitt since his conviction, concluded that his profile was 'consistent with paranoid and schizophrenic features'. A second expert has stated that the tapes of Dennis Dowthitt's interrogation showed his 'severe mental problems'. She also said that he 'functions quite peacefully and successfully within the prison environment', undermining the jury's finding of his likely future dangerousness, a prerequisite for the death sentence in Texas. Dennis Dowthitt is reported to have been a model prisoner for the nine years he has been on death row. His only disciplinary write-up was for having hung a sheet in front of the toilet in his cell on 11 November 1997.

Dennis Dowthitt's current appeal lawyers continue to investigate aspects of this case, including questions surrounding the physical evidence relied upon by the state at the trial. In the event that the Board of Pardons and Paroles does not recommend clemency, they will ask the Governor of Texas to issue a 60-day reprieve to allow them to continue their investigations.

01-12-99 - From the NCADP's Execution Alert - Dennis Dowthitt (TX)

Dennis Thurl Dowthitt was convicted primarily on the strength of the so-called "accomplice eyewitness testimony" of his son, Delton, for murdering two sisters, aged 16 and 9, in a wooded area of South Montgomery County in 1990. The older girl was also sexually assaulted with an object. Suspicion after the murders centered immediately upon Delton Dowthitt, Dennis' teenaged son, who was observed with both victims shortly before their deaths. Delton fled Texas and was arrested in Louisiana, where he gave a confession in which he admitted slaying both sisters. In custody, Delton recanted his confession and instead fingered his father, claiming that Dennis had stabbed the older girl and ordered Delton to strangle the 9-year-old. Delton pled to a 45-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his father.

Hard evidence in the case is scant, and is consistent with both Delton's original claim to be the sole killer and his subsequent implication of his father -- hardly adequate to justify a death sentence in light of Delton's self-interested testimony. And the existing physical evidence (a knife with an unidentifiable spot of blood, and a beer bottle with blood stains whose DNA corresponds only loosely with Dennis' and was never tested against Delton's was produced by Delton himself.

Moreover, considerable circumstantial evidence corroborates Delton's retracted confession. A clinical psychologist who examined Delton prior to the latter's trial formed the opinion that Delton had a "propensity for violence" and "showed signs of protecting himself and covering his tracks." Asked whether he believed Delton capable of committing both murders as he originally claimed, the psychologist was unequivocal: "Yes. He is also capable of doing that."

The doctor, then, would likely not have been surprised to learn that Delton once strangled one of his girlfriends into unconsciousness for refusing to have sex with him, and that he once took her to the very road where the bodies were discovered -- which he called "rape road" -- to sexually assault her. Still more damningly, Delton had bragged of the murders to several friends prior to the arrest, and has done so since his father's death sentence. He has both the sisters' names tattooed, trophy-like, upon his body. If the state of Texas has its way, he may soon add his father's name to the list.


In Conroe, Texas, on June 13, 1990 sixteen-year-old Gracie Purnhagen and her 9-year-old sister Tiffany were picked up at a bowling alley by Gracie's ex-"boyfriend", Delton Dowthitt, also 16, and his father, Dennis Dowthitt. They drove to a secluded area. Delton's father began fondling Tiffany when Delton and Gracie had walked to the back of the truck to talk about their relationship and left the girl alone with Dennis. Tiffany screamed and broke away from him and ran to her sister, chased by the elder Dowthitt. Dennis told Delton he had "messed up" and they had to kill the girls and ordered Delton to strangle Tiffany with a rope. The father attempted to rape Gracie, then cut her throat and subsequently took a beer bottle and sexually assaulted Gracie with it. A bloody beer bottle was later found in the trash at his used-car shop. Authorities lifted a fingerprint that matched Dennis Dowthitt's left index finger. The blood was clearly identified as belonging to Gracie. He also stabbed Gracie in the chest with a knife. Delton thought he had convinced a friend to help bury the girls but the friend backed out on both visits to the remote wooded murder scene. When Delton was arrested in Metairie Louisiana, he confessed to the murders but said he acted alone, however, his stepmother told police that she knew her husband and his son were together that night. Dennis Dowthitt voluntarily went to the sheriff's office for questioning and was confronted with the evidence that he was with his son the night of the slayings. The elder Dowthitt then admitted in a written statement that he was present at the time the Purnhagen sisters were murdered but blamed the murders on his son. At trial, Dennis's daughter testified that her father had raped her, and also that he had confessed to the murders. Testifying in the punishment phase of Dowthitt's capital-murder trial, she said her father had been raping her with his hands, bottles and broomsticks since she was 11. Delton was sentenced to 45 years and will be eligible for parole in 2003.

UPDATE: 3/8/01 - Just before he was executed, Dowthitt for the first time offered an emotional confession for the 1990 sexual mutilation and murder of his son Delton's teen-age girlfriend. Dowthitt, who for years said his son was responsible for both murders, wept as he lay strapped to the execution gurney, apologizing profusely for killing Grace Purnhagen. "I am so sorry for what y'all had to go through. I am so sorry for what all of you had to go through. I can't imagine losing two children. If I was y'all I would have killed me. You know? I am really so sorry about it, I really am. I got to go sister, I love you. Y'all take care and God bless you. Gracie was a beautiful and Tiffany was beautiful. You had some lovely girls and I am sorry. I don't know what to say. All right Warden let's do it." Dowthitt was obviously emotional and choking back tears and looked directly at the girls' mother, Linda Purnhagen as he spoke. "We thought he would be ugly because he had been arrogant throughout the trial," Linda Purnhagen said in a press conference following the execution. "I think (he meant his apology)," she said, adding that she stared Dowthitt in the eyes as he made his last statement. Linda said she was surprised and relieved that he admitted his guilt and apologized and she said she felt much less anger towards him than she had the day before. When asked if she said anything to the inmate as he looked at her, Linda replied, "I didn't come here to say anything to him - I came to see him be executed. The girl's father, Art Purnhagen said, "I was so shocked. I would have bet a million dollars he wouldn't have apologized - I would have lost my shirt on that one." Linda Purnhagen compared witnessing the execution to watching someone be put under anesthesia before surgery. "He's just not going to wake up," she said, adding that Dowthitt's death was "nothing like what (my daughters) had to go through." Linda Purnhagen said her next mission will be making sure Delton is not released from prison. She said he is up for parole in July 2005. When asked her reaction about the anti-death penalty protesters rallying outside the Huntsville (Walls) Unit's execution chamber, Linda Purnhagen said they likely have never had a loved one murdered. "If they had gone through something like I have and still felt that way, then I could talk to them about it," she said. "If you haven't gone through it, you don't know what the heck you're talking about." About 8 to 10 anti-death penalty activists protested against the execution, but nearly twice that many people stood at the other end of the prison, to support the family of the victims.