Last Updated May 26, 2017 2:03 AM EDT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A man once called the “Houdini” of Alabama’s death row forthrough legal challenges was put to death early Friday for a 1982 murder-for-hire shooting.
Tommy Arthur, 75, was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m. CDT Friday at a southwest Alabama prison after a lethal injection, authorities said.
Arthur was convicted of killing riverboat engineer Troy Wicker, who was fatally shot as he slept in his bed in the north Alabama city of Muscle Shoals.
Wicker’s wife Judy initially told police she came home and was raped by a black man who shot and killed her husband. Later, she changed her story and testified she had discussed killing her husband with Arthur, who came to the house in makeup and an Afro-style wig and shot her husband. She said she paid him $10,000. Arthur was in a prison work-release program at the time for the 1977 slaying of his sister-in-law, a crime he admits to committing.
His first two convictions in the Wicker case were overturned, but the third one was not. Arthur asked jurors to give him the death penalty. The decision was strategic, he said, to open up more avenues of appeal.
The state set seven execution dates for Arthur between 2001 and 2016. All were delayed as a pro bono legal team fought his sentence. In 2016, Arthur came especially close to the death chamber.
“We were fixing to go into the room and they were going to put the needle in my arm,” he said, when the U.S. Supreme Court gave him an unexpected reprieve shortly before the death warrant expired at midnight.
“He’s a Houdini,” said Janette Grantham, director of the Victims of Crime and Leniency. “He always finds a way to escape.”
She called the years of execution delays exceedingly painful for the family of Troy Wicker to bear.
Arthur’s attorneys filed court papers Wednesday with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, calling the lethal…