Victims’ relatives most vocal opponents of man’s execution
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Family members of three people slain in Arkansas more than 20 years ago have been among the most vocal opponents to the federal government’s plan to execute one of the men convicted of killing their loved ones.
That man, Daniel Lewis Lee, is first on the list of prisoners set to be killed as the Trump administration tries to bring back federal executions this week after an almost two-decade hiatus.
But relatives of William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, who were killed in 1996, say that’s not what they want. They have pleaded for years that Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, should receive the same life sentence as the ringleader in a deadly scheme that aimed to establish a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.
Hours before Lee’s scheduled execution, it was unclear whether any of the executions would go forward. The family members say their grief is compounded by the push to execute the 47-year-old Lee in the middle of a pandemic.
“As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the scheduled execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and would bring my family more pain,” Earlene Peterson, Nancy’s mother and Sarah’s grandmother, said in a statement last month.
Family members say the government is forcing them to put their lives at risk if they travel during the coronavirus pandemic to witness Lee’s execution. Peterson; her granddaughter Monica Veillette; and Kimma Gurel, Nancy Mueller’s sister and Sarah’s aunt, asked a judge for a delay, which a judge initially granted.
That decision was overturned as lawyers for the federal government, Lee and others fought in court in the days leading up to the execution.
Peterson, 81, lives in Arkansas, while Veillette and Gurel live in Washington state.
An attorney for the relatives who object to the execution said they hadn’t traveled to Indiana as of Monday morning. A Justice Department official said other members of the family were still planning to attend.